2009 October 11 Sunday
Peace Prizes To Stop Which War?

Lost in the debate about the absurdity of Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize is the fact that there are no big military conflicts or even substantial possibility of a big military conflict in the world in 2009. A need to hand out prizes to keep or make the peace? Not even.

Look around. The conflicts are small. Darfur? Who can look at a map of the world without national border lines and pinpoint where it is? I can't. Below Egypt somewhere I think. Does it matter? Nope. It only matters to the people there and to a small number of Western observers who are trying to use it for status signaling. Did you know fighters in Nigeria try to blow up oil fields because they want a piece of the financial action? Not a big story. Do you care? I don't. I doubt I know anyone who does. I doubt anyone will win a Nobel Prize over it. I think the Tamil Tigers were defeated in Sri Lanka but I'm kinda hazy on the details. The conflict there does not matter. It doesn't even warrant a Nobel Prize.

To say these conflicts do not matter is not a nice thing to say. But it is the truth. Some groups are definitely losing. The Tibetans come to mind. Giving the Dalai Lama a Nobel Peace Prize didn't help their prospects any. Obama snubbed recently the Dalai Lama right before Obama won his own Nobel Peace Prize. The Tibetans are losers. The Han Chinese are the new winners.

We do have the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We started the Iraq conflict. The US will pull out. We won't negotiate the pull-out with an adversary. Most US negotiations are with the US government. Afghanistan? We are fighting religious tribes with one of the highest fertility rates in the world. We can either pull out or fight for many years to come. Negotiation is pointless.

Can Nobel Peace Prize winners matter on the scale of major potential combatants? Nope. The bigger countries have no interest in fighting each other.

The world has big problems relating to resource depletion, pollution, and population growth. But these issues aren't going to cause the major industrialized nations to duke it out on the field of battle. War isn't a problem.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 October 11 07:30 PM  Cultural Wars Western


Comments
MaryJ said at October 11, 2009 8:50 PM:

The real winners of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize should have been the US Joint Chiefs of staff because it's the US military acting in its role as eternally vigilant global policemen that is responsible for the fact that real wars are rather thin on the ground in the world today. Not that I am a fan of the global policeman role, but that is the reason why war is not happening that much anymore.

Mthson said at October 11, 2009 9:46 PM:

If we measure military conflicts by their financial costs, even in this age of peace, we're still seeing pretty massive resource loss.

I remember early on in the Iraq war, the total cost - including direct costs and indirect costs in the long term - was estimated to be $2 trillion.

not anon or anonymous said at October 12, 2009 10:35 AM:

The world has big problems relating to resource depletion, pollution, and population growth. But these issues aren't going to cause the major industrialized nations to duke it out on the field of battle. War isn't a problem.

I disagree with your perspective; these issues could become a significant cause of conflict in industrializing countries, especially if Peak Oil turns out to be a significant concern. The Nobel Committee has acknowledged this by awardeing prizes for important developments in resource depletion, pollution and even trade/finance. Think Muhammad Yunus (microcredit), Norman Borlaug (Green Revolution), El Baradei and the IAEA (nuke proliferation), heck, even Al Gore and the IPCC (climate change).

Personally, I think they should award a prize to the World Trade Organization (and to Al Gore^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Vint Cerf for inventing the Internet), but that's another matter.

As for Barak Obama, a prize to him does makes more sense than the 2008 prize to Martti Ahtisaari. Had anyone heard of that guy before he became a Nobel laureate?

Randall Parker said at October 12, 2009 5:47 PM:

not anon or anonymous,

Which two countries are going to battle each other over Peak Oil? Name 2 countries that are going to duke it out.

ElBaradei likes his last name spelled with no spaces in it by the way. But it is not clear to me he's done much to prevent nuclear proliferation. Which country took a different path because of him? Can you get specific on this? I suspect a lot of prizes are handed out for symbolism and not to reward real effective performance.

Microcredit: Has this helped prevent wars? Which war? Was Bangladesh going to attack India in the absence of microcredit?

I think the Nobel Peace Prize suffers from mission creep. They can't do much with it to prevent war or to reward people who prevent war. So they hand it out for other worthy (or not so worthy) causes.

Martti Ahtisaari: He apparently served the purpose of making you think Obama's prize was deserved. Ahtisaari clearly deserves a prize for that accomplishment.

MaryJ said at October 12, 2009 6:52 PM:

I remember early on in the Iraq war, the total cost - including direct costs and indirect costs in the long term - was estimated to be $2 trillion.
Military actions like Iraq are expensive but nowhere near as costly as WWIII would be. That's what the US global policeman role has been all about for the past 64 years -- preventing WWIII, with nukes. It's a preventive stance so you don't really see the value in it, but believe me, you'd miss it very much if it wasn't there.

I agree with Randall. The prize is mainly symbolic. Most peace gestures are either ineffectual or actually end up causing worse problems. See the history of the childish and naive Nye Committee which I referenced above.

Snouck said at October 13, 2009 4:31 AM:

MaryJ: That's what the US global policeman role has been all about for the past 64 years -- preventing WWIII, with nukes.

It is not the US that prevents WWIII. It are nuclear weapons that prevent it. Countries that posssess nuclear weapons are not invaded by the superpowers. Wars between states involve third rate or fourth rate nations. The real conflicts are not between states but between religions, races and ethnic groups, often within states. The real powers of todays world are religions and races.

The use of nuclear weapons weapons has such drawbacks both to the user and the target nation that it makes no sense. The possession of nuclear weapons is an advantage, the use is not. The advantage is defensive.

As a result we live in an era which is in many parts post national. The order of national states, with borders, armies and governments is dissapearing in many parts of the world. West-Africa, Kongo, parts of Central Asia and the Middle East are a postnational world. Mexico is barely functioning. The Western powers are spending a lot of effort to prop up states through subsidies, military intervention, diplomatic efforts, but the writing is on the wall for this order. The order that will follow will differ from locality to locality. If it is supra national, its institution will not be dominated by Europeans or the US or their ideology: Liberalism.

MaryJ said at October 13, 2009 7:29 AM:

Snouck, I agree with you, the global policeman role is not useful anymore as it's now being used to undermine national sovereignty. However, it is largely the reason why wars are unpopular. I'm grateful that the 64 years of relative peace overlapped with much of my lifespan.

Randall Parker said at October 13, 2009 6:05 PM:

Snouck, I also fully agree with you.

Today's battles are demographic. For this reason I write less and less about international diplomacy and wars with soldiers.

Regards the defensive advantage: The Taliban are generating tens of billions in military costs for the United States at the cost of $100 million per year for them. We are stupid enough to play that game.

party said at October 14, 2009 11:39 PM:

Afghan war vs peace prize...... President obama got peace prize and become peace dude..

Engineer-Poet said at October 17, 2009 10:35 PM:

I wonder why we bother with armed Predator drones instead of spraying the tribal areas of Waziristan, and those parts of Afghanistan which allow the Taliban to operate, with hoof and mouth disease to destroy the livestock and herbicides to do in the crops.  You make war on us or harbor those who do, you starve.  It doesn't matter how many babies you have if 90% of them die in their first year.


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