Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2002 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The politicization of prizes was never more blatantly revealed than in the comments of two of the members of the committee that awarded former president Jimmy Carter the Nobel Prize for peace.
One member clearly implied that the prize was meant as a criticism of the Bush administration, whose "threat of the use of power" he contrasted with Carter's "principles that conflicts must be resolved as far as possible through mediation and international cooperation." Another member of the Nobel Prize committee was even more explicit that the award "should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken."
Jimmy Carter has long been a favorite of those abroad who are anti-American, and a case could even be made that he was the first anti-American president. It was he who blithely gave away the Panama Canal that Americans had built and operated for more than half a century, pleasing all the citizen-of-the-world types here and in other countries.
Carter's weak-kneed hand-wringing over Iran's seizure of American hostages did nothing to get them freed. But after he was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 elections, the Iranians decided to return the hostages just before someone with guts and backbone took over the White House.
Those who think that weakness is the path to peace would of course think of Carter as a peacemaker. But the great peacemaker of our time was the man who brought the Cold War to an end by building up military forces on a scale that the Soviet economy could not match -- Ronald Reagan.
Under President Reagan, the long-standing American policy of trying to "contain" the spread of communist regimes around the world was changed into a policy of forcing the Soviet bloc back for the first time. The clever intelligentsia laughed when Reagan said that we were seeing the last days of the Soviet Union itself. But they had nothing to say when it came true.
They certainly never considered him a peacemaker, even though he made the greatest peace of our time. The old saying, "by their fruits ye shall know them" has been replaced by today's belief that by their rhetoric and their grandstanding ye shall know them.
Jimmy Carter was not only an ineffectual president, at home and abroad, he has even been a nuisance as an ex-president, undermining his successors with his widely reported second-guessing of their foreign policies. Most former presidents, even those who were more successful in the White House than Carter, have had the decency to keep quiet when their successors carried the heavy responsibilities of the presidency.
Nor has this been just some partisan sniping. Even Bill Clinton complained about Jimmy Carter's Monday morning quarterbacking that complicated international relations. Among other things, Carter has been chummy with dictators heading a couple of the oldest hard-line Stalinist regimes in the world, those in North Korea and in Cuba. No doubt this too warmed the hearts of those who want to see the United States taken down a peg.
Awarding prizes for political reasons is not new but it has now reached new levels of blatancy and shamelessness. The only comparison that comes to mind is the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize to New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty in 1932 after he told the intelligentsia what they wanted to hear about the Soviet Union -- as distinguished from telling them the truth.
One of the most massive, man-made famines in history was claiming millions of lives in the USSR but Walter Duranty's lying and denying set well with the left-leaning intelligentsia of his time and he was rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize. A then unknown young writer named Malcolm Muggeridge was also in the USSR at the same time and he told the truth -- for which he was shunned by the intellectuals when he returned to the West and had trouble finding work.
While the Nobel Prize continues to be the most prestigious in the world -- and deservedly so in fields like science and economics -- the Nobel Peace Prize has already been given to a terrorist thug like Yasser Arafat, so perhaps Jimmy Carter is a worthy successor to him, even if he is one of the sorriest presidents and ex-presidents in the history of the United States.
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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.