October 19, 2009 -- Ask the Norwegians who pick the Nobel Peace Prize recipient this question: “Which part of Europe are you from? The part whose butt we saved or the part whose butt we kicked?” They’d have to answer the former but only reluctantly because their answer would open a discussion about the ideology behind their bizarre choice of President Barack Obama as the 2009 prize winner.
The Nobel committee has been widely and rightly ridiculed for that choice since the American president has yet to do anything to make the world a more peaceful place. They gave Obama the prize for making apology speeches that activated the adrenal and other glands (but not the brain) of Europeans who oppose most of the good things for which America stands. We might simply mark down the committee members as fools who are so self-deluded about the world that they’ve jettisoned all rational standards of judgment.
That’s true but also too easy. Let’s look deeper at what moral principles ought to govern war and peace and, more specifically, the role of force in human affairs. This will allow us to judge both the Nobel committee and Obama.
Let’s start with the purpose of government. America’s Founders said it best in the Declaration of Independence when they stated that we are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” which were understood to include the right to private property. Thus, “to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
This bold statement flies in the face of the implications of the Nobel committee’s applause for Obama’s diplomacy “founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes shared by the majority of the world’s population.” America’s Founders issued the Declaration because “a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind” required a statement of the reasons for the break with Britain, but not agreement from the majority of mankind or anyone else with those reasons. They understood that we do not derive our liberty from majority opinion.
Rather, because we are each ends in ourselves, if we are to pursue our own survival and well-being in society with others, we must be free to act as we see fit while leaving others free to do the same. This means that we must deal with one another based on mutual consent rather than through the initiation of force or fraud.
This understanding also implies that police are justified in using force to stop or apprehend criminals who are violating the rights of citizens. Further, governments can be justified in using military force to stop credible threats to the liberty and security of its citizens or to retaliate against those who use force against those citizens.
In other words, governments should be rights-protectors, trying to preserve, possibly by the use of retaliatory force, the liberty of citizens to peaceably deal with one another.
So how does Obama measure up on this standard of peace?
Obama stands clearly against peace on the domestic front. He does not use government to defend the liberty and property of citizens against force but, rather, uses force to limit liberty and take property. His administration is attempting to put the federal government in control of the country’s health care services. He’s attempting to put draconian controls on business and industry, that is, on all workers and consumers, in the name of “climate control.” He already has taken over banks and car companies. And he’s destroying the value of the currency we hold in our bank accounts and pockets with huge government deficits as he transfers hundreds of billions of dollars from those who earned it to those who haven’t.
And all of these efforts rest on the use of government force to restrict the liberty of individuals.
While he didn’t originate statist policies—Republicans and Democrats both practice them—Obama is acting aggressively to take those policies to their logical conclusion: government control of virtually all aspects of our lives. Obama is at war with the American people. He would, of course, prefer that individuals quietly surrender their liberty and submit to the peace of a prison.
Internationally, Obama is no better.
He wants the elites of the industrialized countries to work together to break down national sovereignty not in order to better protect the liberty of Americans but, rather, in order exercise greater control over the lives of the people of all nations. He seeks greater international coordination of economic policy. He wants greater authority for international organizations. And, with his fellow statists, he is acting aggressively against countries like Switzerland that have banks that act as havens for those who wish to secure their property against the rapacious grasp of governments. It’s an international version of his domestic policy, a world controlled by political elites.
In the morally-warped world of Obama, war is peace because, to complete the Orwellian analogy, freedom is slavery.
On traditional war-and-peace matters, Obama’s apology offensive has not helped secure Americans from the threat of Islamists. But it has impressed the Nobel committee members who, in the award announcement, stated that “Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.” Damned good thing for them that the United States and its allies didn’t buy the peace-at-any-price premise in World War II when they defeated Nazi Germany, which was occupying Norway! Norway’s politicians learned that lesson anyway, and show it through their membership in NATO, an alliance that stands for carrying a big stick, no matter how much one talks.
The jokes about Obama’s prize should give way to sober contemplation by Americans and all individuals who love their lives and liberty. The most serious enemies of peace are those who would use force to take our freedom. We should never value peace at any price but only a peace that leaves us free to deal with one another based on mutual consent.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.