Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nobel Peace Prizes: 2009 and 1929

Hope for peace, 
the pact outlawing war  

by Mike Marcellino

In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday in OsloNorway, President Barack Obama reminded us that, at times, war is morally justified, to defeat evil in the world.  

Newspaper headlines reported that the President refused to renounce war.  Journalist wrote of the "irony" of the President receiving a prize for his efforts to bring peace days after ordering 30,000 more troops to the war in Afghanistan.  

Commentators said Obama had moved to the political center.  Critical reviews of his speech range from recalling President Kennedy to pronouncing it as "incoherent."  Some called it a d move to the political center in American politics.  Republican leaders cheered him.  Anti-war activists reeled in disbelief.

"Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms," he said.  

To sort out something so perplexing, look to history.  

What is renouncing war?  What are the concepts of good and evil, peace and war all about in the context of American politics? 

Trying to understand the nature of these questions and possible answers may stem from another Nobel Peace Prize awarded 80 years ago and to times of torment our nation's history, as far back as the Civil War.

On December 10, 1929, Frank  Kellogg, all but forgotten, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.  He stands in the shadow of a president who inspired millions of American voters in an election less than a year ago with his promise of change. 

Frank Billings Kellogg, former U. S. Secretary of State and  senator, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to create a treaty, signed by 65 nations, renouncing war.  They include the United States and countries such as China, the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.  In part, the pact states a purpose of - "uniting the civilized nations of the world in a common renunciation of war as an instrument of their national policy" and condemning “recourse to war for the solution of international controversies. Nations agree to use pacific means to solve their differences.

Kellogg received the Peace Prize for being co-creator of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris for his partner in peace was French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand.  

Kellogg was born in 1856 in PotsdamNew York into a nation divided over state's rights and slavery on the eve of the Civil War.  

Our terrible ordeal of brother fighting against brother, literally, cost the lives of 618,222 Americans -  Union and Confederate.  A single battle, Gettysburg, cost 40,350 lives in the Allegheny foothills of Pennsylvania, only a two-day march south to our nation's capital.  One civilian was killed, a woman, Mary Virginia Wade. Nine women disguised as men, died in battle.  

Frank grew up on a wheat farm in ElginMinnesota where he went to a country school until he was 14.  He entered a law office, studied using borrowed books and became a lawyer.

A Republican, he earned a reputation as "trust buster." On a mission from President Theodore Roosevelt he successfully prosecuted for restrain of trade the General Paper Company and later Union Pacific Oil and the Standard Oil Company.  He was appointed secretary of state by President Calvin Coolidge.  

Kellogg received the peace prize a decade after "The Great War."   To drum up support for American's entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson called it "the war to end all wars."  It took the lives of 17 million people, nearly 7 million civilians.  

The Great War, as if anything could be "great" about war, was triggered by the assassination of an archduke of Austria by a Serbian nationalist; the world was pretty much lined up.  On our side it was the Allies - the British Empire, Russia, France and Italy and the other side, the Central Powers - the remains of the Austria-Hungary, German and Ottoman Empires.

Some historians say the Great War was bred by imperialist foreign policy.  Perhaps it was caused by a militaristic mindset to settle disputes among people and nations.  

Kellogg's Nobel Prize for crafting a peace pact to outlaw war came at a time of turbulence in America.  Weeks earlier the stock market crashed on October 24th and 29th, "Black Tuesday" and "Black Thursday.  Recently, economic analysts contend the collapse of our wealth and financial system and the Great Depression came, not from economic weakness, but fear and panic.

In another decade, America would be embroiled in World War II - a struggle to defeat "evil" in the form of  mass murder, oppression and torture committed by Hitler and the Nazis, along with his fellow dictators and tyrants in the Axis.  

As many as 72 million people, military and civilian, were killed in World War II, making it the most deadly war in world history.  This includes the Nazi mass murder of 21 million people, including 6 million Jews. In addition, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, killed 21 million of his own people. 

Makes a person wonder if the world is headed in the right direction.  

Many social thinkers and politicians would dismiss Kellogg's efforts to convince nations to settle their differences peacefully as a fantasy and unrealistic.   

Kellogg did admit that the pact doesn't provide provisions to punish violators. 

Still, this little known secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize recipient offers a mindset for peace.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance, he envisions how the treaty would be enforced by the will of the people -

" the end the abolition of war, the maintenance of world peace, the adjustment of international questions by pacific means will come through the force of public opinion, which controls nations and peoples - that public opinion which shapes our destinies and guides the progress of human affairs."

And, Kellogg described a mindset for peace -

"There will always be disputes between nations which, at times, will inflame the public and threaten conflicts, but the main thing is to educate the people of the world to be ever mindful that there are better means of settling such disputes than by war. It is by such means as the prize offered by your Committee that the attention of the world will be focused and that men and women will be inspired to greater efforts in the interest of peace. The churches, the peace societies, the schools and colleges should add their educational influence to this great movement."

Today, the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact remains a binding treaty under international law.  In the United States, it remains in force as federal law.

It remains a different mindset.

Copyright by Mike Marcellino 2009