So, beyond the Nobel Prize, what is it that Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, the United Nations, Mohamed El Baradei and Al Gore all have in common?
The flip answer is that they have all in their time pushed out enough hot air to melt the polar ice caps on Mars, and if anyone thinks that’s an exaggeration about Mars, check out this 2003 report from NASA. (Yes, it seems that even on a planet where homo sapiens has never exhaled at all, let alone fired up an SUV or hopped a longhaul airline flight, ice caps can suffer a volatile existence).
More seriously, here on planet earth, what those on the list above all have in common is that they have all in pursuit of their own ambitions pushed agendas that corrode the real basis for building a better life for all on this planet — which, in a nutshell, is freedom.
Free societies may produce more CO2 (whatever that actually adds up to — or not — in the context of a world climate that was changing long before we got here, and will go on changing long after we are gone). But that’s because they also produce more, per capita, of just about everything good — including ideas, inventions, contraptions and once-undreamt-of ways not only of sustaining human life, but of making it healthier, longer, easier and better. That happens when individuals have the liberty to make their own choices and tradeoffs.
That is not the world envisioned by the list of Nobel laureates above. Arafat’s lethal contribution, devastating to the Palestinians themselves and poisonous in realms beyond, was to cultivate terrorism as a negotiating tactic, war as a means of keeping himself in power, and brutality instead of law. Jimmy Carter, starting with his years as America’s worst president in living memory, made a career of empowering some of the worst tyrants, leaving his successors to try to contend with the horrors emanating from Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, while he went on to collect donations for his Carter Center from Middle Eastern potentates, and chum around with such folks as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
Kofi Annan presided from 1997-2006 over a UN morphing into an ever more invasive, intrusive, unaccountable and power-hungry institution — not only cozying up to a corrupt and murderous Saddam Hussein via Oil-for-Food, but aiming through a series of ever-expanding programs to manage the economic development of every country on earth, as well as the weather. And Mohamed El Baradei has run the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in a manner that has not only failed to stop Iran’s push to acquire the nuclear bomb, but has in effect provided cover while the mullahs pursue this weapon that will greatly expand the reach and influence of their messianic, totalitarian schemes.
As for Al Gore, he’s riding high on the vision of a world in which someone-or-other will decide — for all of us — who may produce what, and how much. In the name of managing the climate, this is one more way of telling people how to live, and what to do, and whom to pay. And who is going to do all that managing, and dictating and toll-collecting? That is the multi-trillion dollar question, and it involves not only your money, but your freedom. The prime candidate campaigning for this job appears to be the UN, now planning yet another grand “Climate Change” summit (conveniently scheduled this December on Bali), and home to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared this year’s Nobel with Gore.
Why such strange choices for the Nobel Peace Prize? Over the years, this prize has gone to a highly varied set of winners, some of whom have genuinely sacrificed a great deal in the cause of liberty and peace. It has been a fine and valuable thing to see such winners as Andrei Sakharov, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi. But the roster of terrible choices dwarfs the good. That’s no surprise. In 1895, Alfred Nobel gave the job of picking the peace prize winners to Norway. So it happens that the choice each year reflects the preferences of a handful of Norwegian parliamentarians. And, as Scandinavian fads would have it, this is what we get.
A further note on the UN, for which the Nobel Peace Prize has provided such a convenient series of boosts — including, with this latest prize, three awards in the past seven years alone. I would have posted the above earlier, but it has been a busy day, including a trip to a Manhattan federal courtroom to observe the sentencing to 51 months in prison of the former head of the UN budget oversight committee, a Russian by the name of Vladimir Kuznetsov. He was convicted by jury trial this March of laundering hundreds of thousands in kickbacks obtained by another UN employee, also a Russian, Alexander Yakovlev, who worked in the procurement department. That’s just one small slice of the hijinks that go on at the UN, many of them beyond reach of U.S. jurisdiction. At the UN, there is still no accounting for exactly how the organization spends billions of your tax dollars; what kind of resources the flagship UN Development Program has actually funneled in recent years to such regimes as North Korea, Burma and Iran; or — to pick just a few of the many examples — what kind of murky agendas are pursued by an IAEA that covers for Iran, a Commission on Sustainable Development now chaired by Zimbabwe, and a Security Council now poised to seat as members the grotesquely repressive regimes of Vietnam and Libya. And yet, despite these inconvenient truths, those Peace Prizes just keep piling up.