War, Peace, and Obama's Nobel
In These Times, November 5, 2009
The hopes and prospects for peace aren't well aligned -- not even close. The task is to bring them nearer. Presumably that was the intent of the Nobel Peace Prize committee in choosing President Barack Obama.
The prize "seemed a kind of prayer and encouragement by the Nobel committee for future endeavor and more consensual American leadership," Steven Erlanger and Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote in The New York Times.
The nature of the Bush-Obama transition bears directly on the likelihood that the prayers and encouragement might lead to progress.
The Nobel committee's concerns were valid. They singled out Obama's rhetoric on reducing nuclear weapons.
Right now Iran's nuclear ambitions dominate the headlines. The warnings are that Iran may be concealing something from the International Atomic Energy Agency and violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887, passed last month and hailed as a victory for Obama's efforts to contain Iran.
Meanwhile, a debate continues on whether Obama's recent decision to reconfigure missile-defense systems in Europe is a capitulation to the Russians or a pragmatic step to defend the West from Iranian nuclear attack.
Silence is often more eloquent than loud clamor, so let us attend to what is unspoken.
Amid the furor over Iranian duplicity, the IAEA passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to inspection.
The United States and Europe tried to block the IAEA resolution, but it passed anyway. The media virtually ignored the event.
The United States assured Israel that it would support Israel's rejection of the resolution -- reaffirming a secret understanding that has allowed Israel to maintain a nuclear arsenal closed to international inspections, according to officials familiar with the arrangements. Again, the media were silent.
Indian officials greeted U.N. Resolution 1887 by announcing that India "can now build nuclear weapons with the same destructive power as those in the arsenals of the world's major nuclear powers," the Financial Times reported.
Both India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear weapons programs. They have twice come dangerously close to nuclear war, and the problems that almost ignited this catastrophe are very much alive.
Obama greeted Resolution 1887 differently. The day before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his inspiring commitment to peace, the Pentagon announced it was accelerating delivery of the most lethal non-nuclear weapons in the arsenal: 13-ton bombs for B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers, designed to destroy deeply hidden bunkers shielded by 10,000 pounds of reinforced concrete.
It's no secret the bunker busters could be deployed against Iran.
Planning for these "massive ordnance penetrators" began in the Bush years but languished until Obama called for developing them rapidly when he came into office.
Passed unanimously, Resolution 1887 calls for the end of threats of force and for all countries to join the NPT, as Iran did long ago. NPT non-signers are India, Israel and Pakistan, all of which developed nuclear weapons with U.S. help, in violation of the NPT.
Iran hasn't invaded another country for hundreds of years -- unlike the United States, Israel and India (which occupies Kashmir, brutally).
The threat from Iran is minuscule. If Iran had nuclear weapons and delivery systems and prepared to use them, the country would be vaporized.
To believe Iran would use nuclear weapons to attack Israel, or anyone, "amounts to assuming that Iran's leaders are insane" and that they look forward to being reduced to "radioactive dust," strategic analyst Leonard Weiss observes, adding that Israel's missile-carrying submarines are "virtually impervious to preemptive military attack," not to speak of the immense U.S. arsenal.
In naval maneuvers in July, Israel sent its Dolphin class subs, capable of carrying nuclear missiles, through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea, sometimes accompanied by warships, to a position from which they could attack Iran -- as they have a "sovereign right" to do, according to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Not for the first time, what is veiled in silence would receive front-page headlines in societies that valued their freedom and were concerned with the fate of the world.
The Iranian regime is harsh and repressive, and no humane person wants Iran -- or anyone else -- to have nuclear weapons. But a little honesty would not hurt in addressing these problems.
The Nobel Peace Prize, of course, is not concerned solely with reducing the threat of terminal nuclear war, but rather with war generally, and the preparation for war. In this regard, the selection of Obama raised eyebrows, not least in Iran, surrounded by U.S. occupying armies.
On Iran's borders in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Obama has escalated Bush's war and is likely to proceed on that course, perhaps sharply.
Obama has made clear that the United States intends to retain a long-term major presence in the region. That much is signaled by the huge city-within-a city called "the Baghdad Embassy," unlike any embassy in the world.
Obama has announced the construction of mega-embassies in Islamabad and Kabul, and huge consulates in Peshawar and elsewhere.
Nonpartisan budget and security monitors report in Government Executive that the "administration's request for $538 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2010 and its stated intention to maintain a high level of funding in the coming years put the president on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since World War II. And that's not counting the additional $130 billion the administration is requesting to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, with even more war spending slated for future years."
The Nobel Peace Prize committee might well have made truly worthy choices, prominent among them the remarkable Afghan activist Malalai Joya.
This brave woman survived the Russians, and then the radical Islamists whose brutality was so extreme that the population welcomed the Taliban. Joya has withstood the Taliban and now the return of the warlords under the Karzai government.
Throughout, Joya worked effectively for human rights, particularly for women; she was elected to parliament and then expelled when she continued to denounce warlord atrocities. She now lives underground under heavy protection, but she continues the struggle, in word and deed. By such actions, repeated everywhere as best we can, the prospects for peace edge closer to hopes.