Alfred Nobel left part of the fortune he made from the invention of dynamite to establish a prize for Â “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Nobel hadn’t heard of nuclear weapons, let alone nuclear non-proliferation. Â But no doubt he would have recognized the drive to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms and to reduce the size of nuclear stockpiles as the contemporary equivalent of the arms-control movement of his own time.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty commits its nuclear-power signatories to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. Â Under Cold War conditions, that goal seemed merely aspirational, with no immediate practical implication.
But after the Cold War, with U.S. conventional forces overwhelmingly superior to those of any potential rival, it became very much in the security interest of the United States to reduce or abolish nuclear weaponry, and Bill Perry, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, and George Shultz proposed exactly that.
Last month at the U.N. Barack Obama committed the United States to that program, which (among other good effects) strengthened our hand against Iranian and North Korean proliferation efforts; it was hard to denounce their violations of the NPT with a straight face when we weren’t even pretending to try to live up to ours.
So when the usually intelligent Megan McArdle announces loftily that
it’s kind of ludicrous that anyone is even trying to argue that Barack Obama truly deserves this Nobel Peace Prize
she is, to put it bluntly, talking through her hat.
That’s not to mention the importance of killing the “missile shield” that threatened a new arms race with Russia, or the work for “fraternity between nations” done by making it clear that the United States of America was no longer fighting a “crusade” against al-Islam, or putting an end to the torture regime.
Yes, it’s really rather surprising that the President has actually done, in nine short months, enough to justify a Nobel Peace Prize. Â But “surprising” does not equal “false.”