Voice

Are you there, God? It's me, Dan. Please don't let them give me a Nobel Peace Prize

So, I see that the Nobel Peace Prize committee has become a retro music station -- they're trying to award the greatest hits of the past

The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for six decades of work in advancing peace in Europe.

The committee said the EU had helped to transform Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace"

Let's look a little more closely at that Nobel statement:

The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe....

The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners....

The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU's most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been on an unfortunate downward trajectory for some time, and this Prize ain't going to help matters, for a couple of reasons: 

1)  As the statement suggests, this award is entirely retrospective.  It's for things the EU did in the past.  In contrast, Obama's peace prize was suggestive of things he would do in the future.  There's no consistency. 

2)  Look, the EU really does deserve a fair amount of credit for fostering a remarkably calm security situation in a bloody continent -- but if the committee was going to be honest about things, then NATO and the U.S. Strategic Air Command would have been co-winners of that Peace Prize.

3)  Since the start of the 21st century, the following organizations have won a Nobel Peace Prize besides the EU:  The United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Grameen Bank, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  So... maybe not winning a Nobel Peace Prize is better. 

Still, I would like to thank the Nobel committee for a very humorous start to this Friday. 

Daniel W. Drezner

My three questions about U.S. foreign policy principles in the Middle East

Your humble blogger was all set to pivot from the U.S. presidential campaign to the state of the global economy when he stumbled across Tom Friedman's column this AM. The headline -- "It's Not Just About Us" -- was beguiling. It suggested the limits of U.S. influence in the region -- a suggestion that is not terribly popular with American foreign policy columnists. The bottom of the first paragraph -- following the de rigeur denunciation of Romney's latest foreign policy speech -- also makes this point:

The worst message we can send right now to Middle Easterners is that their future is all bound up in what we do. It is not. The Arab-Muslim world has rarely been more complicated and more in need of radical new approaches by us -- and them.

Okay, so what's our radical approach to a region with countries hostile to Israel, worried about Iran, and vulnerable to takeover by extremists? Friedman elaborates:

How does the U.S. impact a region with so many cross-cutting conflicts and agendas? We start by making clear that the new Arab governments are free to choose any path they desire, but we will only support those who agree that the countries that thrive today: 1) educate their people up to the most modern standards; 2) empower their women; 3) embrace religious pluralism; 4) have multiple parties, regular elections, and a free press; 5) maintain their treaty commitments; and 6) control their violent extremists with security forces governed by the rule of law. That’s what we think is “the answer,” and our race to the top will fund schools and programs that advance those principles. (To their credit, Romney wants to move in this direction and Obama’s Agency for International Development is already doing so.)

Three things. First, if you're recommending a policy that both presidential candidates are also advocating, then there's nothing new. Second, there's a strong whiff of "it's all about us" by the time the column comes to the end.

Oh, and third: Saudi Arabia. Think about it.

This last point raises an extremely important issue. We're going to have a foreign policy debate in less than two weeks, and based on the news cycle the Middle East is going to dominate it. So it would be good, when either candidate evinces broad, sweeping policy pronouncements on the region, to at least acknowledge the inconsistencies.

So... might I suggest to Bob Schieffer that when he moderates the foreign policy debate, he keep the follow-up questions listed below in case of emergencies?

1) You argue that we should aid conditionality and other measures to require democratization, liberalization, and the promotion of human rights in the Middle East. How exactly would this policy apply to Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf sheikhdoms (including Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet), and Israel's role in the occupied territories?

2) Is it possible for the United States to tie itself closer to Israel while still maintaining its popularity with newly empowered Arab populations? If so, how?

3) Why do you believe that economic sanctions will not work against Iran but that aid conditionality will work against newly-democratizing Arab regimes?