Saturday, October 10, 2009

Peace: What is it Good For?

Yes, I've heard.  President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Seems to me that the only five people in the whole world who thought this was a smashing idea were...the five folks on the Nobel Committee.  Really?  A unanimous decision?  Maybe they'll decide to revoke the prize if the Prez does things they don't like, for example, if he deploys additional troops to Afghanistan.  Or, if the U.S. or Israel attack Iran's nuclear facilities.  This could be some kind of record for shortest Nobel prize tenure.

This Norwegian silliness aside, the really important news from today is that Turkey and Armenia will sign a pact on Saturday establishing diplomatic ties, nearly 20 years after Armenia became independent from the Soviet Union.  Turkish-Armenian bitterness goes back over a hundred years, to the decades prior to World War I when Armenians began resisting their Ottoman rulers and were systematically persecuted.  After a series of smaller massacres (I know, an oxymoron), between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died during 1915-1917 as the Turks systematically deported and killed large portions of their Armenian population in order to prevent them from siding with the Russian enemy, as they feared they would.  The Armenian Genocide has been a major source of friction between the two countries, with Turkey claiming the casualties were greatly exaggerated and Armenia pushing for world condemnation of Turkey for this horrific past.

Given the dismal state of relations between these two neighbors, kudos are in order for both governments for negotiating what amounts to a truce, especially because their respective populations are not necessarily in favor of any concessions to the other.  While it may be true that Turkey and Armenia probably agreed to this pact because of what they have to gain economically and internationally, they deserve our applause for looking past their mutual contempt even while their citizens are not yet ready.  That is true political bravery.  If you think political bravery comes easily when there are many economic benefits to be gained from cooperation, consider how many neighboring countries are unable to come to peace despite all they could gain from it: India and Pakistan, Israel and Syria, the Koreas, much of Africa, and so on and so forth.

Now, if only there were a prestigious international prize we could award to the Swiss Foreign Ministry for mediating these negotiations and accomplishing peace between Turkey and Armenia.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I thought Nobels were awarded for work accomplished, not based on potential. To award Obama the same prize as Tutu seems a bit premature.

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