A Strange Nobel Peace Prize

From the Wall Street Journal

Oct. 7, 2016 7:10 p.m. ET

Not everyone who wins a Nobel Peace Prize is undeserving. Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov, Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo won for demanding human rights and democracy from despotic regimes. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and later Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, put past enmities aside to forge a durable peace. George Marshall helped save Europe from chaos; Norman Borlaug saved much of the world from starvation.

But these are exceptions to a rule in which the prize goes to the champions of false peace and naive good intentions. Such was the case Friday when the Norwegian Nobel Committee bestowed the honor on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, lately in the news for failing to persuade voters to endorse his peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

Not that Mr. Santos doesn’t get points for trying. He spent five years trying to negotiate a peace deal with the FARC. The 297-page deal he reached in August in Havana was hailed by everyone from Raúl Castro to John Kerry as the best way to end the conflict.

Colombians thought otherwise, and with good reason. After being terrorized by the FARC for 50 years, they were not inclined to accept a deal that would have given FARC leaders near-impunity, guaranteed them seats in Congress, or allowed them to amplify their propaganda in the media. “No justice, no peace” is an old mantra of the left, which Colombians for a change chose to use against the left.

The vote was a credit to the good sense of ordinary Colombians who want to defeat the FARC, not make an accommodation with them. But it was also a rebuke to the judgment and values of the Nobel Committee, which insisted in its announcement that only through a “peace and reconciliation process” could the country “address effectively major challenges such as poverty, social injustice and drug-related crime.”

Colombia has been doing fine without a peace deal, mainly because the previous government of Álvaro Uribe chose to defend democracy through military toughness and free-market reforms. The truth that peace and freedom need to be fought for is one the Nobel Committee has long ignored, preferring instead to honor the world’s empty-gesture makers.

Thus the prize went in 1929 to U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg for a treaty outlawing war—prematurely, as it turned out—and to British politician Arthur Henderson in 1934 for “his work with the League [of Nations], particularly for its effort in disarmament,” and to President Obama in 2009 before his retreat from the Middle East led to the rise of Islamic State.

All of this might not mean much were it not for the missed opportunity to teach the world who its real peacemakers are. Winston Churchill never won a peace prize though he did as much as anybody to save the world from totalitarianism. The same goes for former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who insisted on basing U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany, and Ronald Reagan, who had the foresight to envision victory in the Cold War.

As for Colombia, the man who deserves the prize is Mr. Uribe, whose campaign against FARC made life safer for millions of Colombians. That’s a lesson lost on the well-meaning souls in Oslo who pretend that the peace they enjoy has been won by goodwill alone.

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