Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace”

Jay Nordlinger is the author of Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, published this week. There is, he writes in the current issue of National Review, "no subject on which it is easier to be glib than that of peace." From that article:
.... We can confidently say what peace is not: It is not the mere absence of war, as President Kennedy noted, and as countless others have noted. And yet, peace is not war either. “I hate war,” said FDR, in that incomparable voice of his. Well, who doesn’t? Who doesn’t hate war, except for psychopaths, some of whom rise to power? And the man who said “I hate war” waged it, in Europe, in the Pacific, and wherever else he found it necessary.

When people debate whether their country should go to war, they are divided into “pro-war” and “anti-war” camps .... Those labels are more than a little unfair; they are at the least bothersome. Are those who conclude that war is necessary, or just, or the lesser of two evils, really pro-war, and not anti-war? ....

You are familiar with the slogan, “War is not the answer.” But it is the answer to some questions, of course — as when it put paid to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Emerson said, “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” A fine sentiment, but unfortunately not true — or not strictly true. Again, the Second World War is instructive. And you might say that understanding can lead a person, or a nation, to see that violence is the only way to put down a threat, and thereby keep or attain peace. ....

Bob Dylan has a song called “Man of Peace” — a rather tart and cynical, but not unreasonable, song. “He got a sweet gift of gab, he got a harmonious tongue, / He knows every song of love that ever has been sung. . . . He’s a great humanitarian, he’s a great philanthropist. . . . You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.” That is the song’s refrain: “You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.” And if Dylan’s not your bag, you might consider a line from Psalms — the 28th Psalm — which talks of “the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.” ....

In 1949, Stalin or the Soviet government — was there a difference? — created the Stalin Peace Prize, more formally the International Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Peoples. This was the Kremlin’s answer to the Nobel Peace Prize. One of the earliest winners was Howard Fast, the American novelist. He received his award from the hand of an even more celebrated American, W.E.B. Du Bois. In his acceptance speech, Fast lamented that neither this prize nor “the name it bears” — Stalin’s — was “greatly honored by the men who govern my country.” But “peace is honored and beloved of millions of the American people, indeed, of almost all of them.” Fast also said, “If I had no other cause for honoring the Soviet Union, I would honor it greatly and profoundly for giving prizes for peace.” (A quick reminder: The Soviet state killed about 20 million people.) ....
And most of the 20 million were killed while the USSR was at "peace."

Peace, They Say by Jay Nordlinger - National Review Online