No wonder the Norwegian Nobel Committee is so misguided in its decision. As with so many other words in our language today, the word “war” has lost its true meaning. It doesn’t even mean what it meant to Alfred Nobel himself. To him to “work for peace” meant to work for the “abolition or reduction of standing armies,” and for the “holding and promotion of peace congresses.” These phrases don’t seem to mean much today to the Committee itself.
I don’t know what “peace congresses” means exactly. I remember the Soviet leaders doing “peace congresses” almost every year. They had one about the time the Soviet tanks were entering Prague, and there was another one in the early 1980s when the Soviet tanks were entering Afghanistan. Oh, and by the way, does anyone remember the “Peace of Our Time,” the Munich Conference of 1938? But whatever it means, Obama never held or promoted peace congresses.
I do know what “abolition and reduction of standing armies” is. I know very few of the Peace Prize Winners have actually done something like that. Certainly Obama never has.
But there is one more phrase that Alfred Nobel put in his will. And I think this is his worst mistake. Self-consciously or not, with this little phrase he limited the meaning of “war” to exclude the worst and the cruelest of all wars:
“…the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations…”
In other words, “war” in Nobel’s definition is a conflict “between nations.” Therefore as long as we promote “fraternity between nations,” we are working for peace. Very few delusions in the history of human thought have been more dangerous than this one.
Even in its limited definition, war is not conflict “between nations.” World War II was not a conflict between the American nation and the German nation, or between the Russian nation and the German nation. As a matter of fact, in the first months of the war after June 1941, German officers were startled to find out that the Russian population believed Germans were there to liberate them from Stalin’s regime; hence the reason for the Soviet debacle in the first year of the war. Germans in Germany in 1944–1945 did not look at the advancing Allied troops as their personal enemies. Nations do not start wars. Governments do. Therefore “fraternity between nations” can’t contribute too much towards peace. There was no lack of fraternity between the American colonists and the British nation at the time of the Revolutionary War. It was the British government that created the war, not hatred between the two nations. Curb the governments is the formula for peace. The most limited civil government in the West has always been Switzerland; how many wars did Switzerland start? And Samuel warned the Israelites: Your king will love war, and he will accumulate chariots and horses and make you serve him in war (1 Sam. 8).
But in this limited definition, one war is excluded. It is the eternal war in history, the war that has tied the largest amount of resources, a war that has never stopped, and the war that claimed the largest number of casualties, both in people killed and in resources destroyed. A war that remains outside of the official statistics but is more real than even the Cold War: It is the war of the governments against their own peoples.
In a very perceptive book about the Soviet communism in its 50th anniversary, Workers’ Paradise Lost (1967), Eugene Lyons points to that obvious and seldom discussed aspect of the Soviet reality:
“From the day the Bolsheviks seized control of a weakened and chaotic nation, there has been in effect a continuous civil war between the dictators and those to whom they dictate. In the first years, as we have seen, the contest was open and military. Since then it has been largely concealed and political, yet quite obvious to those who watched with unblurred eyes; and even bloodier than the military phase. Once we grasp this concept of permanent internal conflict, much about Soviet Russia that seems enigmatic and baffling begins to make sense.”
Yes, it surely does make sense. The 70 years of Soviet communism were years of constant war; the regime’s vocabulary from the time of Lenin until the time of Gorbachev never really changed: warfare, sabotage, enemy spies, final death blows, propaganda wars, etc. And it wasn’t just paranoia that inspired that vocabulary: The Soviet government was in a very real war against its own people. And no wonder: Any government committed to violate its citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and property, is necessarily on the war path. No individual will willingly and voluntarily give their life, liberty, and property to a bunch of government bureaucrats. Therefore, war is the necessary means to achieve the dream of submitting a nation to its government.
What Lyons doesn’t mention is that that civil war was not and is not limited to the Communist East. Kings and prime ministers in Europe have always been eager to enslave their subjects, but around the turn of the 20th century the war began in earnest in Europe. It began in earnest in the United States about a decade later, in the 1920s, when the American government started it’s colossal long-term projects of confiscating the nation’s wealth in the hands of its bureaucrats. Hitler and Lenin and Stalin and Mussolini in Europe were only the visible tip of the iceberg. Many “democratic” nations like England, Sweden or Belgium have in effect started on the road to their own mild form of National Socialism, where a bunch of faceless bureaucrats control the life, liberty, and property of the voiceless Volk. When the people did not want to part with their hard-earned wealth, they were taxed to extinction. When the taxes didn’t work anymore, the governments inflated the currencies. When the individuals learned to buy gold against the inflation, the governments put a ban on owning gold. And when individuals responded by starting their own businesses, large and small, to be independent from the governments, the bureaucrats responded by imposing feudal systems of government regulations, down to the minutest details of production and trade.
The governments have their own standing armies for that war: KGB and the party apparatus under Communism in the East, bureaucrats, tax-collectors, police, regulatory agencies in the West. The actions of our own government in the last few months are very revealing as to the war activity against their own nation. The White House recruitment of informants for “fishy talk” is one example, but many other cases can be cited. The hostility against the “Town Hall Movement” among politicians goes beyond the acceptable personal resentment, and even the President himself sounds more and more like delivering war communiques in his propaganda for his healthcare plan.
No wonder. As I said above, any government committed to violate its citizens’ rights to life, liberty and property will have to be in a war mode. People don’t give in voluntarily. Americans, more than any other nation on the planet, are the most resistant. There is a war going on.
This war is not officially recognized by the political establishments and therefore there is no Peace Prize designated to those who work to stop this war. If there was, the Founders of the United States would have been its greatest winners. And Ron Paul. The Founders understood that real peace comes only from limited government, a lesson that we need to remember today.
 Eugene Lyons, Worker’s Paradise Lost (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1967), 95. Special thanks to Gary North for recommending this book to me.