The Spoils of War
Following up on qrswave’s December 26th post Birds of a Feather, which I’ve only just read, I remembered who had been awarded the "Nobel" Prize in Economics this year: Robert Aumann and Thomas Schelling.
In a Slate article on Schelling, Fred Kaplan, quoting from Schelling’s book Arms and Influence, wrote:
“War is always a bargaining process,” and one must wage it in a way to maximize “the bargaining power that comes from the capacity to hurt,” to cause “sheer pain and damage,” because they are “the primary instruments of coercive warfare.”This year’s award prompted “A group of Israeli intellectuals and activists” to demand “that the Nobel Prize committee withdraw the award for economics to be made today to an Israeli mathematician and his American colleague on the grounds that they are ‘warmongers.’”
They signed this petition, stating:
Schelling’s theory encourages the coercive use of military force, used to induce desired behavior in an adversary, rather than simply to destroy the enemy’s military capacity. His ideas were the direct inspiration for US strategy in Vietnam, of indiscriminately bombing the North in order to persuade Ho Chi Minh to stop supporting the Vietcong in the South… This strategy resulted in 2 million civilian deaths and was a complete failure in realizing its objectives.In an October 2005 post on this same subject titled The Nobel Game: what is the score? Sol Salbe wrote:
Aumann uses his analysis to justify the Israeli Occupation and the oppression of the Palestinians. Neither of these individuals has contributed anything that improves the human condition; rather, they have contributed to the misery of millions.
Of course receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is no proof of being commendable or, for that matter, making a great contribution for peace. Think of Henry Kissinger, described by Christopher Hitchens as a war criminal. My favorite anecdote relates to another such “worthy” recipient, Menachem Begin who was Prime Minister when Ariel Sharon orchestrated the 1982 Lebanon War in which ten of thousands of innocent Lebanese and Palestinians (and quite a few Israeli soldiers) died. The anecdote concerns the head of Physics in Israel’s Technion who nominated Begin for the Nobel Prize in physics on the ground that his contribution to physics… was about the same as his contribution to peace!It seems the head of Technion was not far off in his assessment of the Nobel criteria. These two have contributed about as much to economics as they have to peace: Nada.
UPDATE: Reading through and checking this post a passage from one of my favorite booklong poems came to mind. Thought I’d share it.
What we commit to memoryPoints for a Compass Rose by Evan S. Conell.
Should be worth the attention of our descendants
– such as the fact that after Nong Khai was bombed
by the United States Air Force a pregnant woman
who had been gravely injured was offered $20
by the American government. Do you understand?