Why Richard Lugar Shouldn't Be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

by Paul Hager, Libertarian candidate, U.S. Senate

[From the official press release of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, 13 October, 2000: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 to Kim Dae Jung for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular." By the rules of the Nobel grant, deliberations of committees are to remain sealed for 50 years after an award is announced, so we can't know what the considerations were in choosing among the nominees. However, the Peace Prize Committee had the same facts before them concerning Senator Lugar as I had in preparing this paper, which I published on my website on 1 October. I would expect that in the case of Senator Lugar, they agreed with me that the negatives outweighed the positives. -- Paul Hager, 13 October, 2000]

Senator Lugar issued a challenge in the 2nd candidates' debate, from which I was excluded, when he said, "I think we need to talk about foreign policy in this campaign." I agree.

I am a serious candidate for the U.S. Senate. If elected I am prepared to serve the citizens of my state and my country by upholding the U.S. Constitution. I have said basically the same thing twice before, as a candidate for U.S. Representative in 1996 and 1998 (see The Libertarian Corner for some of my writings from those campaigns). However, a Senator has responsibilities under the Constitution not possessed by Representatives, including the power to ratify treaties. This necessarily makes the Senate the congressional body most likely to become involved in matters of foreign policy.

My opponent, Senator Richard Lugar, has developed a reputation as an expert in foreign policy. Longevity in a position can certainly give the appearance of expertise. But an expert has to possess wisdom born of his experience. The Senator's recent nomination, along with Sam Nunn, for the Nobel Peace Prize would seem a validation of that reputation by a prestigious international organization. But this, too, is predicated on the Nobel Committee being an unerring judge of who has best furthered the goal of world peace.

Past recipients of the Peace Prize have included Albert Schweitzer and Elie Wiesel. Who would gainsay those choices? But the Peace Prize has also gone to Henry Kissinger. When the great humorist Tom Lehrer retired from comedy and returned to teaching he said it was because after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, satire was dead. Lehrer's valedictory joke was apposite. Kissinger was involved in protracting the Vietnam war and expanding the conflict into Cambodia; acts hardly conducive to world peace. The true magnitude of the Nobel Committee's blunder in awarding the Prize to Kissinger didn't become apparent until the destabilization of Cambodia, set in motion by American intervention, produced the Khmer Rouge and the slaughter of over a million people.

In fairness to the Nobel Committee, the choice of Senators Lugar and Nunn is based upon a single act: their joint sponsorship of the so-called Nunn-Lugar Act in 1991, which established the Cooperative Threat Reduction program (CTR). Much has been written about the CTR program over the years so I won't go into the details here (see, for example Cooperative Threat Reduction Program). Suffice that when the Soviet Union collapsed, anyone knowledgeable about foreign affairs knew that it was a very dangerous time. Among the successor states were four nuclear powers with unstable governments. Worse-case scenarios ranged from a civil war fought with nuclear weapons to a direct or clandestine transfer of nuclear technology and weapons to unfriendly countries and/or terrorist groups. The obvious solution was for the U.S. to help stabilize the situation, provide incentives for honoring treaty commitments, and aid in the inventory and control of weapons and nuclear materials. My own view at the time was not terribly optimistic since I'm always surprised when Washington policy makers do the right thing. The CTR program was one of those pleasant surprises and despite some criticism it has received over the years (see, for example The Nunn-Lugar Act: A Wasteful and Dangerous Illusion), on balance it has served well the cause of world peace.

If the CTR program were the only significant act of Senator Lugar in the field of foreign policy I would offer no objection to his receipt of the prize. Unfortunately for us all, this is not the case.

Even as the CTR program was getting underway, the Senator was in the vanguard of Washington policy makers promoting the continued existence of the largest military alliance on the planet -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO began over 50 years ago as a defensive alliance against the Soviet Union. But, as the once formidable Soviet Army inherited by Russia evaporated, the justification for NATO evaporated with it. Why, after all, maintain a large defensive military establishment if there is no longer an adversary to defend against? In fact, Lugar and others have worked to expand NATO and shape it into an offensive force under nominal U.S. control that can be used for foreign interventions and other military adventures. Lugar has also supported U.S. military actions against other nations, not under the auspices of NATO, to punish actions of which we disapprove. In these ways, Lugar's actions have increased the risk of nuclear proliferation, nuclear terror, and even nuclear war. A person so closely identified with a policy as dangerous as NATO expansion is not deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Barbara Tuchman's 1984 book, The March of Folly, is a study of that category of misgovernment known as folly. Tuchman defined folly as the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the state involved. Tuchman further required that to qualify as folly, the policy adopted had to meet three criteria: (1) it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time; (2) a feasible alternative course of action must have been available; and (3) the policy must have been that of a group, not an individual, and should persist beyond one political lifetime. I propose to use Tuchman's criteria to look at American post-Cold War foreign policy and Senator Lugar's role in it.

Let me begin with criterion number 3 and return to the question I posed earlier -- why maintain, and even expand, NATO? This question becomes much more pointed when one considers that the European Union has been developing its own integrated military. What is the rationale behind parallel defensive military establishments? A partial answer comes when one considers that NATO is a huge transnational organization composed of large numbers of civilian and military bureaucrats. No governmental bureaucracy in the history of the world has ever willingly disbanded and NATO was not going to be the first. From the moment that the Soviet Union ceased to exist, NATO bureaucrats began to promote the need for "stability" in Eastern Europe which apparently only NATO could supply by expanding eastward.

This was a disingenuous claim, since NATO's own rules preclude membership unless a country is "stable." What the offer of "stability" actually meant was that the more countries accepted NATO/U.S. leadership of their foreign and domestic policy, the less conflict would exist. This is suggested by the argument that started doing the rounds at this time: namely, that the original NATO "non-intervention" policy needed to be jettisoned in favor of military intervention in order to protect "human rights". This amounted to "stability" at the point of a gun. Stability in a nation or group of nations is produced by strengthening economies, promoting free trade, and developing political and cultural ties. None of these is facilitated by a military institution. A military institution is an instrument of naked force whose sole function is to destroy things and kill people. Trying to use it for some other purpose is both foolhardy and inherently dangerous because it will always retain that destructive function.

Since NATO is a supranational organization, it required external allies if it was to continue and expand -- particularly allies in the U.S. "Humanitarian intervention" as a new mission, focusing on the Balkans, was widely and publicly discussed. Less publicly, but just as widely, discussed was what one might call the "Carthago delenda est" strategy. The argument behind this strategy was that Russia, whether under the Czars, the Commissars, or the New Democrats, was inherently imperialistic and expansionist. Because of its large nuclear arsenal, Russia can't actually be eliminated in the fashion of Carthage; we can, nevertheless, take advantage of this period of weakness to consolidate the gains from our victory in the Cold War and prepare ourselves for Cold War II. The most vocal exponents of this view included Jimmy Carter's former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Henry Kissinger. The 15 May 1997 NY Times observed of NATO expansion:

"Underlying the gamble is the conviction -- publicly voiced by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, unspoken but deeply held by the main shapers of foreign policy here -- that Russia might someday threaten Central and Eastern Europe once again and that now is the moment, when Russia is weak, to extend Western protection to potential targets."

And Brzezinski, in a statement on NATO enlargement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 9 October, 1997 said:

"... NATO's enlargement is ... about Russia's relationship to Europe -- whether NATO's enlargement helps a democratizing Russia by foreclosing the revival of any self-destructive imperial temptations regarding Central Europe."

Richard Lugar was one of the earliest champions of NATO expansion as a means to achieve all of the goals stated above. A news report from December, 1994 on the occasion of a Lugar trip to Europe to confer with European leaders about NATO stated:

"Lugar has long advocated enhancing NATO's missions and memberships. He has stressed that clear criteria and a definite timetable must be established for members of the former Soviet bloc to enter the NATO alliance."

A report titled "Foreign Policy into the 21st Century: The U.S. Leadership Challenge" was issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in 1996. The committee that produced the CSIS report was co-chaired by Lugar, Brzezinski, and then Representative Lee Hamilton. Among its recommendations was expansion of NATO to include Eastern European countries, but to exclude Ukraine and Russia.

The NATO bureaucrats also acknowledged Lugar's key role. In a news release from 9 January, 1997 dealing with a meeting between NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Lugar, Solana was quoted as thanking Lugar for his efforts in promoting NATO expansion:

"You have prepared so much and so well for ratification of NATO expansion. Many people look to you for guidance."

If anything, Solana understates Lugar's role. NATO expansion has had no more ardent or effective supporter than the Senator.

Senator Lugar has also been a drum-beater for using NATO as a tool of intervention, in the name of "human rights" (see, for example "NATO: Out of Area or Out of Business: A Call for U.S. Leadership to Revive and Redefine the Alliance", remarks delivered to the Open Forum of the U.S. Department of State, 2 August, 1993). The United Nations (UN) is demonstrably not suitable for that purpose because either Russia or China can exercise a veto over a UN operation. NATO, however, can potentially be bent to the U.S. will. As Lugar observed in a USA Today report, "We have an unparalleled opportunity to manage the world." NATO is a potential means to that end.

Grandiose plans for world management, no matter how well intentioned, are exceedingly dangerous. Others in the world may not view that management as being in their interest. Moreover, managing other people and nations at the point of a gun carries extreme risks. As earlier stated, a military organization is not designed to promote stability and human rights. If a nation sees a large and expanding military force near its border, normal prudence will dictate developing contingency plans in the event that the force become overtly aggressive. This is exactly the situation facing Russia.

The Russians have more legitimate causes for concern than just the fact that NATO is a huge force-in-being. When the Soviet Union first loosened its grip on Eastern Europe, it was with the guarantee that NATO would not expand. Clearly, that guarantee has not been honored. Russians are also very well aware that one purpose of expansion is to take advantage of their weakness. This is hardly conducive to developing good relations. And the Russians have seen NATO used to intervene in an internal Yugoslavian conflict involving an ethnic minority that is very similar to the situation the Russians are dealing with in Chechnya.

Since everyone acknowledges that the Russians are weak, why should American policy makers care what the Russians think? The reason is that, although the Russian conventional army may be so weak that it would be hard pressed to defeat the Dutch army in a straight-up fight, the Russians remain a nuclear superpower. The fact that there is now a huge disparity in the relative strengths of the NATO and Russian conventional forces is not necessarily desirable from the standpoint of international "stability".

Asymmetry in conventional forces was considered problematic in the early days of the Cold War, when we were militarily inferior to the Soviets. The concern was that we would have to quickly cross the nuclear threshold because we would be unable to stop a conventional attack. This was the central argument in favor of massive increases in U.S. conventional forces, including stationing troops in Europe to prevent a Soviet conventional "blitzkrieg." Somehow, this reasoning no longer seems to hold when we have the overwhelming conventional superiority over Russia. If the only way for Russia to respond to a provocation is to threaten nuclear attack, things can move up the escalation ladder very quickly. A nuclear "demonstration" or even a direct "tit-for-tat" city exchange could occur which might then easily degenerate into what Herman Kahn, in his book On Escalation, termed "spasm or insensate war" -- an indiscriminate city-busting exchange that would kill hundreds of millions of people on both sides.

A number of statements made by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin reminding U.S. policymakers of Russia's nuclear prowess were quickly dismissed as a manifestation of Yeltsin's drinking problems, or simply political bombast for domestic consumption. But when Vladimir Putin became acting President, he quickly approved a national security doctrine that lowered the nuclear threshold. It said:

"The Russian Federation considers it possible to use military force to guarantee its national security according to the following principles: The use of all forces and equipment at its disposal, including nuclear weapons, if it has to repel armed aggression if all other means of resolving the crisis have been exhausted or proved ineffective."

The old doctrine envisioned use of nuclear weapons only "in the case of a threat to the very existence" of Russia as a sovereign state.

Opposition to NATO expansion in Russia has been both consistent and broad from the very beginning -- and it cuts across all political parties and ideologies. For example, Alexei Arbatov, a democratic member of the Russian Duma in 1998 wrote:

"...[N]early the full spectrum of Russian politicians is opposed to the expansion of NATO.

"...The prospect of NATO expansion has damaged U.S.-Russian relations; NATO expansion has proceeded over Russian objections. For the past decade Russians were assured by the West that if Russia behaved itself, committed to domestic reforms, and resisted any moves to reestablish its empire, Russia would be taken into account as an equal partner in the international sphere. But Russia's views clearly have been disregarded on the issue of NATO expansion, and those who have advocated cooperation with the West feel betrayed."

"NATO expansion is not good for Russian democrats; the only Russians who would benefit are nationalists and Communists."

U.S./NATO intervention in Yugoslavia over Kosovo exacerbated all of the existing problems of Russian distrust. Moreover, it sent a message to other nations that "manag[ing] the world", to use Senator Lugar's words, had become the new U.S. order of the day. One very clear, but unintended, message of the Kosovo operation was that the U.S. was very choosy about whom it might attack.

There is really no functional difference between the Yugoslavian treatment of its Albanian minority and the Russian treatment of its Chechen minority. The U.S. reaction is different because the Russians have nuclear weapons. While this view is overly simplistic, it is nonetheless one that is articulated. As the Cato Institute reported in July 1999, Chinese and Russian arms control negotiators argued that NATO countries (led by the United States) were destroying nonproliferation efforts with their war in Kosovo. Those arms negotiators added that NATO showed that it wouldn't respect any country unless that nation possessed nuclear weapons. According to Cato:

The Chinese and Russians are not engaged in idle chatter. When former Secretary of Defense William Perry -- acting as special envoy to President Clinton -- pressured North Korean leaders to end efforts to develop long-range missiles and fulfill their promise not to produce a nuclear weapon, he received a stiff response. The North Koreans noted that if they foreswore such weapons, the United States might accuse North Korea of human rights violations and begin bombing their nation into rubble -- as the United States did in Serbia [Yugoslavia]. When an Indian general was asked what lessons he had learned from the successful U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf War, he replied that one should not fight the United States without nuclear weapons.

In recent years, when the U.S. has been unable, or considered it inadvisable, to use NATO as a vehicle for "punitive" military measures, it has proceeded unilaterally. The totally unjustified attack on the Sudan was a case in point. It was intended as a reprisal for Osama bin Laden's coordinated bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Yet, those attacks were in retaliation for the well-publicized help the Central Intelligence Agency provided in the capture of Islamic militants by the Albanian government and their extradition to Egypt. Senator Lugar has firmly supported these operations as well. These actions have further confirmed what NATO's choices of targets already suggested: that development of nuclear weaponry is the only reliable way to keep the U.S. bombers out of the sky. Whereas the small republics whom we helped divest themselves of former Soviet nukes had no particular animosity toward us, the policies Lugar has supported have given small and hostile countries every motivation to become nuclear powers. Nuclear technology is 55 years old and poses no great scientific challenge. In fact, developing nuclear weaponry is really only a matter of national will. After India detonated its first nuclear device, Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said the Pakistani people were prepared to "eat grass and dirt" in order to match the Indian bomb. When countries conclude their national sovereignty is threatened by the possibility of U.S. intervention, it is naive to assume that they cannot muster the will demonstrated by Pakistan.

Which brings us to criterion 1 of Tuchman's, that a policy be perceived as counter-productive in its own time. Plenty of influential voices in the U.S. foreign policy community have risen to condemn NATO expansion. The most respected among these is George F. Kennan, the architect of the "containment policy" that was instrumental in winning the Cold War. In an article entitled "A Fateful Error" that appeared in the 5 February, 1997 NY Times, he wrote:

"[E]xpanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking."

An open letter to President Bill Clinton, sponsored by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies (CPSS) was published 26 June 1997, and signed by fifty former senators, cabinet secretaries and ambassadors, as well as arms control and foreign policy analysts. It began by stating, "We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S.-led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions." It went on to say "In Russia, NATO expansion, which continues to be opposed across the entire political spectrum, will strengthen the non-democratic opposition, undercut those who favor reform and cooperation with the West, [and] bring the Russians to question the entire post-Cold War settlement" (see Open Letter to the President for the complete text).

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 19 March 1998, Susan Eisenhower, CPSS chair, noted that in 1991 a "bipartisan" panel of twenty-six current and former government officials offered recommendations for the post-Cold War security environment. The recommendations included downsizing NATO and actively rejecting any suggestions that NATO be expanded to include former East Bloc countries. She went on to state:

"With the end of the Cold War, after trillions of dollars have been spent, we have again been given another historic challenge. And how have we decided to handle it? By expanding a military alliance to the borders of Russia, thus threatening to create a political climate that virtually assures the re-nationalization of Russian foreign policy."

Where is the benefit in NATO expansion and interventionism? Expanding NATO to counter a non-existent threat of Russian expansion may end up creating one. The Russians feel betrayed and have lowered the nuclear threshold. Smaller nations have a strong incentive to develop a nuclear capability in order to deter the U.S. from attacking them for "human rights" violations. It is painfully apparent that Senator Lugar's support for NATO and for intervention undermines every single goal of the Nunn-Lugar CTR program. In fact, at best CTR could only achieve limited goals because Russia maintains a substantial overkill capacity. The most important achievement of CTR should have been developing a relationship of trust with the Russians, but that has been thoroughly poisoned by NATO expansion.

This brings us to Tuchman's criterion number 2, a feasible alternative. This one is easy. Reverse course, while there is still time. Cease the process of expansion at once and plan for an orderly dismantling of NATO. End the policy of "manag[ing] the world" which generates fear and resentment in small nations and encourages nuclear proliferation.

For voters of Indiana concerned about foreign policy issues, an immediate solution is to vote for me. This will send a message to Senator Lugar that you don't like his engaging in geopolitical games that increase the risk of nuclear war or nuclear terror.