Teddy Roosevelt on the Nobel Peace Prize and the Use of Force

Our second history lesson of the day: on the occasion of Barack Obama’s acceptance of the honor, it is worth looking back to a little history. Theodore Roosevelt, the first sitting President awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, did not attend the ceremony, but sent a telegram. But TR gave a Nobel lecture in 1910 – two years after leaving office, four years after winning the prize for mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War, and four years before the world was plunged into The Great War – and his observations on peace are worth recalling, even as he was (at the time) optimistic about the possibilities for then-nascent international institutions:

In any community of any size the authority of the courts rests upon actual or potential force: on the existence of a police, or on the knowledge that the able-bodied men of the country are both ready and willing to see that the decrees of judicial and legislative bodies are put into effect. In new and wild communities where there is violence, an honest man must protect himself; and until other means of securing his safety are devised, it is both foolish and wicked to persuade him to surrender his arms while the men who are dangerous to the community retain theirs. He should not renounce the right to protect himself by his own efforts until the community is so organized that it can effectively relieve the individual of the duty of putting down violence. So it is with nations. Each nation must keep well prepared to defend itself until the establishment of some form of international police power, competent and willing to prevent violence as between nations. As things are now, such power to command peace throughout the world could best be assured by some combination between those great nations which sincerely desire peace and have no thought themselves of committing aggressions.

And so it is today; sometimes those combinations act through international institutions like the UN, sometimes they don’t – and the day is not on the horizon when we could trust such institutions with police powers of their own. Those of us who love peace, therefore, must continue to heed Roosevelt’s caution at how it is maintained.

PS – Since I know some of you will ask, I haven’t yet gone through Obama’s Nobel speech in its entirety, but the excerpts I’ve read thus far supports the general yes-but consensus on the Right that the speech offered one of Obama’s better, more George W. Bush-like moments of defending the U.S. and its uses of force to an international audience, but also once again displayed his amazing self-centeredness in trying to make every issue about himself. For what it’s worth, Sarah Palin liked the speech, and Bill Kristol found it…familiar.

12 thoughts on “Teddy Roosevelt on the Nobel Peace Prize and the Use of Force”

  1. Ouch. A “George W. Bush-like moment.” That is really cutting close to the bone. at least you didn’t call it “Cheney-esque” because “them’s fightin words.”

  2. You refer to the Nobel Prize as an honor. It is not. It was at one time, but like everything that lefties touch it has become a joke-Arafat, Gore, Carter, O’Bumbler. Who cares anymore, its a joke?
    BTW-per PPP, a dem leaning polling operation Obama 50-44 over GWB!!!!! 11 months of around the clock media fellatio for O bumbler against 8 years of unhinged attacks against GWB and its only O by 6-with plenty of room for more free fall.
    How do you like them apples Chomsky???

  3. “Theodore Roosevelt, the first sitting President awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, did not attend the ceremony, but sent a telegram.”
    If you are suggesting that Roosevelt somehow had better priorities than Obama, keep in mind that it was 1910, and given the transportation methods available to him, traveling to Norway would have taken considerably more time out of his schedule.

  4. Actually, for people like Teddy, traveling to Oslo would be no big deal. Yes, it might take 2 weeks instead of a day like today, but people regularly crossed the Atlantic even back then.
    The fact that TR felt he did not HAVE to travel or that it was better to do President stuff instead of getting personal glory is more a reflection of the person TR was.
    The O-bama is all about personal glory so of course he couldn’t resist going. Miss a chance to be the center of attention and give speech! He was down with that!

  5. I would hardly site Teddy Roosevelt as an example of a man who didn’t seek personal glory. But he likely didn’t consider the then-fairly-new prize all that important (nor at all politically useful with American voters who really didn’t care if Russia and Japan were at war).

  6. “all about personal glory”
    What happened, Lee? Did Crank ban the use of the word “uppity”?

  7. ‘Cause any criticism of the President is racially based, right Bertina?
    Thank goodness my confederates and I have you here to decode everything for us.
    See what I did there?

  8. Lee,
    Ask Michael Steele. He’ll gladly explain it to you.
    The list of POTUS’ not “all about personal glory” can be counted on one hand, but it took a (half)black one for you to point it out.
    BTW, I criticize Obama’s often, but I do it by pointing to his policies I disagree with, not cultural stereotypes.

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