Alfred Nobel

Peace Out

Why Civil Society Cannot Save the World

Purchase Review

Blinded by the light: protesting in Central Park, New York City, 1967 (Getty Images / Fred W. McDarrah)

Every aspiring beauty-pageant queen knows what to say when asked what she wants most: "World peace." World peace is at least nominally what we all want most. But evidently, we are not very good at making it. The modern peace movement is almost 200 years old; its origins can be traced to the period that followed the devastating wars of the Napoleonic era in Europe. In those two centuries, peace movements have had little discernible impact on world events, and what effect they have had has often been bad: the European peace and disarmament movement of the 1930s, for example, greatly facilitated Hitler's plans for a war of revenge. For all the good they have done, those well-intentioned souls who have sought to achieve world peace through the organization of committees, the signing of petitions, the holding of rallies, and the promotion of international treaties might just as well have stayed home.

Jay Nordlinger's Peace, They Say, an eminently readable history of the Nobel Peace Prize, reveals the embarrassing lack of a detectable connection between the work of peace activists and actual peace. Nordlinger, an editor at the conservative National Review, gleefully mocks generations of Norwegian susceptibility to the once admired but now ludicrous ideas that inspired the world's peace movements: the fad for arbitration that figures such as William Jennings Bryan advocated in the decades before World War I; the argument of the economist

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In This Review

Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World
Jay Nordlinger
Encounter Books, 2012
476 pp. $27.99
The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)
Clifford Bob
Cambridge University Press, 2012
240 pp. $26.99

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