Monday, February 04, 2008

Norwegians Strike Back

As I suggested in this post a couple days ago, the Norwegians didn't take too kindly to Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten's put down about Norwegian neutrality and peace-making efforts. Frankie Shackelford is a professor of Norwegian at Augsburg College. He corrects some of the "facts" in Kersten's column:

First the facts: Norway did not abruptly or naively declare neutrality in 1939 in the face of the Nazi threat, as Kersten claims in a recent column ("In a violent world, Ellison dreams of peace," Jan. 30). It was Norway's successfully neutral stance during World War I that led the country to believe that its neutrality would continue to be respected. Norwegians are neither naive nor naturally peaceful. (Remember the Vikings?) Their military response to the German invasion was vigorous, given the lack of preparation, and their resistance over the next five years tied up more than 400,000 German troops in this "small, peripheral country" -- troops Hitler could well have used elsewhere. After the occupation ended, Norwegians did not rush to create a department of homeland security. Instead they concentrated their efforts on domestic welfare, on collective solutions to health care and transportation issues, and on education. A healthy and literate electorate is partially responsible for Norway's topping the United Nations list of best places to live.

Second: Kersten's assumptions. She assumes that the existence of violent forces in the world relegates all peace efforts to wasteful dreaming. Her reductionist view of human nature breeds fear and discounts education. The folks she derides for putting their "faith in transforming human awareness" include all the teachers on the planet. And her assertion that Norway has the luxury of the moral high ground certainly does not recognize the high-risk back channels, where Norway indeed does the "tough work of grappling head-on with the bullies of the world," a task Kersten reserves for the U.S. military.

Kersten is one of those Americans who assumes that a big hammer is always the best tool to use in a conflicted world. And she is far too certain that it is also the hammer of God.

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