First of all, congratulations to Al Gore and to the IPCC for the well-deserved Nobel Prize, to the Nobel Committee for recognizing the climate crisis as a threat to the security of mankind, and to the BBC for substantive coverage, that focused on the reason for the award, and, unlike this AP article which appeared in the NY Times, did not attempt to “balance” the story with false and misleading allegations by Bjorn Lomborg – as if the Lomborg were actually a legitimate authority on anything. (debunked already, over and over and over…, as were allegations of “errors” in his film – more here from RealClimate,) The best commentary so far regarding his detractors is from Paul Krugman, who explains “Gore Derangement Syndrome” – select quotes: “The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right”… “the biggest reason the right hates Mr Gore [is that] their smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.” Bob Somerby promises more.
It is no accident that Gore keeps being right, and I don’t see that he has in any way “reinvented” himself. Here is an excerpt from a February 2005 interview of Leon Fuerth by Harry Kreisler in a “Conversations with history” series at the UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies. Fuerth, who is now a Research Professor at George Washington University, was a National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore, after having worked with him since shortly after Gore was first elected to Congress:
In the Congress, you worked for the Intelligence Committee later in its early period, correct?
I worked for the House Intelligence Committee as my first job after leaving the Foreign Service. I was there for a total of about six years. Around that time, Aspin was reassigned to the Arms Services Committee, which he eventually chaired. The House leadership assigned, then, young Congressman Gore to the Committee. One of my jobs in the committee was to be the staff resource on arms control verification, and Gore expressed an interest to learn something about this. The staff director steered me in his direction, and we began to form at first just a … the two of us talking about these issues in a systematic way. When that was finished, after about a year, it began to develop into a purposeful collaboration to affect the course of public debate on nuclear weapons and arms control.
He was a person who had been elected to office. What in his character or his personality made him open to looking down the road to the future and understand issues? That’s not a virtue that many people in Congress seem to have.
No, but it was something innate in him. By the time I met him, he had already been involved in forming something called the Congressional Clearinghouse for the Future.
This would have been what year?…
…Early, really early. I remember that when the staff director directed me to go see Gore, he said, “The new member says to me he wants to learn something global.” And at that point, the idea of globality was a little odd to me, but it was like an isotopic marker for Gore’s method of thinking. I mean, he naturally went for the full system. I didn’t understand how smart he was for a while, but it became clear. The other thing in the relationship is that he told me early on, explicitly, to tell him what I thought was best for the country and leave the politics to him. And he meant it. So that was the foundation of the relationship, that I knew I could tell him anything — I could tell him the truth, I could tell him I thought he’d just done something wrong, and that it would be absorbed without rancor, and that my value added to him was to tell it as I believed it.
This is, I presume, not the way most congresspeople are?
I wouldn’t say that, because by implication that would be a criticism for many excellent people in the Congress.
Okay, you’re right.
All I can tell you is that’s the way he was.
He was exceptional, let’s say.
I think he was in many ways. I also know that there were times when on my advice he would not take positions that had become popular and accept political cost for these. I saw him do it time and time again, sometimes with his teeth gritted.
Regardless of whether Gore runs for president, this recognition conferred on him with this prize reinforces a broader framing of the concept of national security, which, for too long, has been defined by in narrow military terms like MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) that fueled the nuclear arms race. It also served as a blinder to any threat that could not be countered with force or threats of force, such as poverty and global warming, which require some capacity for collaboration, and also a willingness to do so. (For more on the history of debate over the meaning of the concept of security that has taken place since the end of the Cold war, see this post by Joe Brewer at the Rockridge Institute.) Scientists, in this case the IPCC, have also played an important role in this building the capacity for global collaboration, which requires common understanding of the problems and challenges being faced. Scientific assessments provide a good point of departure for this. Given that Gore’s first climate hearings came 10 years before the IPCC, I suspect he played an enabling role in the development of the capacity we now have for global scientific assessments, along with a number of scientists and scientific organizations whose work led to its formation.
Eventually, I’ll write a post about Gore’s call for a Global Marshall Plan – though I think we need a new name for it, because the Marshall Plan left out the developing world, which was then left with the devastation of the Cold War. So I would call it a Post-Cold War Reconstruction. For now, I just want to note a forecast made last February by Jeffrey Feldman:
The Democratic candidate who wins the 2008 nomination for President will not be the candidate who simply puts forward the best policy proposal on Iran or Afghanistan or any other individual military issue. The candidate who wins will be the candidate who reframes the entire debate on national security in progressive terms–the candidate who steps up and liberates the country from the destructive logic of the propaganda frame that President Bush calls “The War on Terror.”
Note also that, if Gore does decide to run, he doesn’t have to make plans… There are plenty of people doing it for him. And so can you! Just visit www.draftgore.com, and sign the petition…