Clinkers periodically win the Nobel Peace Prize, and 1985 looks to be another of those downer years. An organization called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was cited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for performing a "considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare."
Translated, that means the doctors are skilled in the ways of calling conferences, seminars, symposia (alternate them every third year) and then issuing press releases on the creative frenzy the assembled panels work themselves into while issuing ban-the-bomb papers among themselves that deplore, denounce, condemn (alternate them every third sentence).
The annual budget for these energetic scolds is about $1 million. Although not matching the ludicrousness of the 1973 award to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam (Le had the grace to decline), the prize to the doctors is a bring-down. Their speeches and articles against nuclear war show them to be defenders of rational inclinations that the Final Fire is to be avoided. The message is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, but the deliverers are not.
The physicians don't belong in the company of such past Nobel winners as Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Martin Luther King Jr. and Al- bert Luthuli, to go back only 25 years. These were practitioners of peace, not theoreticians. They were honored for what they did, not what they intoned.
Among that group, only King took time out for the writerly pursuits -- and often that was when he languished in jail and had spare moments. The rest of the time he took to prizing peace by organizing victims of racial and military violence into a force of resistance.
In their own countries, Walesa of Poland and Perez Esquivel of Argentina did the same. Like King, they were jailed by their governments. After receiving their awards they were, like King, scorned by public officials. In the company of Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu, all took risks, all dirtied their hands and all practiced the works of peace themselves before calling others to the mission.
The international physicians are callers first. That is the easiest work in the peace movement. The careers of the two doctors who are to receive the award on behalf of the movement show that they have involved themselves in peace work only as a sideline. Their power is in their letterhead, not the streets.
Dr. Bernard Lown, a Boston cardiologist and co-founder of the group in 1980, is the inventor of the defibrillator, a medical device that helps revive a failing heart. Dr. Yevgeny I. Chazov, the Soviet co-chairman of the group, is also a cardiologist. A Communist Party member for nearly 25 years, he is known in Moscow circles as "the Kremlin doctor." Perhaps he will celebrate by paying a house call on the 1975 Nobel winner, Andrei Sakharov, who is in Gorki under house arrest.
Lown and Chazov are publicists for the same message that countless others -- from the makers of the film "The Day After" to the members of Congress who vote against the Pentagon's latest dream weapon -- have been delivering. Why single out this group, especially with its newcomer status, and when the prisons of the world are crowded with silenced peacemakers?
The physicians are not even advancing the disarmament argument. Thirty years ago, a grouping of 55 Nobel laureates issued an appeal to all nations to give up war: "In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapons that scientific technology can produce. All nations must come to the decision to renounce force as a final resort of policy. If they are not prepared to do this they will cease to exist."
The statement was a plea to move away from conventional weapons as well as atomic ones. That talk is now out of fashion. Organizations like SANE currently promote themselves as advocates of a "sane nuclear policy," as if only insane ones need trouble us.
Meanwhile, with Lown and Chazov calling for the prevention of nuclear war, and other groups trying to freeze the production of nuclear weapons, where is the progress? The protion, sales and resales of ordinary armaments go on. Conventional weapons have been used in the deaths of nearly one million people in the six years of the Iran-Iraq war.
Damnings of nuclearism are glittery, and prizes will continue to be heaped on the denouncers. Progress toward peace is illusory when it is only the removal of nuclear conflict that is the goal, without individuals working to remove the causes of war: economic injustice, patriotism, artificial boundaries between nations and the lack of peace education.
The Nobel doctors are offering the world a pill, not radical surgery.