Why NATO Should Have Won the Nobel

The peace prize went to the right continent but the wrong organization.

Cynics might attribute this oversight to a reluctance to acknowledge that “peace” is not the highest value; sometimes, it takes war or the threat of war to defeat fascism, deter communist aggression and help people gain freedom from the oppression of ruthless dictators.

But a simpler explanation is more likely here: that the ostensible rationale for the award is not the actual reason. The award announcement hints at it here:

The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.

While disguised as an award for past accomplishments, the prize is really a prod for future action. The Nobel committee wants to remind Europeans of how far they’ve come in order to keep them—if not get them—on the track to cooperation in solving today’s crisis and thus preserve the European ideal for future generations. If they can actually do that, it will be a prize well deserved, indeed.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.