European Union Wins Nobel Peace Prize For 2012: And That is a Little Confusing

An the winner is … Europe. 

It was announced Friday that the European Union is this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, the inhabitants of the European Union can now feel proud of their small stake in one of the most prestigious awards in the world.

Possibly the committee was discouraged after the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to two men who made colossal breakthroughs in cellular research. The discovery that adult stem cells can be altered to serve the function that it was previously believed only embryonic stem cells taken from fetuses could accomplish. This research merits a peace prize along with its scientific laurels, for it resolves an ethical question that has plagued policy makers for decades.

So, does the European Union merit its laurels as much as these two scientists do? Its founding purpose certainly seems noble. It was designed to prevent further war among European nations. It’s early manifestation, the European Coal and Steel Community, united these important resources and their trade policies under one unified policy. Pieces of the European were gradually assembled over the succeeding 50 years, with the most famous addition of a single currency in 1999.

The idea of using economic factors to promote peace is not new. The idea of a “commercial republic” extends back to Alexander Hamilton and other American political theorists who posited that a republic dependent upon trade would inculcate virtues like lawfulness and peace. This idea was altered by progressive political philosophers in the 20th century in an attempt to knit the warring peoples of Europe together.

So far, the aggressors from the two world wars have successfully avoided fighting each other again, so I suppose you could call the award merited in that respect. The EU bears a closer resemblance to another American system: the Articles of Confederation. With no central government to enforce its hold on the states, the U.S. remained a loose confederacy until 1789. The trouble with Europe doing the same, however, is that each nation is far less likely to cede sovereignty than the former American colonies were.

The European Union has always been a strange bird, neither fully an economic alliance nor a political compact. Certainly, many are wary of asserting its purpose either way. If you assert that the EU ultimately ends in political union, you risk sounding like a one-world government nut. If you insist that it is merely an arrangement of economic convenience, you defeat the purpose of making Europeans feel the sense of togetherness.

Peace? Yes. Success? Depends on who you ask.