The decision of the Norwegians to award the Nobel Prize for Peace to President Obama is not going to be met with sneering in these quarters. For all that we disagree with the president in respect of policy, Mr. Obama has clearly inspired not only a huge number of Americans but also a huge number of Europeans. That act of inspiration — rather than the gaining of peace, or even participation in a peace process, such as won the prize for, say, Yasser Arafat — is achievement enough for the Nobel committee, and we’re not going to gainsay it. But we are going to take the occasion to say, yet again, that our candidate for the prize still is GI Joe.
The editors who conduct these columns have been making this point since the 1990s, when it became clear that in the modern age the role of the American GI had become, in its profoundest sense, that of a maker not of war but of peace. Everywhere GI Joe — and GI Jane — have gone, it has been with a noble mission, whether it be blunting an invasion, as happened in the Gulf War, or stopping a genocide, as happened in the Balkans, or protecting the accession of democracies, as happened in German, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and free China, to name but a few of the places where, while the rest of America and the world was abed, our GIs have put their lives on the line for peace.
We were first put in mind of this idea in a now-famous essay by a professor at Rutgers, Neil Kressel. It first appeared in the Forward and was widely reprinted. It has been followed by editorials in the Forward and, more recently, the Sun, such as "The Next Nobel" and "A Nobel Prize for G.I. Joe”. Early word has it that Mr. Obama is going to say that this is an award for the American people and the American spirit, and for him to say such a thing isn’t entirely off the mark. But the embodiment of that spirit that involves the greatest personal risk, the greatest personal commitment, in our generation has been that exhibited by the men and women of the uniformed services who are out there every day in the face of determined and often barbaric enemies, and it would be nice to see the Norwegians, whose own freedom was bought with American blood, give GI Joe his due.