Let me start by saying I’m no slouch when it comes to criticizing pacifism among Europeans. I’ve more than once compared them to spoiled children, interested in enjoying all the benefits of economic and political security while doing little or nothing to contribute to the sharing of those burdens around the world.
But the truth is, I’m guilty of imposing a certain cultural-centric, very American, viewpoint on the world. What am I talking about? History.
Many months back, I found myself in a debate with a German on a blog somewhere. He was angry that Americans showed no interest or appreciation for the contributions Europeans made or tried to make in the war in Afghanistan and the wider war on terrorism. I shot back that it wasn’t that we didn’t appreciate the help of Europeans, it was just that, with the notable exception of the Brits, there was so damn little of it to appreciate. He went on to point out to me something critical. Something I hadn’t really considered until he showed me the world through his eyes. Through German eyes. You have no idea, he said, how difficult, politically, it is for us to put armed troops overseas. Combat troops. In a war zone. That is a huge step for us. Until 1990, it was actually against the law in Germany for us to produce military equipment designed for power projection. Only defensive systems were allowed. There’s a reason we don’t own a fleet of transport aircraft or operate an aircraft carrier. The political ramifications, both within Germany and among the surrounding countries, would be enormous.
It’s so easy to forget recent history. How differently would we Americans view the world if we had experienced what Europe had in the last two centuries: from the colonial experience to the Third Reich. Our memories, of WWII for example, are of Normandy, the battle of the Bulge and victory. Europe has a whole different set of memories:
The Hamburg Firestorm
Before half an hour had passed, the districts upon which the weight of the attack fell were transformed into a lake of fire covering an area of twenty-two square kilometres. The effect of this was to heat the air to a temperature which at times was estimated to approach 1,000 degrees centigrade. A vast suction was in this way created so that the air “stormed through the streets with immense force, bearing upon it sparks, timber and roof beams and thus spreading the fire still further and further till it became a typhoon such as had never before been witnessed, and against which all human resistance was powerless.” Trees three feet thick were broken off or uprooted, human beings were thrown to the ground or flung alive into the flames by winds which exceeded 150 miles an hour. The panic-stricken citizens knew not where to turn. Flames drove them from the shelters, but high-explosive bombs sent them scurrying back again. Once inside, they were suffocated by carbon-monoxide poisoning and their bodies reduced to ashes as though they had been placed in a crematorium, which was indeed what each shelter proved to be.
The inhabitants took refuge in the air-raid shelters, in which later they were burned to death or suffocated. In the early morning, thousands of blackened corpses could be seen in the burned-out streets. In Hamburg now, one thought was uppermost in every mind; to leave the city and abandon the battlefield. During the following nights, until 3rd August 1943, the British returned and dropped on the almost defenceless city about 3,000 block-busters, 1,200 land-mines, 25,000 H.E., 3,000,000 incendiaries, 80,000 phosphorus bombs and 500 phosphorus drums; 40,000 men were killed, a further 40,000 wounded and 900,000 were homeless or missing. This devastating raid on Hamburg had the effect of a red light on all the big German cities and on the whole German people. Everyone felt it was now high time to capitulate before any further damage was done. But the High Command insisted that the ‘total war’ should proceed. Hamburg was merely the first link in a long chain of pitiless air attacks made by the Allies on the German civilian population.
Then there’s this from liberated France:
In the middle of the fields, in the towns razed by allied bombs, Valonges, Carentan, Saint-Lô, Caen, Coutances, Lisieux, there is stupor, “a strange mix of pain and happiness,” according to Claude Lavieille, of Coutances. The sound of the superfortresses was greeted as the promise of deliverance before the deluge of fire came crashing down, killing 13,000 civilians. “It started turning, turning, turning. There was huge amount of dust. I was buried,” says Colette Leroutier, of Valognes, then a child of 8. In the same town, Madeleine Griffon sought her mother after having survived the bombings. “She was wounded. She had my brother in her arms. She told me: ‘Come kiss your brother because he’s dead and be careful because your walking on a corpse.'”
“There was gravel about one story high. We walked on it and we heard people calling out underneath,” said Janine Le Coutour, of the same town.
Bernard Beuron, of Caen, remembers a “lady with an overcoat that was supposed to be black but that was white. She was mumbling. She looked like she was outside of time.”
“We felt like the entire town of Carentan had been moved to the neighboring fields. There was everything, furniture, laundry, linens,” says Raymond Rivoal. “Since our mother hadn’t come back, we wondered where she’d gone. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for her.”
“American bulldozers cleared the streets. Pieces of arms came out of the gravel,” says Louis Dupré, of Saint-Lô.
“The dead were stacked up on cars,” says Thérèse Lebouteiller, of Coutances. “The road to the cemetery torn up by the bomb craters. It all rattled. The bodies almost fell out. It was a very taxing day.”
“But, for us, it was the Liberation,” concludes Raymond Paris, of Sainte-Mère. “You have to have freedom taken from you to know what it is.”
I also remember a comment by an Austrian gent in a pub; he was being interviewed on the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California. “Great.”, he said, “We’ve exported another charismatic leader. God help us all. Let’s hope he’s better than the last one we sent to another country.” No pride felt. No heartfelt good wishes. Instantaneous guilt and foreboding. Europe is working on it’s third generation brought up on the horrors of WWII. Imagine how a movie like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List plays over there. They’ve had those lessons and memories passed on and drummed into them for 50 years. Is it surprising it’s had an effect?
Lastly, on the subject of colonialism, I had an interesting conversation during the run-up to the Iraq war with a doctor (of medicine) from Italy. He was here in the States studying with my doctor. “It’s not going to work, you know.”, he said matter-of-factly. “We Europeans tried it many times. It’s almost hopeless. You can’t change them. Whatever changes you make are only going to be temporary. In the end, their cultural roots, their history, their tribalism, their religion, all that will win. We’ve leaned that lesson in Europe already.”
I argued, and still argue, that what we’re doing in Iraq is fundamentally different from colonialism as practiced by Europeans. We’re harldy modeling ourselves or our mission on King Leopold or Cecil Rhodes. For that reason, I think we can succeed, at least to an important degree. But we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of European history on their worldview. I also don’t think it’s helpful for us to view European disagreements on strategy as necessarily being simple anti-Americanism. Some is, no doubt. But not all. It is driven far more by their vastly different experiences in the 19th and 20th centuries than we’ve had in America. I think those differences color their worldview to degree it would benefit us to understand.
42 thoughts on “On European Pacifism”
Being a student of history myself, I’ve always been keenly aware of the baggage that the Germans haul along when it comes to the question of military force projection.
But there’s something else that’s going on here. Not contributing directly is a far cry from what the Germans are really doing, which is to oppose our efforts to attack Islamic terrorism at the source. They’ve done everything they could to see us fail.
I also seem to remember that a German cabinet minister said that Bush was just like Hitler. Nothing like accusing the Americans for making the same mistakes they did 70 years ago.
Daniel Moran has an interesting review on the book The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch
‘All the death and destruction of war have no purpose but to cause the enemy to change his mind. Yet a mind once changed can be changed again. Defeat, conventionally, is something that is “accepted”; but not for long…The culture of defeat is thus not about revenge. It is about making defeat feel like victory. What all defeated nations share, Schivelbusch argues, is a determination to affirm their moral superiority over the victor.’
This is doubly true for France. There is not only their defeat at the hands of Germans to contend with, there was the Vichy government and, perhaps worst of all, their eventual liberation by the Anglosphere. They may be able to forgive the Germans for the harm done to them, but how do you forgive a favor that cannot be repaid? Especially when that ‘favor’ coincided with loss of status in world affairs for Europeans for nearly fifty years. There’s a lot going on here.
As for Germany, I think they’re beginning to assert themselves again on the world stage. They want to be heard. Europeans want to be heard. They want to be equals with the US. They’re not there yet, but they’re feeling their oats. And they’re making it plain that if they’re not listened to, they’re going to make us pay for that. Pay in the sense that they will deny us any help whatsoever.
Daniel Moran’s book review at Strategic Insights
It’s not the amount of help that bothers me. Or even a difference of opinion. It’s when France, or Germany for that matter, play active obstruction.
If you discard tanks, submarines and few other little toys than Germany really, but really didn’t produce any power projection weapons. What a bunk.
There is a major flaw in your reasoning – Japan. The horror visited on Hamburg pales to insignificance compared to Hiroshima. And yet, the Japanese, faced with threats from North Korea and China, are willing to remake themselves.
No, European history does not explain their antagonisism and jealosy. It’s an excuse, not an explanation.
“Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.” I understand that with their history the European nations might be a bit gun-shy about force projection. But is that true? For the Germans, maybe, but the French have had no qualms about force projection since 1945, and have done as much as they can afford. So no, I don’t buy the argument as a whole and that it applies to the entire contient. Certainly, nations such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and so on are not going to have much force to spare anywhere even if we do give them a lift. Others, however, are not lightweights by any stretch of the imagination, certainly not when put up against the kind of force the Islamofascists and theocrats can muster.
The recent tiff, however, seems to stem from a worldview that places the cause of all of the evil in the world on the shoulders of the USA. If the USA would do this or not do that no one would ever get stirred up and we would have no problems. Right. Whatever, pal. Of course, this is all fuelled by that famous American ignorance, you know, we Yanks really don’t understand those Europeans. I have news for Europe: watching “The Simpsons” dubbed into Flemish doesn’t count as a knowledge base about the USA.
Sorry, I get so frustrated. They don’t understand us, and don’t even try to. And they blame everything on us if we do something, nothing, or anything. Sophisticated and nuanced my butt.
France has behaved worse than Germany during the current crisis. France also has the bigger population of unassimiliated Muslim immigrants. Perhaps there is a connection.
Does ‘history’ also explain Germany’s reluctance to staff, fund or equip it’s Afghan force at the levels promised?
How about it’s reluctance to speak out about the current tragedy in Sudan? Surely if history disposes any nation to object to genocide and to work to stop it then aren’t the Germans at least bound to speak out and rally other nations to aid the oppressed?
It’s not the amount of help that bothers me. Or even a difference of opinion. It’s when France, or Germany for that matter, play active obstruction.
I agree. But that’s a different thing entirely. I think that’s more about asserting European power, with the Franco-German-Belgian bloc calling the shots. I think it was calculated and callus. The EU now has a larger population and larger GNP than the US. They want to be treated as an equal. Thing is, they’re not an equal yet, not until they start bearing the burdens of the world as well as enjoying the benefits. I’d say they’re in transition. Give ’em 25-50 years. I think Schroeder’s and Chirac’s egos got out a little in front of reality. Made for good domestic politics though.
but the French have had no qualms about force projection since 1945
Hmmm. Algeria. Vietnam. What a track record. They’re supposed to find that encouraging?
If the USA would do this or not do that no one would ever get stirred up and we would have no problems. Right. Whatever, pal.
Where did that come from? Maybe you should reread my post. No where did I come close to saying that. This was about how the massive failures of European colonialism and interstate politics have led to continental wide wars three times in 200 years – the worst of which occurred only 60 years ago – and how that affects their cultural and strategic outlook. Nothing more. Seems like you came in with an opinion and posted it, despite it having nothing to do with what I wrote.
They don’t understand us, and don’t even try to. And they blame everything on us if we do something, nothing, or anything. Sophisticated and nuanced my butt.
That’s the anti-American part. It’s a helluva witch’s brew we’re dealing with in Europe. Lots of currents at play. Read the essay I linked above. Very interesting. Also, read Jean Francois Revel’s Anti-Americanism, which is also very enlightening. Most of that comes their own feeling of failure and humiliation, and resentment at US power and economic success. It makes them feel better about themselves to blame everything on us, whether it bears any relation to reality or not. You find it the world over. It not unique to Europe. As Amy Chua (Author of World On Fire) said, the general feeling around the world is ‘Yankee, go home! And take me with you!’
I don’t think so. It’s my understanding the French and Germans have been cracking down on islamic terrorists and radical imams pretty hard. Much harder than the Brits, oddly. I think the bigger issue with Chirac is putting Europe on the map as a world player. Preferably, with France at the helm. Where, from their point of view, they belong.
aren’t the Germans at least bound to speak out and rally other nations to aid the [Sudanese] oppressed?
Ahh, there’s the rub. If they lead the charge, then they’ll be expected to contibute. Take on the problem. That would be hard. So much easier to place themselves on the moral high ground and refuse to dirty their hands while condemming it quietly from the sidelines. The Europeans are neither ready nor willing to take on the dirty work in the world. The Brits, as usual, are the glaring exception. Although lately the French have sent troops into Cote d’Ivoire and Haiti. Not much, you might argue. But it’s a step. It’s more than most countries are doing.
I’m not ready to give up on Europe. I think they’re going through a transition. If it comes off successfully, they could end being a huge force for good in the world. But it’s not gonna be an easy road for us or them. They could start by ditching that boat-anchor of a constitution and starting over from scratch. When it comes to constitutions, short is good. Twenty-five pages should do. At the most.
Michael, I would be happy to be wrong on that point.
Maybe another reason for all the Franco-German posturing is that it’s cheap. If they want to be players, all they really have to do is commit to spending enough to build up their militaries. It would take some years and require cuts in the welfare state, but it’s easily doable if the will is there. So far, they have chosen the welfare state over national defense, all the while hoping that they could goad the U.S. into continuing to protect them. This is a variant of the famous “free lunch” model, and it works about as well for Europe as it does everywhere else it’s been tried.
Oh, you are so wrong. It’s worked great so far. The proof? Who’s doing the dirty work and who’s spending all the money social goodies?
And that’ll contiue to be the case as long as they know they can count on us to do all the heavy lifting. It’s a great deal for them. What could be better? That’s something we need to work on changing. Although the fact that there’re no hostile heavyweights around to threaten them means it’ll take a while. Contrast that with Japan. They’re facing the Norks and Chinese. That’ll make ya sit up and take notice! Isn’t there an old saying about how the prospect of one’s own hanging tends to focus the mind?
It only works as long as we don’t tell them to defend themselves. The U.S. is a charitable nation, but Germany and France are foolish to bet their national existence on our continued willingness to bail them out. It’s true that there are currently no big enemies in Europe a la China, but weakness attracts enemies.
Is France capable of helping significantly? Are their resources tied up elsewhere (like Bosnia, and Africa), or do they face other potential conflicts (such as in Haiti)?
“There is a major flaw in your reasoning – Japan. The horror visited on Hamburg pales to insignificance compared to Hiroshima. And yet, the Japanese, faced with threats from North Korea and China, are willing to remake themselves.”
Japan is still faced with an enemy. Europe is not. Yes, hanging does focus the mind.
“It’s my understanding the French and Germans have been cracking down on islamic terrorists and radical imams pretty hard. Much harder than the Brits, oddly.”
Not oddly, the same things that make the French and Germans more socialistic than Britain, a powerful and unaccountable state and a state-minded citizenry, means that when the state decides to actually do something it is supposed to do, like round up dangerous enemies, they have the capacity to do so quickly, and they have a public which is not likely to raise a stink about rights being violated.
“I’m not ready to give up on Europe. I think they’re going through a transition. If it comes off successfully, they could end being a huge force for good in the world.”
I am about 80% with this. I think they are way down a road of decline. They may not be able to dig out. But if they can reconfigure their EU into something less like a vast bureaucratic straitjacket, as you say by ditching the stupid Constitution they are dicking around with now, then maybe they can get on a track where they will be of some use to themselves, to us and to the world. If not, they will be a giant socialistic basket case, then a continent-sized Bosnia as the Muslims get out of line and start blowing shit up. I hope that doesn’t happen.
Is France capable of helping significantly?
I think they could easily do more if they choose to. They have no intention of helping with troops in Iraq, if that’s what you mean. From their point of view, we went in there against their advice, so it’s our problem.
I think the wider question is could the EU do more? Yes, definitely. The problem is there’s no will to do so. It’s easier and more politically palatable to let us deal with it.
As it stands, the EU has 25 individual national armies, all structured for homeland defense. How hard would it be to reconfigure that into a European defense force? Probably take five or ten years, if they put their mind to it. But they won’t. They’re too busy navel gazing over the emerging EU. That’s their whole universe right now.
Good point. Hadn’t looked at it like that.
if they can reconfigure their EU into something less like a vast bureaucratic straitjacket…
Yeah, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Still, remember the Articles of Confederation? Our first stab at a national constitution wasn’t exactly a stunning success. Even after round two, we still had a series of ammendments and a civil war. Hopefully, they won’t go down that road!
The european socialist state is a far cry from the almost 100% libertarian roots that America was formed from. the constitution gave far more power the central gov than the art of confed. Ask the europeans to adopt our contitution and stick to it? They’d piss themselves laughing. So will our government! So no, I dont think there is a way out of the europeans socialist straight jacket unless there is a revolution (yea right).
There was an interesting discussion at Living in Europe. It was pointed out to me by a German that they can’t, they’re not allowed a big army because of WWII. I forgot that.
I haven’t been back yet to thank him for reminding me of that, but then, they could fork over the cash instead of people.
The German army has been stellar w/in the parameters it has.
But they’re not going to give up their bennies. They’re not American, you know, they can’t do that. All one would have to do to get that impression is read the business sections of our papers over say, the last 20 years or so.
I wonder if the demographic problems are driving the rest of the issues. They are simply not replacing themselves as fast as they are dying off. That being the case, long-term decline matters less than security for the near future. After that, well, they have no grandchildren so it’s not really a problem, is it? The short-term pain of restructuring, reform, and liberalization only make sense in terms of a long-term benefit, and they seem to have decided that there is no long term.
It sort of helps explain their willingness to see the virtues of various terrorist groups as well. All they need is to buy a little peace for the time they have left.
Michael, my point was that one major factor influencing France’s obstruction was that they couldn’t participate adequately at the beginning. In socialist states appearances are more important than realities. I think they opposed us for many reasons, but a major one might have been that they would look weak by not participating adequately in combat. Better to make a stand against the US, continue getting rich off of Iraq, and maybe one day take up the fight against Saddam than to be a minor player now.
On the potential greatness of Europe, I had this post a long time ago. I still have these sentiments for Old Europe, and I wish them nothing but the best — but my head says my heart should harbor no hope.
Personally, I don’t begrudge the Germans their well-earned pacifism. Or the Japanese.
The French, however, are a different matter. Instead of being dedicated to pacifism, they are dedicated to recapturing their semi-fictional past glory, which they view as their just due. Thus they kick the US in the pants at every opportunity, whether that means structuring the EU as a tool of French policy, or painting the Eifel Tower with red light to buddy up to the Red Chinese, or preventing certain international organizations from assisting the US and the Iraqi people in building Iraqi democracy.
For Germany, it is largely about pacifism and a safe international order. For France, it is all about France’s prestige in the international order. I can respect the former, but I despise the latter.
“Our memories, of WWII for example, are of Normandy, the battle of the Bulge and victory”
My memories of WWII for example, include Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the Marines going into Guadalcanal without supplies and holding on determination alone, the bloodbath that was Tarawa, the US Aviators executed by the Japanese (some after they surrendered). It wasn’t all sweetness and light. Talk to a Marine vet about flame-throwers sometime.
No, their excuse doesn’t wash. They simply learned the wrong lessons.
Minimal reference above for the ‘S’ word: socialism.
Let’s not forget that whole American cities were burned to the ground in 1860-65. Virginia and central Georgia were virtually unable to support life. One fifth of Mississipi’s budget in 1866 went to artificial limbs.
This is not to denigrate what Europe went through in the ’40’s. Pacifism is quite understandable given all that.
But let us not forget that “ideas matter” and socialism basically goes back to Marx. (That same era, 1860’s, ironically.) And considering all the blather that “America needs an enemy for this that and the other, blah blah” it is a FACT that from moment one, socialism has HAD an enemyg that MUST be overcome for the idea to come to fruition. Be it the bourgousie, the robber barons, the capitalists, the kulaks, the landlords, the running dogs… whatever. Socialism has NEVER not had “the enemy” that must be overcome. And golly, just who on planet earth fits that role to a tee in this day and age?
Socialism, blended with pacifism and transnationalism, has forthrightly declared America to be the “enemy” that must be overcome, and has done so since long before Dubya showed up. The difference is that a lot of European socialists who used to be students, reporters, artists, and party activists are now tenured professors, editors, party leaders, and parlimentary chairmen.
Trying to explain European anti-Americanism while ignoring the ideological role of socialism will get you nowhere.
Sorry. I misunderstood your original point. Still, the French showed up for Desert Storm, didn’t they? I don’t think they’re embarassed by their armed forces. I think they simply disagree with our Iraq policy. To them, this looks like Algeria.
The fact that Chirac gains bonus points with his electorate by defying the US and simultaneously boosts the independence of the EU from US dominance just makes him more convinced he did the right thing.
But I think the foundation to all of this is that Europeans simply think the Iraq campaign risks wider warfare and is doomed to failure anyway. They start out from that viewpoint in large measure by looking at their own history and experience.
My memories of WWII for example, include Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March…
And the French memories of WWI include battles like Marne, where they took 250,000 casualties. And Verdun, where they took 550,000 casulties; half of whom died. That’s approaching a million casualties on two battlefields. In one war.
Would you like to go to France and lecture them on war and death? Maybe they just don’t understand.
First, I’m not trying to explain European anti-Americanism with that post. It was about how different strategic outlooks are influenced by different histories.
Having said that, I agree completely – emphatically! – that much of what passes for anti-Americanism in Europe is driven by socialist’s idealogical hostility to libertarian capitalism. In fact, the very first criticism you’re likely to hear from a European or Canadian in the US goes something like this, “You may have achieved X, Y & Z here in America, but I see a lot more poverty here than in Europe (Canada).” Europeans and Canadians have made a tradeoff they consider to be driven by different value choices than we’ve made. They’ve traded technological innovation, economic efficiency, responsibility for world security and a certain degree of freedom and social mobility in return for what they see as a more just distribution of money. You can agree or disagree with their choices.
Socialism, blended with pacifism and transnationalism, has forthrightly declared America to be the “enemy” that must be overcome
Again, the embrace of transnationalism is historically driven. From their point of view, it beats the hell out of killing each other in large numbers like they’ve been doing for centuries.
Personally, I believe a great deal more transnationalism is inevitable. For everyone. What do you think globalism is? What is the IMF? What is the World Bank? The G8? What is NATO? It doesn’t bother me. It’s a sign of the advancement of human civilization. I see no reason why a sort of trans-federalism (inter-federalism?) can’t exist. It seems like the next logical development to me.
Michael, I think that Andrew is talking about the “transnationalism” which became a fairly common meme in blogspace a while ago originating in a widely-cited essay by John Fonte, The Ideological War Within the West. This is distinct from the more general phenomenon of international or multilateral institutions or even of “globalization”. Rather it is an “-ism” shared by a post-national community of writers, academics, managers of NGOs or even for-profit businesses which is generally leftist in political, cultural and economic orientation. This group is sometimes referred to as “Tranzis”.
I just don’t want to see you guys talking past each other … .
Lex, that was a great article. Is it that hard after having that knowledge to see why the UN is a joke? What blatent ignorance for economics they flaunt! Let alone basic human nature..
I don’t know, but suspect France has less to offer than they did back in GWI.
Lex is correct. I had basically never used the term “transnationalism” before reading that article.
Transnatioanlism meaning multi-lateral action and agreements is fine. It is what that movement has philiosophically morphed into that is the problem.
It is fascinating to see the same concepts of left and right that we live by as individuals play out globally. Example: What was the WMD argument in Iraq but the argument of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” writ large. India has nukes, we didn’t go ape. But Saddam having them is a whole different issue. It’s the finger on the trigger more than the trigger to Bush and his people. Whereas gun controllers on the city council will most likely also agree that there is little moral difference between Saddam having nukes, and Israel, or even America having them. The issue is the weapons (or lack of) and the morality of the finger means virtually nothing.
In this argument, we see the left-right dichotomy as it applies to collective action. For the left, it is COLLECTIVE action. For the right, it is collective ACTION. The left is perfectly happy to, well, do nothing quite often, because total agreement is virtually impossible, while the right demands action many times, and is willing to step on toes if necessary.
The inherent problem is that the left (and Europe, see above) has chosen comity over…well … just about anything else, including morality, liberty, or the interests of Western Civilization. That includes comity with the most appalling regimes in the world. I believe it is not the US’s judgements that they question, it is the US willingess to MAKE judgements… at all.
Local vs global can also be seen in the fact with power comes responsibility, and that (well, in a conservative’s humble O) socialism philosphically destroys the concept of personal, individual responsibility AND individual power. And lo and behold, we see a collective of ostensibly powerful nations (economically, philosophically) who have abrogated both by buying into socialism, and now sit on the sidelines and posture about it, and demand the UN (state) solve the problems.
Lastly, it is worth noting that very few Americans are angry with the Euro-left for not helping in Iraq. They seem to feel, quoting Powell, “you broke it, you fix it”. This is basically normal and expected. It may be self-defeating, but it is not unexpected, and Americans can take it in stride. It is the actions of 2002 and 2003 that will be remembered five, ten, and fifteen years from now. For a nuetral to act like a neutral is expected. For an ally to basically decide they are neutral, or even downright hostile, is the embittering surprise. So now we all know the score.
Europe needs to remember the words “This is not our war, it’s yours”. They may be hearing them again.
Read the essay. Very good. It reads like a good complement to The Clash Of Civilizations, which I still feel is one of the most prescient books I’ve ever read. In this case, Fonte shines the light within the West, highlighting the clashes within Western civilization.
He’s clearly on to something big too. In many ways, the EU could not have come into existence without a willingness to embrace the transnational idea. In a sense, it’s federalism writ large. Europeans had to look beyond the nation-state as the primary political entity in order for the larger Europe come into existence. We did the same in the 18th century when we moved beyond the idea of ‘I’m a Virginian’ to ‘I’m an American’.
What’s worrying is not the concept, but the particular structure they’re building to house it. The Superstate. It’s a very odd structure. A sort of parliament of parliaments.
On the other hand, isn’t that how parliamentary democracies work? No one votes for prime minister, you vote for a local minister of parliament (MP). It is they, the MPs, who elect the prime minister. Then the PM appoints a government and controls the political agenda. The EU has simply taken this idea to the next level. It’s what they’re comfortable with, I guess.
The UN, by contrast, is a real clunker. Much of the ‘representation’ there is from nonelected governments, which makes it hard to take them seriously. It impedes progress as much as it enables it. It’s proabably better than nothing, but not much better. Something is going to have to evolve to replace it. That is not a machine capable of going much farther.
unless by force…
I’ve spent the last 2 weeks in the UK and Italy and it has certainly shined a lot of light on these subjects for me.
First the Brits:
Although nobody said it outright, Brits are very concerned about their loss of autonomy and individual determination. After probing a little to try to understand their very odd obcession with George Bush, I found that they think that he is telling Tony Blair what to do. Blair is a puppet. That Blair wouldn’t have come to the same conclusions on his own and Blair is simply, as viewer poll on TV asked, “George Bush’s poodle”. Nobody could tell me what exactly was wrong with dethroning a guy who had murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, invaded his neighbors, had used WMD’s in the past and destabilized a whole region, they just feel like they are being told what to do. The underlying conspiracy theory of it all was a little astonishing from the highly educated people I dealt with there.
What really drove this point home was their nearly equal aversion to the EU. There is a new party dedicated only to removing Britain from the EU. Again, loss of autonomy. As I told one Brit, “you have lot more to worry about from Brussels than Washington”. He wasn’t so sure, but I think he’ll learn.
I put the probability of the UK being a full member of the EU at about 20%.
I was also struck by the total lack of interest in the EU parliment elections in all of Europe. There was an universally overt opinion that these were not important elections except that they were a sort of referendum on the current government (Blair and Berluschoni(sp?)) in the countries I visited. The locals both on the TV news and the people I had conversations with both referred to the EU elections as “not important”.
The above comparisons with the Articles of Confederation are very clear in my mind. In America it took 650,000 dead and another million maimed to decide the issue of where the ultimate government power resided and the similaritries are downright ghostly. The one difference is that the EU Constitution firmly puts the power in Brussels, but I’m not sure whether they have decided the issue of secession from the EU once they join. I think when this thing really gets under way none of the individual countries are going to like it much. The first secessionist conflict in Europe will be fascinating to watch. My personal opinion is that the EU will either disintegrate or become essentially a large fascist state. Neither result will be without bloodshed.
The points about socialism was dead on too. In Italy in particualr there appear to be outwardly communistic parties who proudly display the old hammer and sicle with no shame. Even Bennito Mussolini’s grand-daughter Allesandra runs proudly as a socialist.
It was great to get back to America and be able get a COLD drink. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Dear Mr. Hiteshaw:
The “Right. Whatever, pal.” was not in reference to you. It was in reference to my general frustration regarding the Euro-Left Intelligentsia again blaming all of the world’s troubles on the USA stirring up “the hornets.” Please accept my apologies if I came across as less thean comprehensible. In defence I will say that at times my thoughts jump ahead far faster than my fingers can type.
Again, please accept my apologies.
PS With regard to French post-1945 power projection I didn’t mean to imply that France was universally, or even largely, successful; I was merely indicating that up to the present day France has not exactly been shy at swinging as big a stick as it can afford.
Let me try that again. “Dear Mr. Hiteshew: …”
I can spell, I really, really, can.
Mike, No problem. I have the same problem with the anti-American left everyone does. My point tried to address the wider cultural phenonenom of European pacificism and it roots. It’s much deeper than the lefties.
“The French, however, are a different matter. Instead of being dedicated to pacifism, they are dedicated to recapturing their semi-fictional past glory, which they view as their just due.”
Nicely said Ken but I can argue this also apply to the USA.
Yes the world needed a “big brother”, reluctant by the way, to put things in order. But today the level of education is much higher all over the world and people do not accept for face value what their governemt do. After all most of the American intervention were dictated by economical interest or fear to loose influence, far cry of any humanitarian ideal.
Memories of the world wars (and past German crimes) are frequently invoked to explain German pacifism and by extension, our divine right to lecture Americans. This is a convenient excuse. The more recent history is a better guide to their mindset.
The 1968ers, the generation of Schröder and Fischer which is now in power, is the first generation that has no first-hand memories of war at all. Going back to the early 70s, their enmity towards Nato, America and the west in general, their irresponsibility, their communist sympathies – nothing they did had any bad consequences.
You have to understand their view of recent history, in which leftist agitation for detente and disarmamant was crowned by success – reunification happened, didn´t it? And the big bad Soviet Union just went away. For them, the cold war was a giant sham, a product of propaganda. That is their lesson: there is no such thing as an “enemy”. There are no heroes. No need for sacrifice. It is a very seductive ideology, if you can get into it. The downside is that Germans are generally unable to talk in a rational way about dealing with conflict or threats. We talk about peace and values, but it´s all about avoiding cognitive dissonance. We have no alternative to appeasement if we want to stay pure.
Of course, Europe lived for five decades under American protection, and while Germany was a frontline state in the cold war, that war was mainly fought by Americans elsewhere. Plainly, this did not encourage a grasp of reality.
Peter, I only partially agree with you.
But today the level of education is much higher all over the world and people do not accept for face value what their governemt do.
This is probably true. It’s certainly true in The West. However, much oppostion to US policy in the third world is simply driven by the general opposition to the development of freedom and democracy. Those ideals, much less their practical implementation on the ground, are a threat to the very existence of dictatorial regimes.
After all most of the American intervention were dictated by economical interest or fear to loose influence, far cry of any humanitarian ideal.
Hmmmmmm. There’s some truth in that. Certainly, our intervention in Nicaragua was originally motivated by economics. You can also make that case regarding Panama.
The US certainly didn’t intervene in Africa, Asia and Europe during WWII for economic reasons. I hope you don’t intend to argue we did. That was clearly a fight against fascism and war was declared by them on us!
You also can’t make that case in places like Korea, Vietnam and Grenada. They were anti-communist interventions. From the US viewpoint, we were opposing the expansion of a totalitarian idealogy. I realize there’re still believers in communism in Europe, but…well.. that speaks for itself.
We’ve intervened in places Bosnia and Lebannon in an attempt to impose order. Ditto, Liberia and Somalia. Our intervention in Afghanistan hardly needs explaining.
Is there an unstated premise that we’re in Iraq for it’s oil? If so, please explain how we’re supposed to profit from this? This is going to cost the USA approximately 1,000 war dead, many times than in wounded and $200 billion or more in expenses and reconstruction money. That’s before we factor in debt forgiveness. Where’s the payoff? Have we profitted somehow, in any way, from their oil revenues? If so, please enlighten me.
Werner, Very well said. I especially like the part about remaining pure. Oh, how very true. Perfectly put. Europe, The Snow Maiden. Above sin. Above work. Above dirtiness. Beyond the touch of the griminess of the real world. An Island. A fortress of peace, culture, the arts, reason and enlightened discourse.
And what makes this possible? The fact that US power has slain or helped to slay the primary threats to European virginity in the 20th century: Fascism, communism and European interstate warfare. Capitalism has paid the bill for all that and been one of the world’s primary engines for economic growth and its increase in standard of living, as well as technological innovation.
And so Europe has become the world’s prissy daughter. Change a tire? I won’t dirty my hands, thank you! That’s what Americans are for. Doing the dirty but necessary things in the world. Fight a dictator? Don’t be absurd! Let those vulgar yankees die for my safety. I have an appointemnt for tea and cakes tonight! And by the way, I demand to treated as an equal around here. I’m an adult you know.
Having studied my German inlaws for some time I can tell you a good part of this is a nihlistic cynicsm that has grown up in the past few decades. Everything sucks. No point doing anything about it, the world sucks. Like freaking pessimistic little teenagers.
Oh, and they tend to have unshakable opinions about things they know little about. Again, like teenagers.
If they want a position on the world stage they better learn to keep their eyes and ears open and their mouths shut.
ruprecht, you should tell them “You were born with 2 ears, so that you can listen 2x more than you can talk.”
One problem is if they listen, while in Germany, they tend to get a distorted view of the word because the media there is so skewed. You have to look beyond the news, look at history, but they are unwilling to do that. Its pathetic.
I win arguement after arguement with them. I can’t understand someone super anti-Israel and not knowing about the War of Independence, the Suez crisis, the 6-day war, the Yom Kupur war. I explained the history and they were shocked thinking the whole thing somehow started with settlements. But somehow I know their opinions will revert back once they return to the fatherland.
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