Brave Old World: Setting Priorities

 

BRAVE OLD WORLDGive me your thoughts about the questions you most want this book to answer, and your sense of the places you want me to go to find the answers. There’s a limit to what I can do in a single book. Europe’s a huge, complicated continent. If I try to do everything I’ll do nothing well: I have to focus more narrowly to write effectively.

I’ve filled in the chapter headings and suggested a bit about how I might go about researching them. I’ve added some other possibilities. Would you give me your sense about what’s most interesting to you; but also, your sense of what would interest a broader American audience? What might be a commercial success, in other words?

  1. Blind Spots. Ten years later, what did I get right? What did I get wrong, and why? I’ll use this part to review the arguments I made in the first book, both as an introduction — that way no one has to read the first book to understand this one — but also to ask, “Why were some of my predictions good, but others quite wrong?” For a sense of which were good and which weren’t, you could read the reviews on the book’s Wikipedia page. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it gives me satisfaction, now, to read the bad reviews. I’d prefer to have been wrong, but the reviewers now sound like such witless, clueless fools. But pleasing as it always is to say, “I told you so,” it’s more important to ask, “Why did I miss some things that should have been obvious, and were obvious to other people? How do I avoid making the same mistakes in this book?”
  2. Alimony Europe. I argued in the first book that there were two Europes: alimony Europe and the place where Europeans lived. To judge from the number of books I’d seen published about the challenges of renovating a farmhouse in Tuscany or Provence, large swathes of Europe were populated by middle-aged American divorcées, living large on the alimony and greatly preoccupied by the tending of their new olive terraces. Alimony Europe was awfully nice. But it wasn’t the whole story.
  3. Blackmailed by History. The more important story was the other things I saw. I saw a Continent blackmailed by its own history — one until very recently a story of nearly uninterrupted war and savagery. Ethnic wars, religious wars, wars of ideology and genocide weren’t aberrations in Europe’s history, they were its history. I described the Void of Europe: the consequence of two epochal events that still reverberate in everything people here say, do, and feel, even if they have no idea why: the death of Christianity and the catastrophe of the two World Wars. The nation-state, the arts, music, science, fascism, communism, and even rationality — all of these were substitutes for the ordering role Christianity had played in European life. And all failed. So what was left? No one was quite sure. What Frenchman, after all, can stand before the graveyards of Ypres and Verdun and without choking on the words profess his allegiance to the mission civilatrice?
  4. Not Our Problem. That’s what many Americans believed and still believe. I argued then and still this is not so. An unmoored Europe, imploding under the weight of social and economic pressures few politicians in Europe can even forthrightly describe, no less address, poses a threat to American interests and objectives everywhere on the planet. But still. I was right to say that, but it looks awfully out-of-touch to me now, a decade later. Notice what I missed? While I was peering anxiously at Europe, I failed to notice similar historical forces at work in my own country.
  5. The Sick Man of the Globe. Disorder is inevitable when a hegemonic power falls into desuetude. To my astonishment, the past decade has reversed the degenerative tide: The central story now is no longer the threat to America posed by these pressures on Europe; it’s the threat to Europe posed by these pressures on America — the country that has until now been the guarantor of the postwar global order. (Walter Russell Mead recently wrote a short and very effective piece in the American Interest about the world’s loss of confidence in the Pax Americana and why this is a big, big problem). Among the things I have to ask myself now is how on earth I failed to see this coming. Why did I think Europe and America were so different that what I was seeing in Europe wouldn’t also be true of America? How much did I misunderstand both Europe and my own native country to have thought this?
  6. The New Cold War. One of the first book’s themes was that Europe’s fate, since the Second World War, had been in the hands of the superpowers. The Cold War having ended, I predicted, we would now see the return of the historic forces that were temporarily suppressed by the domination of the Continent by the United States and the Soviet Union. I was, I think, correct to predict this. But this book’s theme will be the enormously consequential development I didn’t foresee: The return of the Cold War.
  7. Hybrid Democracies. Admittedly along with much of America, I was entirely wrong to believe the rest of the world would naturally adopt liberal democracy as a form of government at the end of the Cold War. The rise of illiberal democracies, particularly in Russia and Turkey, was to me a great surprise and it is a great threat to Europe, both directly, in that Russian forces now openly threaten European countries, and indirectly, in that the authoritarian contagion has spread to Europe’s southern and eastern flanks.
  8. The Arab Winter. Likewise, I didn’t see this coming. In my defense, no one did. The catastrophic breakdown of states and social order in much of the Islamic world — one that has left a quarter of a million dead in Syria alone — is a grave threat to Europe. The United States has been strangely absent. Two terms of the Obama presidency culminated in a deal with Iran poised to bring the Mideast under its hegemonic control at best, plunge it into apocalyptic nuclear chaos at worst. While Obama tours Cuba, Trump the Usurper discusses his admiration for Putin’s deft handling of the media and eagerly proposes to jettison the NATO alliance, even as — for the first time since the Second World War — a European country is invaded, and others explicitly threatened with the use of nuclear weapons. (By the way, Putin’s first-use doctrine was never once articulated by the Soviet Union, nor did it even hint at such a thing, no less do so casually.)
  9. Too Young to Write that Book. I missed many other things — maybe because I was just too young to write the book I wrote. My discussion of Islam in Europe was shallow. I fell into the trap of looking at what was happening around me without considering it in the context of the much more significant and wider convulsion in the Islamic world, one that began (more or less) in the 18th century Wahhabi-Salafist restoration, progressed through the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, reached an apogee in the Iranian revolution, and has latterly been expressed in transnational jihadist movements such as al Qaeda and ISIS. I need to correct this.
  10. Caught in the Middle. If I failed to foresee the massive Islamic civil war yet to come, I also failed to see the way it would play out in the European theater. While some Europeans believe the campaign is aimed at Europe, this is entirely self-regarding. Europe is mostly irrelevant to the main campaign — a vicious Islamic civil war and a renewed superpower conflict. But Europe is, again, the territory over which this new Cold War is being fought; and its status as a theater of the Islamic civil war will be key to how it ends.
  11. Yet, Still … There is a sense in which Europe is at the heart of things. I’d like to look more closely at the European roots of Islamist movements. It may seem an odd thesis to advance, and I’m not yet sure it’s the right one. But it’s notable to me, for example, that so many of the 20th century’s greatest butchers were educated in Paris. The Chinese communists were educated here, for example, where they were introduced to Marxism-Leninism. Ho Chi Minh became a political radical during his Paris education through his association with the French Socialist Party; he was one of the founding members of the French Communist Party. Le Duan, the founder of the Vietnam Communist Party? Educated in Paris. Pol Pot? Educated in Paris. It’s been clearly documented that he became a communist through involvement with the French Communist Party. Laurent-Désiré Kabila, communist guerrilla, later dictator of Congo? Educated in Paris. Fair to say, I reckon, that something about their encounter with Europe was correlated with, if not the cause of, a subsequent species of murderous radicalism to which an education at Texas A&M just never gives rise. What is it, exactly?
  12. Next Stop, Caliphate: Whatever it is, could it be connected to the fact that a massive number of Europeans have joined ISIS? The numbers are astonishing: More are coming from France and Belgium than from many majority-Muslim countries. France is a significantly bigger source of recruits than Lebanon, Libya, Turkey, Uzbekistan, or Pakistan, and on a par with Morocco. What happens to Muslims in Europe — to everyone from abroad educated in Europe, in fact — that makes them more apt to be radical, violent, and murderous than their counterparts in their countries of origin? I don’t know. I’d like to find out.
  13. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Islam. Or like it well enough, anyway. I missed an important part of this story in the first book, namely that Muslims in Europe were more sick in the head than many Muslims in the larger Islamic world. I realized this because after writing that book, I then lived ten years in Turkey and spent quite a bit of time travelling to other parts of the Islamic world, too. The rest of the Muslim world surely has its share of Islamist goons and loons, but in general, the people among whom I lived happily and peacefully for years weren’t remotely interested in millenarian, apocalyptic interpretations of their religion or obsessed with violence as a species of deranged performance art. Something terrible is happening in Europe’s Islamic culture — prefigured by something similar that happened to non-Islamic cultures when their emissaries encountered Europe in the early 20th century. I don’t know why.
  14. So Hey, Why not Ask? The place to start is by talking to Muslims in Europe. I did too little of that in the first book. I was too focused on talking to other Europeans. It shouldn’t be hard (according to the statistics, anyway) to find Muslims here who at least sympathize with jihadi movements. I’d like to ask them why. I’ll listen to what they say, and report it. But I’d like to report much more about normal Muslims, too: The media tends only to be interested in Islamists, so it’s rare to hear from them. This — not their inexistence — leads to the impression many have that Muslims don’t speak out against terrorist atrocities.
  15. Demography and its Discontents. Here’s something else I got wrong: Islamism in Europe has generally been declining, not growing. My demographic predictions were very, very wrong. My assumption about the permanence of the radicalizing trend was also wrong. I obviously misunderstood something about European Islamism in a profoundly erroneous way. I realized this quickly when I came back to France three years ago. Had I been even close to right in my demographic predictions, France would by now look very different. Birth rates among Muslims fell to developed-world norms far faster than I (or many demographers) expected. Simultaneously, native birth rates in France rose. I don’t properly understand why. I need to speak to, and learn more from, demographers who have been tracking these trends to see if anyone — anywhere — had a better predictive record, or if indeed demography is as dismal a science as economics. If the mistakes were owed to my inadequate understanding of demography, I’d like to correct them and make better predictions this time.
  16. The Continent Where God Goes to Die. But more importantly, the level of religiosity and religious observance among Muslims in Europe fell, remarkably quickly, to approximately the level of religious observance of the people around them. Muslims in France from North Africa have generally become less religiously observant. About a fifth have become outright atheists, similar to the rate of French Christians. Only about five percent attend a mosque regularly. I was stunningly wrong in my predictions about this, and I need to understand the cognitive mistakes that led me to do what can only be called “lousy research.” Some of my critics were right about that. Chapeau, critics.
  17. That Said … I don’t understand why this is happening even as the descendents of Muslim immigrants to Europe (almost never the first generation — always the second generation), along with native European converts, are fueling the jihad overseas. I don’t have a hypothesis at this stage. I need to ask them why, without preconceptions, and listen to what they tell me. Among the vague thoughts that occur to me, though, is that perhaps the European jihad is not so much directed at native Europeans in the Dar al-Harb (the House of War) as it is toward European Muslims? Has the loss of Muslim identity and faith in Europe threatened jihadi leaders in the Dar al-Islam more than one would have expected? Why? I don’t know the answer yet.
  18. Ottoman Fantasies, or, things I learned from living in Turkey. This could be a book in itself, but a part of it is relevant here. Among the most important things I learned is that Europeans were largely stunningly uninterested in a country that was obviously of huge strategic significance to them. Lately, we’ve seen exactly why. They were uninterested, even though, according to their bureaucrats, Turkey was a part of Europe — on a path to uniting with it. Certainly it was a part that in the past had been highly significant European theater of war.  I don’t yet understand this. But the story I want to understand, and ultimately tell in this book, is the story of a Europe that was so determined to see in Turkey things that simply were not there that it invented them.
  19. Vibrant Democracy? Clearly the West — both Europe and the US — decided it would be useful to have in Turkey a model of a thriving, Muslim liberal democracy. They therefore decided that this was what it was, rather than taking any step that might have made it so. No evidence to the contrary was sufficient to shake their belief that it was already true. I was there, and so in an excellent position to distinguish reality from propaganda. When you’re woken at dawn yet again by police sirens because the cops are yet again arresting every journalist in your neighborhood, you’re not in much doubt that the folks in charge are not liberal democrats. So I was flabbergasted by what I read in the Western press and heard from European statesmen during a time when I could see, daily, that what they were saying was flatly untrue.
  20. Reputational Bubble. I observed during that decade a phenomenon that for want of a better term, I’ll call  a “reputational bubble”—by which I mean that Europe’s collective assessment of Turkey was guided not by observation or by impartial assessment, but by cognitive biases that led to groupthink and herd behavior. (This was just as true in the United States.) It was either the cause or the consequence of an exceptionally poor understanding of Turkey by the European publics and their policy makers, and resulted in the crafting of policies toward Turkey that actively worked against their national interests. If Turkey’s political stock was trading at prices considerably at variance with its intrinsic value, much of the inflation was owed to Europe’s willingness to purchase large volumes of that stock. Turkey failed to benefit from honest and deserved market feedback, particularly in the form of pressure from the United States and Europe to liberalize—to which it might well have been  responsive, given the government’s response to the rare cases when it has been applied. Journalists exhibited a guileful and superficial grasp of Turkey and its history and were unwilling to report or explain anything complex. On the diplomatic side, I observed—to put it bluntly—that if my intention were to ensure that my country be loathed and held in contempt by the Turkish public, I would behave precisely as European and American diplomats did. Did the obsession with finding “moderate Muslims” cause otherwise intelligent people to lose their analytic acumen?
  21. By the way. I don’t believe the most significant change in Turkey over the past decade is owed to the Islamic character of the AKP. Sunni majoritarian politics are clearly one, visible part of this problem—and the part most easily understood by the Western public. But this element of the AKP’s nature has been overstated compared to much more significant changes: to wit, the AKP’s assumption of control over the entire Turkish state apparatus. Turkey under the AKP became dangerously different, but only to some degree because it became more Islamic. More importantly, it was Putinized.
  22. Putinization. What happened, in short, was that the flavor of Turkey’s authoritarianism changed. Once it was served as state-worship centered around Atatürk’s cult of personality; now it was served as Sunni majoritarianism centered around Erdoğan’s cult of personality. Turkey enjoyed a long period of economic growth under the AKP—normal growth, but by no means the reported “miraculous” growth. This, in tandem with the incompetence of Turkey’s opposition parties, enabled Erdoğan to stay in power long enough to systematically to neuter the forces that served or might one day serve as a counterweight to the Party’s power. He acquired near-complete control over the media, the judiciary, and the military—and again, the swallowing by the executive of the latter two power centers was hailed by Europe as a democratic miracle; while the first was largely ignored. The part of this story I don’t understand is this: Why did Europe go along with this? Why did no one in Europe ask, “Is this in our long-term strategic interest? Why are we facilitating this, through our massive investment in Turkey and through the EU accession process?”
  23. The Bear Emerges from Hibernation. I also failed to predict in my first book that an almost identical process would transpire in Russia. Indeed, I failed to predict the whole phenomenon of hybrid regimes and managed democracies. I assumed, along with many Americans, that liberal democracies were the inevitable post-Cold War geopolitical trend. Russia’s Putinization — the ur-Putinization — was to have even more ominous implications. I wrote almost nothing about this in Menace in Europe, save to say that Russia might in the future prove a threat. I was blind to the signs that it would be the threat, and that the West’s focus on Islam and terrorism would make it uncommonly vulnerable to Russia’s brand of psychological and hybrid war on Europe and NATO. Much of this book will be about the way this new Cold War is playing out across Europe and the way Europe is failing spectacularly to respond effectively to a threat that it could easily contain, if only it recognized it. Russia would be no match for a determined, united Europe. But Russia’s unconventional warfare skills, central command, and overwhelming superiority in propaganda have left Europe (and NATO) disunited and vulnerable. Putin is ever-so-skillfully exploiting entirely predictable unease about the EU’s bureaucratic expansion, the entirely predictable explosion of populist and nationalist sentiment in the wake of the Eurozone crisis, and the entirely predictable wave of fear and resentment about the consequences of the refugee influx — this in turn the direct consequence of the Islamic civil war and the superpower conflict in Syria, which Putin has been predictably worsening.
  24. Cui Bono? Who benefits from ISIS’s attacks? Not ISIS: The attacks serve only to hasten its demise. Conventional military power still matters. ISIS will be crushed. But Russia is poised to benefit. Having long cultivated Europe’s fringe movements and anti-immigration parties, it is now magnifying, through its impressive propaganda organs, the effects of the refugee crisis and the divisions among European nations about how best to manage it. The parties least welcoming to refugees are the ones most eager to enter a closer alliance with Russia, and end the sanctions Russia faces as punishment for its annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbass. Through this route, the established democracies of Europe may well find themselves corrupted and managed by the powerful hybrid democracies on their periphery — Turkey and Russia — until they, too, are hybrid and managed democracies. It’s happening already in Hungary and Poland. There are signs of it in Germany.
  25. Look East. To understand this, I need to spend time in the post-Soviet space and the more conventionally-contested theaters — the Caucasus, Ukraine, the Balkans. I’ve also got to spend more time looking at the means by which Russians are bending Western European countries to their will.
  26. The Death of the EU. I seem to have been right to predict, in Menace in Europe, that the EU had no hope of survival. Unifying Europe was an ancient fantasy, I wrote, and one that had always failed. Europe is not a country. It’s a continent. Whatever the EU architects say to the contrary, Europe remains a hybrid entity comprising states united by no shared language, culture, or history; just trade treaties and toothless courts. Some of its states are unhappily yoked together by an albatross of a currency. Each wants full sovereignty when it suits its national interests; none wants it when it doesn’t. Indeed, Europe’s a fiction: a series of planned economic entanglements, without any true common foreign and defense policy.
  27. Hang Together or Hang Separately. But absent the development of such a policy — and quickly — the collective states of Europe face a dim future, for the nature of the threats it now confronts are not the inter-European rivalries the EU was designed to mitigate, but global threats that the EU was not designed to counter at all. Can a collection of nation-states whose populations in fact loathe each other hang together? I don’t know, but it’s that or hang separately. What prevents them from hanging together is the European nations’ still-powerful and entirely understandable attachment to their individual sovereignty. The EU worked well enough when times were good. It didn’t, after all, prevent Europe from enjoying the most peaceful and prosperous half-century in its history. But it’s far from clear that it works when times are bad, and they are bad. Of much greater immediate concern than Europe’s looming Islamization — a threat that seems to consume Americans with worry, even though I suspect this trend has peaked — is that Europe has no common policy for immigration and border control, still less for involving itself constructively in resolving the conflicts that are producing these refugees.
  28. Houses Divided Cannot Stand. If the Middle East continues in its current trajectory, Europe could wind up with not a million but tens of millions of refugees. If Europe has no common foreign policy toward Russia, Putin will cheerfully exploit its divisions to bring state after state under Russian influence or control. And if Europe continues to pursue a policy of monetary integration without ceding sovereignty to some form of federal government, we’ll see more reiterations of Greece punished and alienated by Germany, of Hungary and Poland descending into authoritarianism even as they keep their hands extended for aid from the EU, and of no one able to halt the process. Hungary and Greece are Europe’s borders. You can’t secure Europe from a rapacious Russia to the east and failed states and terror armies to the south unless countries like these are fully committed to the European project. With America is in its imperial dotage, Europe can’t even hope literally to wall itself off and hope that someone else sorts it all out. Even were Europe to build a new Berlin Wall around its entire periphery, twice as high and guarded by savage Dobermans, telling all those who can’t breach the walls to go drown in the Mediterranean, it would still be threatened by the chaos to its south. Now consider the entirely plausible idea of a terrorist army able to purchase a nuclear arsenal from North Korea, for example. Think Belgium or Slovenia can address these threats on their own? I don’t.
  29. Constitutional Crisis. To sum up, Europe is now facing history’s biggest constitutional crisis. It must either develop real federal political institutions or break into its component parts. In the latter eventuality, countries like Slovakia would be poor, weak, and quickly gobbled up by stronger countries. It may be natural for Slovaks to dislike being told what to do by outsiders, but what choice do they have? It may also be perfectly natural for Germans to say, “If you want to be a country with your own immigration policy, that’s darling. Be our guest. Just don’t expect your next subsidy of 10 billion euros from the EU.” But in the end, this will not solve Europe’s security problems. The anxiety about Islam and immigrants is causing enormous damage to European social trust. Terrorist attacks will always occasion demagogic grandstanding, which works because the public can’t easily distinguish useful security policy from theater. But there’s no getting around it: effective counterterrorism demands more unity among European nations, not less. Counterterrorism requires the centralization of power, people, and money. It requires specialist teams and specialist equipment, particularly for surveillance, data management, and intelligence-gathering. It involves sharing information quickly and effectively across national borders. It is highly unlikely that any European country can do this alone, and highly unlikely anyone else can or will do it for Europe—“it” being the ability to maintain and defend effective borders: real borders, not hastily erected fences to keep out refugees but borders sufficient to keep out armies.
  30. The Only Hope. Europe’s only hope is to create common institutions capable of devising and implementing a strategy to manage the influx of migrants and refugees; the even greater challenge is to create institutions that can address the instability and violence in Europe’s neighborhood. Unlike the European External Action Service and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, these institutions must exist for a reason beyond merely existing. At bottom, the only way forward is a single foreign and defense policy. This means strengthening the union. It may be impossible to do—but really, what choice is there?

Can Europe do it? That’s what I’ll try to find out. And report.

Tell me what you think. What interests you? Where would you focus? To whom would you like me to speak?

By the way, I may be scarce in these parts in the coming few days. That’s because I’ll be out doing some of this reporting. I’ll be back, and I hope I’ll be back with interesting news to share with you. Thank you so much for making it possible for me to do that. (Still a bit short of the goal, so if you’re feeling generous, please contribute!)

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 55 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I have just one question, Claire.  Is there any country in Europe that recognizes that the continent is committing suicide and has started trying to opt out?  Is there any country that could serve as the role model for Europe’s chance, however remote, to save itself?

    • #1
  2. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Chapter One sounds like it could be a self-indulgent bit of extended meta-methodological throat-clearing. Just tell the story.

    Chapter Two doesn’t need to be any longer than this description.

    Chapter Three. Here, as elsewhere, you need to distinguish between things that are notable about Europe because they are different from everywhere, and things that are notable about Europe because they are different from the US. To what extent could your description of violence, war and genocide be used about Africa, Latin America and Asia, for example. Is it really Europe you are describing, or American exceptionalism?

    Chapter Four. Is the organizing principle really going to be Gonzo-punditry, author as story?

    Let’s skip to Chapter Seven. I would love to see some real reporting about Hungary, for example. Apart from name-calling, I have yet to see an indictment of Viktor Orban, for example, that didn’t come down to: the leftists were not left to run state media like they are everywhere else; the transnational leftists were called on their interference; he doesn’t subscribe to the ever-closer-social-democracy-and-compulsory-multiculturalism view of the EU; his party palls around with nasty people (as if there are any other sort in that part of the world). As you know, I have read some of the academic literature on “illiberal democracies” (roughly, democracies where the ‘liberals’ don’t win all the elections all the time) and I remain unconvinced.

    • #2
  3. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    …But it’s notable to me, for example, that so many of the 20th century’s greatest butchers were educated in Paris. .

    Next Stop, Caliphate: … — to everyone from abroad educated in Europe, in fact — that makes them more apt to be radical, violent, and murderous …? I don’t know. I’d like to find out.

    This is an excellent question.  In a soft vague version of this, in many of the books and musical compositions of Americans who studied, lived, wrote in Paris in the 20th century, as opposed to those who studied there in the 19th, there is a sense of this same fire (damped way down). Especially those that really were attached to Europe as opposed to some who ended up there briefly for other reasons, say the difference between James Thurber and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  There is something in the water, and it’s even worse for non-Europeans, non-Americans.

    Strangely, part of the answer is in the works of Anatole France, there is something deep in those waters that often seem shallow, depending on your taste; there was a foretaste of the horrors to come hidden just around the corner from the smug, funny, late 19th century world he chronicles.

    Especially in light of his ongoing war with God in those books, despite his reputation, I’ve found his writing profoundly religious and telling about the future of the West.

    • #3
  4. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Focus all you like privately on why you got things wrong—this could, indeed, be helpful to you in seeing the current situation more clearly—but I would advise that you not bother writing about this, or not much.  It looks as though most of what you got wrong is what everyone got wrong, so just stating the fact of this matter in your introduction is all that is needed.

    I see two intertwined foci here, and possibly two books: the psychologies and ideologies of the native European and the immigrant in post-Christian Europe, a Europe “without roots,” as Marcello Pera and Pope Benedict (then Joseph Ratzinger) described it in their essays,  and the more eternal politics of national self-interest and balance-of-power.  Intellectually I am most interested in the first, but what I most worry about in the short term and from an American point of view is our general blindness to the intentions of the various actors.  Americans have a hard time believing that people mean what they say, or mean to do what they’ve done.  Perhaps Europeans do, too.  A book that tries to explain the interests and intentions, and therefore the actions, of the various parties and what this is likely to come to, and especially the central role that is being played by Russia (and in modern times always has been)  would be a valuable one for me.

    • #4
  5. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Chapter 10. Who are the superpowers in the new superpower conflict?

    Chapter 11. Dare one advance the thesis that leftism, and the leftists’ starry-eyed view of violence and power, are to blame?

    What happens … to everyone from abroad educated in Europe … that makes them more apt to be radical, violent, and murderous than their counterparts in their countries of origin?

    Umm. Really? Really? Too many Le Monde think-pieces, I suspect.

    Chapters 12-17. Needs research, as you say.

    Turkey was a part of Europe … that in the past had been highly significant European theater of war.

    The extremely distant past, perhaps. Gallipoli doesn’t count.

    You’ll have to be careful when you say “Europe thought this”, “Europe did that”, “Europe didn’t care about the other” to have a real definition of what “Europe” you mean. You can’t fudge this by saying European countries are democracies, therefore whatever is done by a governmental or supragovernmental agency counts as being done by all (or even some significant number) of people who live in a geographical area describable by the term “Europe”.

    Chapters the rest: Erodogan, Putin, conspiracy, the EU can’t work, but nations must dissolve themselves in common purpose or else. What. Ever. It’s not exactly Dan Brown, although similarly plotted.

    • #5
  6. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Can you do all that in one book?  You’re talking about an overview of European history, today’s Islam in Europe, Turkey, and Russia.  (You began the project planning to talk about the refugee flow into Europe and its impact on Europe and the US, and Russia’s impact on Europe and its impact on the US and whether Russia was using/fomenting the refugee influx along the way.  That was early; evolution of a project is normal.)

    I wonder if this might be two books, which would give you better focus: European history as you’re describing your presentation of it and today’s Islam in Europe–Brave Old World–with the implications these have for America retreated and for America resurgent.  The other would be Turkey and its relationship with Europe (including, separately, with the EU) and with the refugee problem (because it is a problem, both in fact for both Europe and the ME and Northern Africa whence they come, and in perception, for the US, Europe, and for the ME and Northern Africa whence they come) and Russia and its relationship with Europe and with the European side of the refugee problem–Brave World–and the implications of all this for America retreated and for America resurgent.

    With maybe a chapter on the implications for all this of a British departure from the EU and the likelihood of a subsequent Dutch departure–and if those two then hooked up in some sort of, oh let’s say, a trade arrangement there would be an interesting historical rhyming.  (I think a reordering of Europe into 3-4 other commities would be a good thing, but that’s a separate question.)

    Eric Hines

    • #6
  7. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    20th century nihilism burst in dozens directions, all of them destructive, many centered in Paris where the basic despairing self absorption still pollutes.  Follow some of them.  When basic civilizing norms erode it’s like fission, it all comes apart.  We avoided much of this  because under the rule of law and not men, unraveling and re-raveling takes place constantly.   With the strengthening of the centralized administrative state we’re headed there and this is an important part of the story.

    • #7
  8. Evan Meyer Member
    Evan Meyer
    @EvanMeyer

    So much to cover, obviously there’ll be a lot to pare down, but that’s what we editors are for, right? I’m torn between what I personally want to know more about and what I suspect the book-buying public is looking for. (But then, as a good investor, I’m not looking for just another book like the ones that are selling now.)

    Of the themes presented above, the intersection of identity and demography with great power rivalry is the arena I find most interesting. What does Europe mean to Europeans anymore? How does the yearning for nationhood connect with ISIS’s Utopian Caliphate? How is Putin exploiting the aspirations of Arab migrants and European nationalists to expand his power?

    • #8
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    My goodness, this is going to be quite a Big Book!

    (Briefly) going over what you/others got wrong with the emphasis on why would be interesting –  I suspect that if you focus on the why you may uncover a pattern or two.  There was a lot of information – what was assumed, ignored, dismissed as irrelevant when analysing it? How do those insights inform this book?

    What sets aside civilisations/cultures dominated by (any) monotheism and its descendants* (fascism, Marxism, laicite…) from other cultures is not the level of violence but the fact that violence is driven by ideology.  Genghis Khan was immensely violent, but he didn’t attack people or groups because of what they believed or how they lived or what they intrinsically were.  From Europe’s pogroms to the Wars of Religion to the Muslim conquests of South Asia to the Bolshevik Revolution to the Cultural Revolution to the Nazis to the Taliban cultures dominated by *MAID have done just that – or at least consistently justified their violence with ideology. These cultures’ instinct is to see things in black and white rather than grey.

    This similarity, not any differences, is what has made the West and Islam’s interactions so fraught – expressed in Europe by responses to Muslim migrants, to Muslim refugees and to Muslim Turkey’s EU aspirations. (And in the Muslim world [including exclaves] by responses to colonialism and its aftermath [including indigenised fascism and Marxism] and to Western culture’s continued and immense impact.)

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Larry3435:I have just one question, Claire. Is there any country in Europe that recognizes that the continent is committing suicide and has started trying to opt out? Is there any country that could serve as the role model for Europe’s chance, however remote, to save itself?

    I think almost everyone in Europe is profoundly alarmed, although not necessarily by the same things or the right things. The economic crisis has, for example, given European far-leftists a chance no one thought they’d ever have again after the Berlin Wall fell; they think the problems are caused by capitalism — that’s what they’re alarmed by, as opposed, say, to what Estonia’s alarmed by: Russia. Or what Greece is alarmed by: poverty and being turned into Europe’s biggest refugee camp.

    By “opt out,” do you mean, “come up with a useful strategy to mitigate the risk?” Or do you mean “emigrate?” No country here can opt out of its own geography, obviously.

    I do think there’s a country that could very much serve as a role model for Europe. It’s called the United States of America. It’s an astonishingly successful country with a constitutional and federal structure that could, conceivably, be adapted to suit the states of Europe. But the weight of Europe’s history may be too great for anyone to grasp that. What’s worse, the US is now going through such noisy and visible convulsions that it’s very hard for people here to see it for the great and successful country it is. I hope that after the election, at least, we’ll stop collectively screaming at the world, “We are a complete failure!”

    • #10
  11. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: 29. … But there’s no getting around it: effective counterterrorism demands more unity among European nations, not less. Counterterrorism requires the centralization of power, people, and money. It requires specialist teams and specialist equipment, particularly for surveillance, data management, and intelligence-gathering. It involves sharing information quickly and effectively across national borders. It is highly unlikely that any European country can do this alone, and highly unlikely anyone else can or will do it for Europe

    Perhaps you might want to consider that centralization may be less important than will and clear-thinking.  A centralized authority that is “committed to looking in the wrong direction” would have no operational advantages over a number of independent but allied organizations that are properly focused on the threat.  If these hypothetical independent organizations are competent and properly focused on the threat, would they not, voluntarily, share significant amounts of information? 

    I agree with some other comments, this is beginning to look like more than one book.

    • #11
  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei:Chapter One sounds like it could be a self-indulgent bit of extended meta-methodological throat-clearing. Just tell the story.

    I’m sure you’re right about that. I always do that — a lot of throat clearing — and generally have to just lop off the first 30 pages of drivel and start in medias res. Well-spotted.

    Chapter Two doesn’t need to be any longer than this description.

    Agree, now that you point it out. There’s no chapter there, that’s just me remaining flabbergasted to see that The New York Times has run not just one but many stories lately about gluten-free Paris.

    Chapter Three. Here, as elsewhere, you need to distinguish between things that are notable about Europe because they are different from everywhere, and things that are notable about Europe because they are different from the US.

    Agree.

    To what extent could your description of violence, war and genocide be used about Africa, Latin America and Asia, for example. Is it really Europe you are describing, or American exceptionalism?

    Good question. Or perhaps “distortions in my perception owing to Eurocentrism,” which actually does exist, even though the word has come to be used in a loathsome way. It may be that because I studied European history in college and my grandparents were refugees from Europe, I tend to be more aware of Europe’s history. But I do think Europe’s history, for many reasons, weighs on it in a different way from, say, Asia’s. I have to think about that more carefully, and ask why I think that. But certainly India and China are large — very large — territories that have maintained a identity as unitary states for an awfully long time: India since the time of the princely states, and China since, what, the 21st century BC? I’m not saying there’s no weight of history in either country — clearly not, that would be plain stupid — but it’s not quite so much of a centrifugal force, perhaps.

    Chapter Four. Is the organizing principle really going to be Gonzo-punditry, author as story?

    Some of it’s going to be full-Gonzo, for sure, but why does that chapter strike you that way? I don’t necessarily need to write that in the first person, but noticing a) that it happened; and b) that I was utterly blind to it happening seem important; a) because it’s a huge part of the story of what’s happening here now; and b) because I need to figure out how I missed that before I trust myself not to make just as big a mistake this time. Doesn’t necessarily have to go in the book, but anyone who’s read the first might want to know my answer to that question, because as a reader, I’d be less inclined to trust me if I didn’t account for that.

    Let’s skip to Chapter Seven. I would love to see some real reporting about Hungary, for example.

    Me too. I would love to see some actual reporting. And it seems I’ll have to do that myself because everyone else is just name-calling. Hungary’s high on the list of places I want to go.

    Apart from name-calling, I have yet to see an indictment of Viktor Orban, for example, that didn’t come down to: the leftists were not left to run state media like they are everywhere else; the transnational leftists were called on their interference; he doesn’t subscribe to the ever-closer-social-democracy-and-compulsory-multiculturalism view of the EU; his party palls around with nasty people (as if there are any other sort in that part of the world).

    There are quite a number of criticisms more substantive than that, and I’m certainly persuaded from what I’ve read that he’s a sinister figure. But yes, I’m as vexed as you are that so much reporting about Hungary tells me more about the reporter’s own country than it tells me about Hungary. I have some good contacts there (including our own Melissa O’Sullivan, I hope), and I’ll be going there and coming back, I hope, with the kind of reporting you’d like to read.

    As you know, I have read some of the academic literature on “illiberal democracies” (roughly, democracies where the ‘liberals’ don’t win all the elections all the time) and I remain unconvinced.

    Not me. I lived in one. I’m convinced.

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    St. Salieri: Strangely, part of the answer is in the works of Anatole France

    Do you mean in his literary works, or in his connection to l’affaire Dreyfus? (Maybe I should actually try reading his work. I don’t think I’ve ever read more than was required to pass the test, and that was 30-odd years ago.)

    • #13
  14. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    As you know, I have read some of the academic literature on “illiberal democracies” (roughly, democracies where the ‘liberals’ don’t win all the elections all the time) and I remain unconvinced.

    Not me. I lived in one. I’m convinced.

    I remain unconvinced that it is a useful category for analysis. I am sure that Turkey is more illiberal than democratic (insofar as ‘illiberal’ actually means anything), and that the language of democracy can be used to mask thoroughly terrible things. I’m reasonably sure we’ll see some of that under President Hillary Clinton (not, I hope, to the Putin extent), too. I doubt that lumping together the various regimes that the literature wants to call neo-authoritarianism (or whatever) actually illustrates anything useful or important about them.

    • #14
  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Sandy: I see two intertwined foci here, and possibly two books: the psychologies and ideologies of the native European and the immigrant in post-Christian Europe, a Europe “without roots,” as Marcello Pera and Pope Benedict (then Joseph Ratzinger) described it in their essays, and the more eternal politics of national self-interest and balance-of-power. Intellectually I am most interested in the first,

    The first, of course, is what the first book was about, and I don’t know if I have more to say about it than what I wrote already.

    but what I most worry about in the short term and from an American point of view is our general blindness to the intentions of the various actors.

    Me too. But this is probably worth a book in its own right — it is worth it, I know it — so I should probably not dilute this book with overmuch reflection on that. Let’s see if I can make this publishing model work, and if I can, the next book will be about US policy.

    Americans have a hard time believing that people mean what they say, or mean to do what they’ve done. Perhaps Europeans do, too.

    I think it depends “which Europeans, when.” It’s not hard to convince Serbs to view Turkey with suspicion, for example. Problem is it’s too easy to convince them to do this, which makes them prone to their own form of naive blindness. A chapter or an interlude to a chapter here has to be about the conference I was once invited to in the Republika Srpska. (I growingly wonder if my invitation was meant to be the first step toward my recruitment for a glorious career in pro-Putin propaganda.)

    A book that tries to explain the interests and intentions, and therefore the actions, of the various parties and what this is likely to come to, and especially the central role that is being played by Russia (and in modern times always has been) would be a valuable one for me.

    You’re on.

    • #15
  16. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    TG:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: 29. … But there’s no getting around it: effective counterterrorism demands more unity among European nations, not less. Counterterrorism requires the centralization of power, people, and money. It requires specialist teams and specialist equipment, particularly for surveillance, data management, and intelligence-gathering. It involves sharing information quickly and effectively across national borders. It is highly unlikely that any European country can do this alone, and highly unlikely anyone else can or will do it for Europe

    Perhaps you might want to consider that centralization may be less important than will and clear-thinking. A centralized authority that is “committed to looking in the wrong direction” would have no operational advantages over a number of independent but allied organizations that are properly focused on the threat. If these hypothetical independent organizations are competent and properly focused on the threat, would they not, voluntarily, share significant amounts of information?

    I agree with some other comments, this is beginning to look like more than one book.

    I should add:  We know that centralization of authority is no guarantee of appropriate sharing of intelligence (the disconnect between CIA and FBI prior to 9/11 that appears to have contributed to no one seeing that coming in time).

    • #16
  17. Lensman Inactive
    Lensman
    @Lensman

    I think you may have neglected a logical corollary to the thesis that the EU is doomed to fail. Will an EU breakup unleash more chaos because of the lack of responsiveness of the current ruling “parties” in Brussels and across the continent?

    EUniks argued that they could create a nation while ignoring the existence of countries based on nationalities. It’s the wrong lesson from WWII when nationalism was called out as the cause of the war.  So I think you will need a chapter that looks back to WWII (or rather the one war that started in 1914 with a 20-year intermission) and how the aftermath of a 40 Years War was as world-shaking as the war that preceded it by 300 years.

    There is a growing doubt as to the political legitimacy of the EU and of  the accountability and responsiveness of national governments. The current German government is trying to ignore the rise of a nationalistic party. The two leading political parties in Sweden united a few years ago to shut out a nationalistic party that (as I recall) was about as electorally successful as either of them. The UK will have its Brexit vote in two months which may be given no effect by either the EU or the Cameron government.

    All this leads up to the fragility of representative government in Europe thanks to (1) the erosion of that principle when the EUniks ignored their losses in several referendums on expanding the power of the EU; and (2) Merkel’s foolish “open borders” approach to immigrants from many Islamic countries (not just Syria) that runs against all popular sentiment in Germany.

    Looking forward, combine the culture clash (vs. Muslims) with an economic crash in the next two years. Will that lead to populist/nationalistic/fascist parties winning elections in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and/or elsewhere?

    Was the rape-fest by young Muslims of German women in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve a foreshadowing of an atrocity or series of atrocities that will open the door for a violent backlash by vigilantes or “militias” (remember Lebanon) by “natives” against the (purposely) unassimilated Muslims. (Remember Turkish PM Erdogan announcing that assimilation of Turks living in Germany was a crime against humanity?) What are the odds of an expulsion of Turks from Germany reminiscent of the 15th century expulsion of Muslims from Spain?

    After discussing all the current political legitimacy problems, I would still suggest a chapter discussing how some issues affecting Europe have origins going back five hundred years to the Reconquista, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the aforementioned Forty Years War. The two may turn out to be related.

    • #17
  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei:Chapter 10. Who are the superpowers in the new superpower conflict?

    The same as they were before.

    Chapter 11. Dare one advance the thesis that leftism, and the leftists’ starry-eyed view of violence and power, are to blame?

    What happens … to everyone from abroad educated in Europe … that makes them more apt to be radical, violent, and murderous than their counterparts in their countries of origin?

    Umm. Really? Really? Too many Le Monde think-pieces, I suspect.

    But it’s true.

    Chapters 12-17. Needs research, as you say.

    Turkey was a part of Europe … that in the past had been highly significant European theater of war.

    The extremely distant past, perhaps.

    Gallipoli doesn’t count.

    Wow. Is that “extremely distant past” to you?

    You’ll have to be careful when you say “Europe thought this”, “Europe did that”, “Europe didn’t care about the other” to have a real definition of what “Europe” you mean.

    Of course.

    You can’t fudge this by saying European countries are democracies, therefore whatever is done by a governmental or supragovernmental agency counts as being done by all (or even some significant number) of people who live in a geographical area describable by the term “Europe”.

    Agree.

    Chapters the rest: Erodogan, Putin, conspiracy, the EU can’t work, but nations must dissolve themselves in common purpose or else. What. Ever. It’s not exactly Dan Brown, although similarly plotted.

    In ten years’ time, that “What. Ever” is going to end up with all those reviews that said I was mad to think anything was amiss in Paradise Europe.

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    anonymous:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I need to speak to, and learn more from, demographers who have been tracking these trends to see if anyone — anywhere — had a better predictive record, or if indeed demography is as dismal a science as economics.

    I would recommend speaking with Emmanuel Todd, a demographer who approaches geopolitics from the standpoint of demographics.

    Great suggestion. Do you know him? If so, may I ask for an introduction?

    Conveniently, he works at the Institut national d’études démographiques in Paris. He has some unconventional views, but his track record is…interesting. In his first book, La chute finale, published in 1975, he predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and its dominance over Eastern Europe. In 2001, in Après l’empire, he forecast the decline of American influence on the world stage. His 2007 book with Youssef Courbage, Le rendez-vous des civilisations, (which I have not yet read), predicts a convergence between the Islamic world and the West, with Western modernity (as measured by fertility, literacy, and a declining rate of near-relative marriage) winning out. All of these books are available in English translation.

    Perhaps most relevant to the present work is his 2008 book Après la démocratie, which I described in my review as “simultaneously enlightening, thought-provoking, and infuriating”. This book is available only in French.

    Fortunately, I do okay with French. I’d love to meet him, though, so if you know him personally, an introduction e-mail would be terrific. Not necessarily this month: I’d rather sort out my thoughts a bit better first and read his stuff.

    • #19
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Evan Meyer:So much to cover, obviously there’ll be a lot to pare down, but that’s what we editors are for, right? I’m torn between what I personally want to know more about and what I suspect the book-buying public is looking for. (But then, as a good investor, I’m not looking for just another book like the ones that are selling now.)

    I’m always torn about that. None of us (including the major publishing houses) have a clue what the book-buying public wants or why some books become bestsellers, so trying to game that out excessively is a fool’s errand. My target audience is readers like you, though — obviously, they’ll be people with similar interests.

    Of the themes presented above, the intersection of identity and demography with great power rivalry is the arena I find most interesting. What does Europe mean to Europeans anymore?

    Yeah, that’s largely what the first book was about.

    How does the yearning for nationhood connect with ISIS’s Utopian Caliphate?

    Whose yearning — those who join it, or those who have come to realize it’s a threat? Are you asking whether having a very visible external enemy could in some way be nation-building for “Europe” as a whole? I wonder that, too.

    How is Putin exploiting the aspirations of Arab migrants and European nationalists to expand his power?

    This is the biggest and most interesting question for me — and in some ways the hardest to answer, because the Kremlin’s known for being a bit of an enigma wrapped in etc. But some things, I think, are just sitting ripe waiting for a journalist to ask the right questions. One thing I definitely want to do is go to Greece and ask, “How have all these migrants been getting to the Austrian border?” Seriously, how? That’s a big logistical challenge, and Greece is having a lot of financial problems.

    A contact of mine who covers the Russian side says, “I assumed the Russian dealings with Greece lately have been facilitating transfers through there, but that’s only a guess. I did speak to the local WSJ about it, but she’s a 24-year-old out of Columbia who already knows everything in the world and thought being suspicious of Russian intrigue was just cold war mentality (50% of the world’s problems can be traced to Moscow and the other 50% to teachers unions – and she was right in the nexus).”

    This is something I could quite easily confirm or dismiss. People will know and remember if that’s so, and if it’s so, it’s pretty important. I linked to these (related) pieces on another thread, but you may not have seen them. This one was written by Eerik-Niiles Kross — former head of Estonian intelligence and a specialist in Russian military history and doctrine. (The more people know about Russian military history and doctrine, generally, the more alarmed they are.)

    And this is (surprisingly) a good piece in the Guardian by the only British leftist worth reading, Nick Cohen. Toward the end he notes some of the things you could track if you want to to show how this works. (And he’s right about the Dutch referendum. A disaster.)

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:My goodness, this is going to be quite a Big Book!

    I don’t want it to be. I need to use this kind of discussion to make my thesis more clear and to limit my urge to write an encyclopedia.

    (Briefly) going over what you/others got wrong with the emphasis on why would be interesting – I suspect that if you focus on the why you may uncover a pattern or two. There was a lot of information – what was assumed, ignored, dismissed as irrelevant when analysing it? How do those insights inform this book?

    Yes, exactly — without the “why” I can’t learn anything from it.

    What sets aside civilisations/cultures dominated by (any) monotheism and its descendants* (fascism, Marxism, laicite…) from other cultures is not the level of violence but the fact that violence is driven by ideology.

    Interesting thought, but is it true?

    Genghis Khan was immensely violent, but he didn’t attack people or groups because of what they believed or how they lived or what they intrinsically were. From Europe’s pogroms to the Wars of Religion to the Muslim conquests of South Asia to the Bolshevik Revolution to the Cultural Revolution to the Nazis to the Taliban cultures dominated by *MAID

    MAID?

    have done just that – or at least consistently justified their violence with ideology. These cultures’ instinct is to see things in black and white rather than grey.

    Do you think the Chinese have historically had a similar instinct? It’s very Indian to roll one’s eyes at monotheists and their monomanias, but it’s hard to say that Imperial Japan lacked for an ideology, or that Mao lacked for an ideology to justify his violence.

    This similarity, not any differences, is what has made the West and Islam’s interactions so fraught – expressed in Europe by responses to Muslim migrants, to Muslim refugees and to Muslim Turkey’s EU aspirations. (And in the Muslim world [including exclaves] by responses to colonialism and its aftermath [including indigenised fascism and Marxism] and to Western culture’s continued and immense impact.)

    • #21
  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Eric Hines:Can you do all that in one book?

    I don’t know. Perhaps not well. It could easily be three or four books. And it’s not desirable to write a long book: It’s standard publishing wisdom that 70,000-80,000 words is about right; more than that and people think, “That looks too long.” And they don’t buy it.

    You’re talking about an overview of European history, today’s Islam in Europe, Turkey, and Russia. (You began the project planning to talk about the refugee flow into Europe and its impact on Europe and the US, and Russia’s impact on Europe and its impact on the US and whether Russia was using/fomenting the refugee influx along the way. That was early; evolution of a project is normal.)

    I wonder if this might be two books, which would give you better focus: European history as you’re describing your presentation of it and today’s Islam in Europe–Brave Old World–with the implications these have for America retreated and for America resurgent. The other would be Turkey and its relationship with Europe (including, separately, with the EU) and with the refugee problem (because it is a problem, both in fact for both Europe and the ME and Northern Africa whence they come, and in perception, for the US, Europe, and for the ME and Northern Africa whence they come) and Russia and its relationship with Europe and with the European side of the refugee problem–Brave World–and the implications of all this for America retreated and for America resurgent.

    It could be quite some number of books. The question is what will interest my audience? I know for sure that when it comes to Turkey, there are two kinds of readers: The ones who find that country infinitely fascinating and want to know everything about it, and the other 99.99999 percent of Americans, whose eyes glaze over. I can’t for the life of me understand why, because it’s in fact infinitely fascinating, but I can tell you how much success I’ve had in selling journalism from Turkey. The evidence is in: Don’t invest time writing a book about it. No matter how central to the story it really is, nor how much Western security has been screwed up by reading it wrong — people don’t care. Turkey scares readers off. Maybe because the names are so long and look so hard to pronounce.

    With maybe a chapter on the implications for all this of a British departure from the EU and the likelihood of a subsequent Dutch departure–and if those two then hooked up in some sort of, oh let’s say, a trade arrangement there would be an interesting historical rhyming. (I think a reordering of Europe into 3-4 other commities would be a good thing, but that’s a separate question.)

    Eric Hines

    • #22
  23. Evan Meyer Member
    Evan Meyer
    @EvanMeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Of the themes presented above, the intersection of identity and demography with great power rivalry is the arena I find most interesting. What does Europe mean to Europeans anymore?

    Yeah, that’s largely what the first book was about.

    I obviously have some catching up to do :)

    How does the yearning for nationhood connect with ISIS’s Utopian Caliphate?

    Whose yearning — those who join it, or those who have come to realize it’s a threat? Are you asking whether having a very visible external enemy could in some way be nation-building for “Europe” as a whole? I wonder that, too.

    I was thinking particularly of those who join it, but the other questions are interesting, too. Maybe it’s a topic for its own discussion (or its own book!) but I find myself wondering about the strength of the Westphalian order itself, and whether the emergence of something like ISIS isn’t a symptom of its weakness. A people, a set of laws, and a piece of land are not tied to each other by Natural Law, and the worldview of ISIS consciously cleaves them, calling the faithful in Dar al-Harb to adhere to the Caliphate as a sort of trans-territorial nation. Why is that particularly appealing to Europeans? I guess I’m less interested in ISIS per se than what it says about us.

    • #23
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar:

    What sets aside civilisations/cultures dominated by (any) monotheism and its descendants* (fascism, Marxism, laicite…) from other cultures is not the level of violence but the fact that violence is driven by ideology.

    Interesting thought, but is it true?

    I am not educated enough to understand the reference.  Can you summarise using small words?  Were Rome’s conquests driven by the belief that those surrounding peoples were not Roman enough?

    MAID?

    Monotheism and its descendants.

    Do you think the Chinese have historically had a similar instinct?

    Absolutely, but I can’t imagine Confucians attacking another country because the people lacked filial piety.

    It’s very Indian to roll one’s eyes at monotheists and their monomanias

    Sorry

    but it’s hard to say that Imperial Japan lacked for an ideology

    I didn’t say non-MAID cultures lacked ideology, just that this ideology wasn’t used to justify their violence.  Japan didn’t invade China and Korea using the excuse that these nations weren’t Shinto.  Every imperial power has an ideology that justifies conquest and violence – it just doesn’t always have to do with the nature or beliefs of the targets for conquest vs those of the aspiring conquerers.

    or that Mao lacked for an ideology to justify his violence.

    Mao’s ideology was Marxist. (One of the Ds in MAID.)

    Edit: arguably nationalism (from nation state) is a D too.

    But a focus on Islam and Europe is probably the most commercially wise thing right now.

    • #24
  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I Walton:20th century nihilism burst in dozens directions, all of them destructive, many centered in Paris where the basic despairing self absorption still pollutes. Follow some of them. When basic civilizing norms erode it’s like fission, it all comes apart. We avoided much of this because under the rule of law and not men, unraveling and re-raveling takes place constantly. With the strengthening of the centralized administrative state we’re headed there and this is an important part of the story.

    The odd thing — and utterly unpredicted, by me, at least — is that the basic civilizing norms look to me much more intact in France now than they were when I left in 2003, and much more intact than they are in the US. All the indices you’d look at to ask, “How’s this civilization doing?” seem to be getting better in France — suicide rates, addiction, crime, intact families — and worse in the US. This was France in 1979. The suicide rate (and the rate of many similar indicators) peaked in 1985 and has been steadily coming down since. Deaths from overdose less than half the European average. Birth rate’s up. The homicide rate in France is now 1/20th (!) that of the US. Rape is 75 percent more common in the US. The divorce rate is about the same as the US. The abortion rate is only a third that of the US.

    I don’t know why. Something’s going on here that I didn’t predict. I need to figure out what it is, because obviously, whatever it is, we could use some of it.

    • #25
  26. Evan Meyer Member
    Evan Meyer
    @EvanMeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Something’s going on here that I didn’t predict. I need to figure out what it is, because obviously, whatever it is, we could use some of it.

    Yes, this. I think the book will be much more interesting, enjoyable, and valuable if you focus on what’s working and trying to understand why. Things falling apart is obviously important, but focus on pointing toward the why (as you’ve already stressed) with the goal of understanding how we can maintain and rebuild strong societies.

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    TG: Perhaps you might want to consider that centralization may be less important than will and clear-thinking. A centralized authority that is “committed to looking in the wrong direction” would have no operational advantages over a number of independent but allied organizations that are properly focused on the threat. If these hypothetical independent organizations are competent and properly focused on the threat, would they not, voluntarily, share significant amounts of information?

    No. We’ve established this beyond doubt. Every European country is highly aware of, and focused on, the terrorist threat. But they’re not sharing the information with each other. After every attack, we get dozens of articles like this and this, and weeks during which all the heads of state decry the lack of cooperation and vow to improve the sharing of information — but it doesn’t happen, in part because public sentiment is absolutely against further integration, and in another part because these countries just don’t trust each other.

    One reason the Snowdon leaks (and a number of other high-level fiascos) were so damaging is that many did trust the US, which in turn shared important information with other European countries. They don’t anymore.

    • #27
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Evan Meyer:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Something’s going on here that I didn’t predict. I need to figure out what it is, because obviously, whatever it is, we could use some of it.

    Yes, this. I think the book will be much more interesting, enjoyable, and valuable if you focus on what’s working and trying to understand why. Things falling apart is obviously important, but focus on pointing toward the why (as you’ve already stressed) with the goal of understanding how we can maintain and rebuild strong societies.

    It’s so striking in France that even day-to-day interactions with people feel different. I mean, the France I left was a rude country — and famous for it. Rude French people, that’s like saying “talkative Italians,” it’s redundant, right? But that’s gone. This is now a polite, friendly country with excellent customer service.

    I’ve looked for all the obvious explanations: a return of religious faith? No, the pews are still empty, except for the elderly. It’s certainly not the economy; that’s been stalled completely (although I saw a “help wanted” sign on a major shopping street a few days ago — it was notable because on seeing it, I realized it was the first one I’d seen since before the crash).

    I’m not complaining: It’s wonderful. I wish I had more insight, though.

    • #28
  29. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Lensman:I think you may have neglected a logical corollary to the thesis that the EU is doomed to fail. Will an EU breakup unleash more chaos because of the lack of responsiveness of the current ruling “parties” in Brussels and across the continent?

    EUniks argued that they could create a nation while ignoring the existence of countries based on nationalities. It’s the wrong lesson from WWII when nationalism was called out as the cause of the war. So I think you will need a chapter that looks back to WWII (or rather the one war that started in 1914 with a 20-year intermission) and how the aftermath of a 40 Years War was as world-shaking as the war that preceded it by 300 years.

    That’s in the first book. You know, I have a carton of them sitting right here in my apartment. I should send signed copies to my investors and sponsors! If anyone would like one, send me your mailing address.

    There is a growing doubt as to the political legitimacy of the EU and of the accountability and responsiveness of national governments. The current German government is trying to ignore the rise of a nationalistic party. The two leading political parties in Sweden united a few years ago to shut out a nationalistic party that (as I recall) was about as electorally successful as either of them. The UK will have its Brexit vote in two months which may be given no effect by either the EU or the Cameron government.

    All this leads up to the fragility of representative government in Europe thanks to (1) the erosion of that principle when the EUniks ignored their losses in several referendums on expanding the power of the EU;

    They didn’t ignore it; they rewrote the treaties in question in response to it. But I think you’re right that they ignored the warning sign those “no” votes should have represented: They should have been asking themselves, “Is it possible people don’t like the EU, in some deep way? If so, why?”

    and (2) Merkel’s foolish “open borders” approach to immigrants from many Islamic countries (not just Syria) that runs against all popular sentiment in Germany.

    No, it doesn’t. Only at one point did a majority of Germans polled disapprove of her policy; this was directly after the Cologne attacks. But even then, 57 percent disagreed with proposals to put an upper limit on the number Germany would accept. That was the lowest point, in opinion polls, since then they’ve steadily climbed up again. Merkel’s policy is favored by the majority of Germans.

    Looking forward, combine the culture clash (vs. Muslims) with an economic crash in the next two years. Will that lead to populist/nationalistic/fascist parties winning elections in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and/or elsewhere?

    Could well. Hard left could also gain.

    Was the rape-fest by young Muslims of German women in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve a foreshadowing of an atrocity or series of atrocities that will open the door for a violent backlash by vigilantes or “militias” (remember Lebanon) by “natives” against the (purposely) unassimilated Muslims.

    It was, yes.

    (Remember Turkish PM Erdogan announcing that assimilation of Turks living in Germany was a crime against humanity?) What are the odds of an expulsion of Turks from Germany reminiscent of the 15th century expulsion of Muslims from Spain?

    Zero. None of those crimes, as far as I know, were committed by Turks; their pattern of assimilation has been very different from north Africans in Germany. The Turkish experience in Germany has been far from perfectly smooth, but on the whole, they’ve done well.

    After discussing all the current political legitimacy problems, I would still suggest a chapter discussing how some issues affecting Europe have origins going back five hundred years to the Reconquista, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the aforementioned Forty Years War. The two may turn out to be related.

    Yeah, that’s the book I wrote. You might like it, I think.

    • #29
  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:

    I am not educated enough to understand the reference. Can you summarise using small words? Were Rome’s conquests driven by the belief that those surrounding peoples were not Roman enough?

    There was an ideology a bit similar to the one that animated the Pax Americana: This was good for Rome and good for the world. (They were right to think so, too.)

    MAID?

    Monotheism and its descendants.

    Gotcha.

    Do you think the Chinese have historically had a similar instinct?

    Absolutely, but I can’t imagine Confucians attacking another country because the people lacked filial piety.

    It’s very Indian to roll one’s eyes at monotheists and their monomanias

    Sorry

    but it’s hard to say that Imperial Japan lacked for an ideology

    I didn’t say non-MAID cultures lacked ideology, just that this ideology wasn’t used to justify their violence. Japan didn’t invade China and Korea using the excuse that these nations weren’t Shinto. Every imperial power has an ideology that justifies conquest and violence – it just doesn’t always have to do with the nature or beliefs of the targets for conquest vs those of the aspiring conquerers.

    or that Mao lacked for an ideology to justify his violence.

    Mao’s ideology was Marxist. (One of the Ds in MAID.)

    Fair enough, yeah.

    Edit: arguably nationalism (from nation state) is a D too.

    But a focus on Islam and Europe is probably the most commercially wise thing right now.

    Why do you think so?

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.