First off I would like to say that I have not read James Kirchick’s The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. Frankly I have better things to do with my time, like reading about the previous dark ages that supposedly befell Europe. However, I have read @Claire Berlinski’s article and will be moving forward to address the issues mentioned there.
I am going to first address my biggest problem with this book and its title. It’s not the end of Europe which is being addressed. It’s the end of the European Union. Whenever Europe is mentioned I will likely be referring to the EU or as I like to call it Fantasy Continent.
Unlike Kirchick or Claire, I am writing to the people of Ricochet. People who elected Trump, people who didn’t vote for Trump. But people for the most part I don’t think have their heads in the clouds. People who live in what I like to call the real world. The one we live in and not the ones that fantasize about the way they wish the world works. Just people.
I am not going to get to much into Donald Trump. Other than to say that I don’t think he is some giant ogre of Napoleonic ambitions. Not even of Mussolini proportions. Frankly I find Donald Trump all too conventional, and if Twitter had existed in the 1960s, President LBJ would probably be tweeting away about how all these “damn hippies” didn’t understand all the good things the Great Society was doing for them.
Instead of talking about the United States, let’s talk about Europe. Or the EU. The US like all real countries is based on some sort of legitimacy. The US is a Republic gaining its legitimacy through its constitution and the people who elect their representatives. It’s not always good. My Country is a confederation of provinces who hold parliaments of representatives backed by the Queen and tracing back its legal rights to Magna Carta and even earlier traditions. China derives its legitimacy through its one-party state of Communism and suffers for it.
The EU is not a country. But it pretends to be one. The EU is giant lie. It gains no legitimacy from its parliament, which cannot vote on legislation. It has unaccountable bureaucracies that give the production of milk 130,00 regulations. It has a council of Ministers that are made up of the heads of states for its numerous member countries. It has a couple Presidents that hold like six-month terms. It derives its authority from treaties with its various member states, but when those states reject it as the Netherlands and France have done in the past, it ignores those elections derived from the people and waits and tries again.
The EU was created in the belief of binding all the member states together economically but not politically. But it then dumped on a parliament system that has no power. It stumbles blindly from one crisis to another. It tells its members that it’s an economic treaty like NAFTA. Then makes unaccountable decisions that no local representative can fix. Without representation and the ability to make redress, your state will have to run on something else. The EU is flying apart at the seams. It either has to make the choice to become one state. With a Parliament or government structure that has real legitimate authority.
But it won’t do that because none of the member states want to give up their sovereignty. So, it muddles along like a 21st-century Polish Diet. Not willing to give up an inch politically and letting its bureaucracies grow.
There is no reason and no possible way for Russia to fight against a United States of Europe. But it is not fighting a USE. It’s merely fighting the EU. A EU that was trying to bind the different member nations together politically and creating an effective central government would easily crush Russia. Economically and militarily.
From a selection of the book chosen:
I came to understand that history had not ended, that Europe was not in a “post-ideological” age, and that optimistic assumptions about the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy, regulated market capitalism, peaceful coexistence, and political pluralism were premature even on the very continent that so prided itself in having founded and exported these values to the world.
Nonsense. Neither the EU or Europe has ever brought any of those things or founded those values and exported them to the world. Great Britain did. France did, some might say. France ran Vietnam as an economic colony pure and simple. It did nothing during its colonial time to bring French Civilization, administration, or culture to most of its Empire. Algeria being really the only exception and even then… The same with the rest of the colonial empires. Great Britain and its Empire were the exception to this. The rest of Europe was much too busy with its own usual self-centered ways, to be bothered exporting its culture to “barbarians.”
Most of us knew history had not ended. Most of us scoffed at the notion. We deemed those who sought a new order as arrogant, vainglorious fools. We also were much too busy making money in the post-cold war era.
A passage from @Claire’s article:
Kirchick recounts the now-familiar story of Europe’s economic torpor, its alienated immigrants, and its demographically unsustainable welfare states. Europe is reeling, too, from the effects of the greatest wave of human migration since the Second World War, a series of deadly attacks by ISIS, Britain’s abandonment of the European Union, and eight years of neglect by the Obama Administration.
His description of this is in places excellent. His chapter about Brexit is well-written, fair-minded, and painful with the same unintended irony that pervades the rest of the book. He is scathing about UK Independence Party head Nigel Farage and the type of American conservative to whom he for some reason appeals. He recounts with dismay watching Farage address “a half-empty lecture hall at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC” in 2015
First off let me break in here for a moment. The thing about Heritage is they have videos of their speeches available. Including the one of their keynote address made by Nigel Farage.
Why I could even post the link.
Looks a bit more packed to me by the video. I wasn’t there of course, but I do have a video.
At the end of his speech, I rose to ask the uncrowned king of British Euroscepticism what he made of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Although I was prepared for something unconventional, I did not expect what came out of Farage’s mouth.
War in Ukraine, he said, was the result of a “democratically elected leader brought down by a street-staged coup d’état by people waving EU flags.” Russian president Vladimir Putin could hardly be blamed for thinking that the “message” behind the Maidan protests was “we want Ukraine to join NATO.” Invading and annexing Crimea were perfectly understandable reactions to European imperialism. Ukraine’s dismemberment, the thousands of deaths in its eastern provinces, more than a million-displaced people, and heightened tensions between Russia and the West—all of it, Farage told me, was “something we have provoked.” A Kremlin spokesperson could not have scripted the response better himself.”
Let’s try that again.
Heck a democratically elected leader, or even a complete and total stooge is brought down by some armed revolutionaries living in the hills along with protests in the streets. The Stooge has run a terror campaign against his own populace, so public sympathy is high. The new regime is backed openly by a rival power. The neighboring superpower takes umbrage of this happening it its back yard. It starts with economic sanctions and supporting guerilla movements in that country. Those guerillas launch terror attacks on the new regime. The old superpower refuses to reoccupy territory in the land, and increases its military presence. That superpower goes further and plots the assassination of the new regime’s leadership and even supplies weapons and trainers to a group of exiles who will be invading the country to overthrow the new regime.
Hmm. Anyone else guess that I am talking about Cuba and the United States of America.
Yes, the European Union provoked Russia response. But the European Union is just as guilty as George H.W. Bush who called for the marsh people to rise up against Saddam Hussein and then stood by as Saddam Hussein and the Iraq army crushed and killed thousands of people.
We may not like the fact that we live in a world of spheres of influence and terrible regimes who consider some countries theirs.
Nigel Farage spoke the truth to Kirchick. He may have done it a bit crudely. But to believe that Russia would not respond in the way it did after overthrowing their puppet in Kiev is to be naïve on a staggering level.
Farage and those like him, Kirchick carefully argues, live in a morally inverted world where the bumbling and bureaucratic (but benign) EU is likened to the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin is respected as the Moral Custodian of the West, even as Russia – relying on largely unreconstructed Soviet organs of statecraft – literally invades Europe.
I would counter that Farage and those like him, live in the real world. Where decisions have consequences. Where you don’t play power politics with the lives of millions, provoking dictators and then sitting on your hands and having a good cry cause the local bully came over and punched you in the face.
“If Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea was the first external assault on the post–Cold War European political order,” Kirchick writes, “Britain’s rash decision to depart the EU was the first self-inflicted wound.” He marvels at this spectacle of self-destruction. “It is incredible to behold Great Britain, which once occupied more than 20 percent of the earth’s landmass, moving ever closer to the brink of its own disintegration.” The sentiment is right but its expression is a bit garbled; it was not Great Britain but the British Empire that spanned the globe; at its height, it occupied a full quarter of the world’s land mass. Here one wonders if Kirchick is holding at bay, perhaps at the cost of some mental energy, a premonition of the truly incredible spectacle of imperial self-destruction ahead.
And of course, my reply to Kirchick is this. Russia’s invasion of Crimea was not the first external assault on post-cold war Europe. That honor belongs to Georgia. As to Great Britain, its decision to leave was not rash. It was the best and smartest course of action. The people of Great Britain regained their sovereignty and their foreign and trade policies. Why should a free people decide to give up their sovereignty to unaccountable bureaucrats. No one has yet to explain to me why the EU is a good thing, though I know it’s coming.
Kirchick is contemptuous of American conservatives who through naiveté or malice cheer Europe’s disintegration. He is absolutely right to say there is nothing in Europe’s past to support the idea that the EU, if destroyed, would be replaced by a democratic and cooperative collection of sovereign nation-states. The view is historically illiterate. The long postwar peace is unique and fragile. “Those who claim that the EU has failed,” Kirchick writes, “must answer the following question: In comparison to what? The Europe of the Thirty Years War? The Napoleonic Empire? Hitlerite Europe?”
Ok, fine. I will answer that question easily and in two parts.
First off, the EU has nothing to do with the post-WW2 peace. The EU was not effectively formed until the 1990s, but even then, that’s not the reason Europe had such a long period of peace. It had a long peace, because the Second World War broke it. It also had the Soviet Union who had millions of men and tens of thousands of tanks and APCs and bombers, thousands of nuclear bombs pointing at it. You find plenty of reasons to cooperate when someone is constantly plotting to kill you. So, NATO might be a good supporting argument for European peace. Certainly, the presence of all those Americans and their money helped it along.
Long story short, Europe’s peace is not because of the presence of the EU. If the EU had never been formed in the 1990s, Europe would look a lot like it does today. Except probably be richer with a common market and a universal passport for citizens.
That being said. The best period in European history is not the post-WW2 era. It’s not even the post-cold war era. The best historical period for Europe bar none is after Napoleon and before WW1. And let me tell you something: There are lots of European wars during this period. But also, Europe integrated culturally, economically, militarily, and through communications during this period in a way that it has not done so since. This was the Europe that made Europe. That strode the world like a colossus. That ruled (and ruled well) most of the planet. Who thought it was their destiny to civilize the world. It’s the true golden age of Europe. The EU and its pretensions are nothing more than a faded imitation of the rich successful confident Europe of that era.
Now I am going to skip over the immigration stuff. Frankly I don’t know enough to comment. Kirchick again:
Had Europe (as well as the United States) decided to act as something other than a passive bystander in Syria—by assisting the moderate opposition, creating safe zones, and destroying President Bashar al- Assad’s air force in the early months of the rebellion, years before Iranian and Russian troops hit the ground—there was a chance that the conflict might not have dragged on for so long. Reflexively citing the Iraq experience as a counter argument to any and all methods of military intervention is not sufficient, because in both Libya and Syria—unlike Iraq—war against civilian populations was ongoing and the prospect of impending genocide was apparent.
What makes Kirchick believe the EU an economic union with pretensions of greatness believe that it could stop any of that? The EU that Kirchick wishes existed died when Eisenhower blocked the French and British from seizing the Suez Canal. Europe would no longer have the ability to be a real power. The United States made them into vassal states at that point. Sure, they still have militaries and limited resources. But the Great Britain that can’t afford to put cruise missiles on its ships is somehow going to stem the refugee crisis? One has to ask does Kirchick not know where he lives?
Europe finds itself in hock to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recap Taya Erdogan — the former offering himself as a “partner” against ISIS while bombing Western-backed opponents of Russia’s client Assad (whom the vast majority of refugees are fleeing), and the latter demanding political concessions in exchange for reducing the outflow of migrants languishing in Turkish refugee camps. By entertaining Putin’s cynical proposal of an “anti-ISIS coalition,” Western leaders willfully ignore how Moscow’s Syrian intervention is fueling the very migrant wave they supplicate him to help plug. Russia’s interest is very clear: In exchange for its supposed help in fighting ISIS, the West would lift sanctions on Moscow and effectively give a green light to its ongoing subversion of Ukraine. Astonishingly, many in the West apparently support this idea. A late 2015 survey of seventy-six diplomats, elected leaders, and advisors from across Europe and the United States found 53 percent supporting cooperation with Russia in Syria, while listing migration, Islamist terrorism, and the rise of populist parties as the most critical threats to Europe—three problems Moscow is actively aggravating by its intervention in Syria. Maintaining Bashar al-Assad in power will only prolong Syria’s misery by driving the Sunni majority that detests him even more into the arms of ISIS, therefore prolonging the conflict as well as the stream of refugees whose presence in Europe is driving up support for the far-right politicians Russia abets in numerous other ways. While the Russians have repeatedly demonstrated their overreliance on hard power to achieve their aims, Europe’s overconfidence on soft power, far from keeping the world’s problems at bay, has imported them into Elysium.
Well yeah? So, what? I don’t understand what Kirchick is doing here. He seems to think the EU is a real force for good in the world. And that somehow, I don’t even know what he is trying here.
Sorry, its getting late. I intended to write to conclusion and start this essay earlier in the evening. But I remembered I had an appointment with a candidate and we went late discussing viral political marketing.
In summary, I shall say it seems that the Kirchick wants an EU or even Europe that has never existed to fight for values it doesn’t believe in and grants it a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve. If Europe is ever to gain back what its once vibrant strong culture that it once had, it’s going to have to move away from the elderly, mendacity that it currently holds.
As I once said to a friend of mine in the German Air Force, “A lot of people are going to die before we fix this mess.”
His answer: “Yep.”