The E.U. Speeds for the Iceberg

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In other words, the “global community” is a mirage, no more a real human community than an on-line chat room. Our collective identities and loyalties are necessarily local, a consequence of particular ways of life lived in particular landscapes defined in part by their differences from those of other peoples, an existential fact no amount of technological advances can change. This means that we want to be ruled by people who live and speak like us, and whom we can hold politically accountable. And it means that our own national interests will necessarily differ from those of other states, and sometimes those different interests will lead to conflict.

After World War I, the persistence of internationalist idealism institutionalized a fatal incoherence in the Versailles Treaty’s supranational League of Nations. The designers of the League intended it to be the creator and guarantor of global peace and order, and thus avoid the sort of nationalist-driven carnage of the Great War. Yet the League also enshrined the notion of what Woodrow Wilson called “national aspirations” and ethnic self-determination. The two ideals were contradictory, since sovereign nations defined by their distinct identities did not want to surrender their sovereignty or subordinate their particular interests to a body comprising alien peoples that would at times have to pursue aims contrary to those nations’ own. The failure of the League in resolving this contradiction quickly became evident in the two decades between the wars, when it was powerless to stop the escalating inter-state violence that paved the way for World War II. Nor should we be surprised at this failure: as long as there are sovereign, self-ruling states comprising peoples with different languages, cultures, and customs, nations and peoples will collide, sometimes violently.

Yet the failure of the League, along with that of its equally incoherent offspring the U.N., did not inhibit the creation of the E.U., yet another “federation of free states” whose purpose is to subordinate national interests to loftier goals. Yet the incoherence remains and is obvious in the E.U. monetary union, which is made up of sovereign states, each with its own peculiar economic and political interests, histories, cultural norms regarding work and leisure, laws, and fiscal systems. These different customs, different virtues, and different attitudes towards work, leisure, and the good life all derive from the particular histories, geographies, and cultures that define a people and a nation. These differences will not disappear because states share a currency or economic regulations.

The increasingly bitter divide among the E.U. nations is evidenced over the past few years in the elections of leaders skeptical about the leadership of the E.U.’s economic powerhouse and financier, Germany, and its prescriptions about how to solve the fiscal disaster. These divisions increasingly illustrate the continuing power of national identity and culture that always has compromised the whole E.U. project. As Walter Russell Mead succinctly put its, “Club Med doesn’t want to live under German rules and Germany doesn’t want a Club Med currency. Club Med can’t make Germany underwrite the Club’s lavish lifestyle and Germany can’t make Club Med live by German rules.” That’s because Germans, French, Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, and the rest are all profoundly different peoples, and no amount of internationalist mirages can change the reality of those differences. Like that iceberg in 1912, the cultural and nationalist peculiarities of the E.U. countries are the stubborn and unchanging realities with which the E.U. project is destined to collide.

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  • harrylies

    People like Robert Lee killed thousands because they thought Texas was different than Bew York. Now, people in Texas and New York both see themselves as Americans. They are not tearing up the flag.

    Now in Europe, the idea of Germany going to war with Poland is as silly as Texas going to war with New York. Yes, the EU has economic problems. So does the US. The tribal thinging that lead Europe to commit the worst crimes in history is being taken out for the trash, except for groups like the Irish Republican Army.

    At the end of the Civil War, Lees' primative tribal beliefs just lead to hundreds of thousands dying, and him surrendering. Same with the tribal views of Europe.

    • Tiberius

      Tell that to Greeks who right now hate the Germans for demanding austerity measures before the EU would lend more money. Ask the Germans how they feel about the people of Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain who spend too much money and save little or no money. Ask how they feel “punished” for they Germans can save themselves but the other Europeans can not. My point when things go south, the Europeans do become Germans, Poles, French, etc. than just Europeans.

    • kongMing

      Lee was neutral and felt slavery should die a natural death. Succession in Virginia primarily occurred in response to Lincoln and Stanton ordering hundreds of thousands of soldiers to march into Virginia. The casual mindset of war with industrial advances led to the horrific numbers.

      The same casual view of war can be seen today with our modern appeasement of drug lords and terrorism.


    Except for the Czech Republic, SCREW EUROPE.

  • tagalog

    It will be sad to watch Europe degenerate back into a melange of nations with armies all goose-stepping in their diverse ways.

    • ebonystone

      It's even sadder to watch Europe degenerating from Islam. The occupying army of tens of millions of goose-stepping Moslems will soon transform Europe, stamping out remaining national differences, replacing them with a uniform, continent-wide realm of ignorance and bile. Burkhas from Sicily to the North Cape! Butts raised in worship from the Channel to the Urals!

  • JerryM

    And the Catalans in Barcelona just love those folks in Madrid!


    To an extent, Thornton partakes of the mistaken view that nationalism is what causes wars. What causes wars is the desire for power. Had the nations of Europe truly been free, the EU might have worked, but it would not have been necessary – free nations can cooperate with each other without being part of a "greater" union. But Europe could not shake off collectivism in the form of welfare-state socialism, thus the internecine strife that always accompanies income redistribution never left and is now resurgent.

    Too many people in Greece want to continue the organized looting that is socialism even though there's nothing left to steal in Greece itself; therefore, they plan to stiff the bondholders who were unwise enough to lend money to them and then steal as much from the Germans as they can. And after that? Well, they don't have a plan for afterwards, any more than the American Democrat Party has any plan other than to keep spending and borrowing.

    Those who would avoid economic collapse must give up socialism – it's as simple as that.

  • Marvin E. Fox

    The Euro Zone is failing because the contolling socialists have killed the businesses and manufacturing of products in Europe. China and other countrie are producing the goods needed by the people of Europe. China has trillions of Europe's Euro bonds, Europe itself is broke because it stopped producing the products needed by its own people. The profit for those products went mostly to China. Europe is attempting to keep feeding the cow that is being milked by China. The cost of the feed is Europe's; the milk and cheese is China's!
    Where is America's cows being fed? Who gets America's milk and cheese?
    Marvin E. Fox

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Ultimately it is in the hands of those who are going to have to lower the life boats or not. When Europe
    was broke after WWII America took on the Marshall Plan and by industry and sweat at differing paces
    moved into a more affluent age. What was not forgotten was the desire for and easy life as posed by
    Television and it via the MSM gave the marching orders post "1950. Bathed in propaganda and
    confliction of world views Europeans joined together in false collectivism and are sinking in a sea of
    false expectations. What is the answer to their problems that will have lasting effect. Obviously the
    ideas of man have failed, Europe has turned their great Cathedrials into museums and with false
    pride do not recognize the loss of Blessing and rather blame politicians………so it goes…….William

  • Len_Powder

    Nothing that man has ever created is indestructible or incorruptible. God has reserved such power to Himself. Yet there have been from the beginning of man's existence men who thought and acted as if they were gods. The Tower of Babel was one example of man's folly, the League of Nations and the United Nations were others, as was the European Union. The problem with the "elites' all over the world is that they don't know their limitations as human beings. Many people have the same problem who are not elites. However, what distinguishes elites from most of us is that: (1) they consider themselves elites, (2) believe they have no limitations, and (3) think of themselves as perfect beings entitled to subject the rest of us to their will. I pray that one day they will be made to realize that they too have feet of clay, just as the rest of us do. I pray that the consequences of their arrogance and conceit will one day teach them humility and honesty.