mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
WRM Elsewhere
Wilson’s European Triumph

Americans looking at an imploding Europe are trotting out their favorite clichés, writes Walter Russell Mead in his recent Wall Street Journal essay. The Europeans are too statist, too bureaucratic, too feckless on defense matters, and too naive about geopolitics. “The problem with Europe, in a word, is that it is too European,” he says.

It wasn’t always so. Europe’s founders were hardheaded nationalist realists, whose worldview was shaped by two World Wars and a keen appreciation of the threat presented by the Soviet Union. More:

Europe’s distinctive history—of powerful, competitive states developing a common civilization—gave the continent a complex and subtle tradition of statecraft. That tradition provided de Gaulle, Adenauer and their peers with the political ideas and diplomatic skills to achieve their goals.

European statesmen of this era scoffed at American optimists like Eleanor Roosevelt,with her postwar confidence in the swift approach of a terrestrial utopia regulated by international law. They chided such naifs for their superficial approach to world politics—for neglecting the realities of hard power, on the one hand, and for dismissing the fateful and decisive influence of national culture, on the other.

Since the end of the Cold War, these traditions of statesmanship have faded, and the continent that gave Machiavelli to the world has embraced instead the spirit of Woodrow Wilson. When Wilson proposed his Fourteen Points after World War I, the French Premier Georges Clémenceau mocked them, noting that “God himself had only 10.” Today, however, Wilson’s vision of a liberal world order regulated by global institutions has become the basis of European policy.

The ultimate triumph of Wilson on the continent has brought the project close to ruin. But there is way out, should the Europeans choose to take it. Read the whole thing here.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • rheddles

    Read it on dead trees Sunday. Good article. But it misplaces responsibility. For all intents and purposes, we castrated them in 1956. They’ve never recovered. They’ve become the little brother who doesn’t have to learn how to deal with bullies because the big brother is always around to do it. Even the petulant DeGaulle who stomped off to his own room and slammed the door. That’s why the only way they’ll do the things WRM wants is if we leave Nato. Bring home all the American troops, even those who lie in European soil. Make fixed term alliances as advisable. And once they grow up, we need to expect that we will disagree from time to time.

  • ljgude

    After Obama’s Wilsonian march to the sea through America’s alliances I see little difference between US and EU policy. In fact, after Brexit the UK is more on track to become the new leader of the free world. OK, that is overstating it, but the US has been throwing itself under the bus one way or another for 16 years. It’s a wee bit rich to be looking down our noses at the fecklessness of the Euros. Of course our Muslim brothers and Comrades Putin and Xi, not to mention Un, will continue to tutor both the EU and the US on the realities of hard power. We have much to be grateful for.

  • WigWag

    There are several critical factors impacting Europe that Professor Mead doesn’t mention in his essay; the most important of these is the plummeting rate of European fertility. Every country in Europe has a fertility rate below replacement value; in some countries like Portugal, Spain and Poland the decline has been spectacular. When Europe was a Christian continent, Europeans liked children. Now that it’s a secular continent, Europeans seem to find having children a sign of lack of sophistication.

    Superimpose on this reality the fact that Muslim immigrants to Europe are far more fecund than their new native European neighbors and Europe has an almost insurmountable problem on its hands especially considering its utter failure to successfully encourage the new immigrants to adopt European values.

    The demographic implosion also means that Europe’s population is rapidly aging. Without young people to pay for the social safety net for the elderly, where will the money come from to support Europe’s remarkably generous welfare state?

    Professor Mead celebrates the virtues of the founding generation of post war Europe, but doesn’t he realize that recapturing the realism and governing philosophy of that generation is a pipe dream? It’s not just about politics, Professor Mead, it’s about culture. And it’s not just about the machinations of politicians, it’s about the values of every day citizens.

    When Europe abandoned Christianity, it abandoned its soul, its heritage and even its reason to exist. Yes, it’s true that the new religion that Europeans genuflect to was invented in part by an American, Woodrow Wilson, but Americans never adopted that new religion with the fervor that Europeans have. Europeans have been taught in primary and secondary school and in its universities to despise European history, values, culture and religion. For obvious reasons, in countries like Germany and Austria this inclination has been particularly pronounced. Tens of millions of Europeans are so obsessed with their embarrassment about colonialism and racism, that the possibility that they will elect politicians who agree with Professor Mead seems pretty remote.

    If those politicians even exist, where are they? In France, the choice seems to be between the socialist cretins who are in power now, a failed retread like Sarkozy or the far right Marine Le Pen. In Germany, Merkel has done more to destroy her country than any Chancellor since, dare I say it, the one who held the office since World War II. The country’s largest bank is in extremis and it’s largest car maker is a corporate criminal of epic proportions. The politicians lining up to replace Merkel are as credulous as she is.

    Spain can’t even elect a Government; Belgium is over-run with terrorists and has a remarkably disfunctional Government; Italy and Greece totter on the edge of economic calamity and Poland is literally ruled by fascists.

    If there are any budding Konrad Adenauers or Charles DeGaulles, maybe they’re hiding in plain sight but I don’t see them.

    But it’s not just the abandonment of Christianity that has destroyed European ambition, its more than a half century of the consequences of the welfare state that have inculcated a sense of dependency and despondency on Europeans. Let’s be frank, European nations and the continent as a whole has been metrosexualized. It simply no longer has the energy or the virility to return to the policies of the past that Professor Mead insists can still save it.

    How could it return to that past: to Europe, strength, ambition and virility are all four letter words.

    Face it, Professor Mead; Europe is toast.

    • Pete

      “If there are any budding Konrad Adenauers or Charles DeGaulles, maybe they’re hiding in plain sight but I don’t see them.”

      What the establishment of europe fears is that there might be an Adolph hiding in the wooed work waiting for an opportune time to emerge.

      • Tom

        And then, once they realize there aren’t any in their country, call the Adenauers and deGaulles Hitlers.

  • gabrielsyme

    The utter failure and incoherence of Wilson’s fourteen points ought to have killed them forever. WWII should be a sufficient repudiation for any theory, yet, like Frankenstein, the mad scientists of liberalism reanimate what ought to have been dead and buried.

    • Andrew Allison

      Yes, in terms of long-term damage done, Wilson is right up there with the worst of them, but no matter, Obama’s lead in that race is insurmountable.

  • Trajan Fanzine

    What interesting and to me at least, and amusing is, whatever Trumps
    motivation, even ignorance, his instinct etc., Putin must be dealt with
    and he can be, first by appealing to his vanity and 2, by talking
    realpolitik.

    Again whether Trump is even aware of this
    or not, hes on the right track as this it effects/affects everything
    Putin does or not do with/for the US etc.- and this issue is relatively
    simple but hangs over everything- Obama and Hillary screwed him, big
    time.

    A Security Council veto is huge, its on the largest stage and a very precious item. Obama
    and Hillary promised Putin, if he didn’t veto the Libyan venture, they
    would neither pursue nor countenance Qaddafi’s assassination, death etc.
    And, they didn’t uphold their end of the bargain, you can argue how much
    personal responsibility they each have but in the end, and not without
    some large justification, Putin feels badly used.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service