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.