“The European dream lies in ruins — Europe’s leaders seem incapable of solving the crisis unfolding in front of them,” Janet Daley writes at the London Telegraph:
This is going to be huge: so cataclysmic that it may summon up forms of ugliness that we have not seen walking abroad in Western Europe for half a century. This is where the story goes beyond irony. The European federal dream was devised by its architects to be a definitive repudiation of the ideological conflicts of the 20th century. Pragmatism, consensus and regard for the greater supra-national good would reign where once wicked nationalism and zealotry had prevailed. But what strikes me when I hear the surreal statements emanating from those emergency summits and absurd Franco-German-Greek conference calls is that this is precisely a continuation of the old ideological delusions of the European past. The EU leadership and the Greek prime minister announce implacably that Greece will not leave the euro (ever), as if their uttering of the words made them indisputable. In fact, this is simply a statement of political will that dares the world to defy it.
It seems that the European political class still thinks that an assertion of its mystical belief can alter reality: that what it insists is so, will be so. If its idea of itself and its design for the future are in conflict with the facts of economics or life as it is actually lived, then it is those facts that will give way. (A German Christian Democrat politician once said to me, “The single currency will work because we will make it work.”) Those facts now include not only Greek debt but the democratic wishes of electorates who have a sentimental belief in their right to hold their own governments to account. This is where we are: up against the unavoidable contradiction of the European federal project. The complaint that the EU is lacking in strong political leadership is misconceived: it has had altogether too much “leadership” – which is to say, domination from political and bureaucratic authorities determined to lead with as little interference from real people as possible.
Guest-hosting at the Brothers Judd blog in 2005, Peter Burnet wrote:
Mark Steyn once wrote that the European Achilles heel is the “big idea”, meaning abstract, ideological goals that come to grip the intellectual and political elites and are pursued singlemindedly without any reference to the popular will, local culture, human nature or even decency. Most of these have promised the Holy Grail of European unity, and while the modern secular statism embodied in the EU is obviously to be preferred over the brutalities of a Hitler or Napoleon, they have more in common that one might think. Here is an excerpt from the diaries of a Canadian diplomat in London during the Blitz that recorded his thoughts after a meeting with a liberal, anti-Nazi Hungarian diplomat:
I can see that despite his hatred of the Nazis Tony is half-fascinated by the idea of a united European bloc by whatever means achieved. Some Europeans may be tempted to think that if the small sovereign state entities can be broken down and Europe united it is worth the price of temporary Hitler domination, because Hitler will not last forever, and after he is gone it will be as impossible to reconstruct the Europe of small states as it was to reconstruct feudal Europe after the fall of Napoleon.
The spiritual and cultural sterility of the EU project, and the realization that it can never be democratic or responsive to popular opinion, is gradually dawning on a heretofore inarticulate European public (notably on the left) and awakening both worthy local and national prides and unworthy ancient animosities. Immigration controversies and the recent spate of soccer violence may show what is bubbling just below the surface, but the defection of privileged French farmers threatens a coup de grace. If the constitution fails in France, it is very hard to see how the European political elites, who have bet the farm on an ever-expanding EU for three generations, will have any coherent leadership to offer for many years.
Or as Steyn himself wrote in the Telegraph in 2005, “what’s the point of creating a secular utopia if it’s only for one generation?” (Which is a fate potentially awaiting nations on both sides of the Atlantic, as he explores throughout After America.)