News & Politics

The New York Times’ Roger Cohen Declares Himself a ‘European Patriot’

Anti-Brexit campaigners wave Union and European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament, London. January 28, 2019. (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire) (Press Association via AP Images)

In larger and larger numbers, Western Europeans are repudiating their subordination to Brussels. In Italy, this reaction has led to the installment of a government that is distinctly antagonistic to the European Union and, in particular, to its migrant-settlement directives. The United Kingdom, in accordance with the results of its 2016 plebiscite, is struggling to extricate itself from the EU. Elsewhere in Western Europe, politicians who reject the EU’s immigration tyranny are gaining support; in several nations of Eastern Europe, the heads of state, with strong public backing, are resisting EU demands that they take in armies of so-called migrants of the sort that are overrunning Western Europe. In May, elections for the European Parliament will take place across the continent. And at least some of the EU’s champions are unsettled.

I wrote the other day about one consequence of their concern: an open letter written by France’s most famous philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and signed by a glittering roster of celebrity “intellectuals” who fretted that anti-EU forces will win big at the ballot box in May. “Europe as an idea,” warned Lévy, “is falling apart before our eyes.” Highbrows like himself, he maintained, are fighting “a new battle for civilization” — a concept that, in his mind, is more or less synonymous with the European Union.

As if by design, Lévy’s open letter — which was signed by the likes of Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwen, and Milan Kundera, and was published prominently in several European newspapers — appeared on the very same day, January 25, as a piece by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen that made the same point. Entitled “Why I Am a European Patriot,” Cohen’s piece was more personal and passionate than usual. Here’s the key passage:

I am a European patriot because I have lived in Germany and seen how the idea of Europe provided salvation to postwar Germans; because I have lived in Italy and seen how the European Union anchored the country in the West when the communist temptation was strong; because I have lived in Belgium and seen what painstaking steps NATO and the European Union took to forge a Europe that is whole and free; because I have lived in France and seen how Europe gave the French a new avenue for expressing their universal message of human dignity; because I have lived in Britain and seen how Europe broadened the post-imperial British psyche and, more recently, to what impasse little-England insularity leads …

What to say about this? Well, it’s a perfect summary of elite opinion on the topic. But it’s sheer nonsense.

Take Germany. Yes, the advent of the EU enabled Germans to delude themselves into thinking they could magically become “Europeans” instead of “Germans” and thus escape Holocaust guilt. But that was easier said than done. The guilt remained, and instilled in them a terror of judging “others” and a determination to prove their own virtue that helped bring about the rapid Islamization not only of their own country but of the whole EU, which the Germans pretty much run. “Salvation”? More like self-destruction.

What about Cohen’s claim that the EU “anchored” Italy in the face of “the communist temptation”? Nonsense. Yes, Communism was a real threat in Italy for a few decades after the war; but the Italian Communist Party, having long since passed its hard-core Kremlin-friendly glory days, was dissolved in 1991 — two years before the EU came into existence.

What about Belgium, apropos of which Cohen cites the “painstaking steps NATO and the European Union took to forge a Europe that is whole and free”? In fact NATO and the EU, both based in Belgium, are two utterly different phenomena: NATO is a U.S.-led military alliance that has indeed kept Europe free; the EU, which began as a common market, is a looming superstate that is steadily eroding Europe’s freedoms. Note, by the way, how Cohen’s comment on Belgium isn’t really about Belgium at all, a country that already had identity problems when the EU came along and that has not, shall we say, found itself during its tenure as main HQ for the EU.

France? Cohen claims that “Europe gave the French a new avenue for expressing their universal message of human dignity.” Sheer gibberish. Want a thumbnail description of the relationship between the EU and its two key members? Try this one on: the EU is, in reality, the increasingly tyrannical and centralized empire that German rulers dreamed of for a century — Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer — but it promotes itself through the use of grandiose Gallic platitudes about liberté, égalité, fraternité.

And Britain? England, the land of Magna Carta and the Mother of Parliaments, hasn’t been conquered since 1066. Until the U.S. entered World War II, the Brits stood alone on the Western front, fighting to preserve their ancient freedoms. Now they’re seeing those freedoms erode steadily — and all that Cohen can say is that those who don’t like it are suffering from “little-England insularity.” Far be it for him to take seriously their distaste for being under the thumb of unelected foreign mediocrities.

“Not least,” Cohen adds, “I am a European patriot because I am a Jew.” He doesn’t elaborate. He’s probably better off not elaborating. In fact Europe under the EU has once again become a nightmare for Jews, many of whom feel forced by Muslim Jew-hatred to flee the continent. Everyone who knows anything about Europe today knows this — and knows that it has a great deal to do with EU pressure on member states to accept Muslim migrants.

But Cohen doesn’t want to go near this issue. In his view, one gathers, even to mention Muslim anti-Semitism is to be an “anti-Muslim bigot” (a label he placed on President Trump in a January 19 column). Of course, a fellow like Cohen — who flies first class between European capitals, stays at luxury hotels in the safest neighborhoods, and takes cabs to interviews with presidents — is untouched by these horrid developments.

Make no mistake: mass Muslim immigration and the cataclysmic failure of Muslim integration are the defining issues in Europe today — and are at the very center of the EU debate. The EU’s refusal to address these issues seriously is the main reason why anti-EU sentiment is growing steadily. For Roger Cohen to try to make a case for the EU while utterly ignoring these issues could hardly be a more pointless and dishonest exercise.