Belmont Club

The Indispensables

What has kept the peace in the last 70 years, such that battlefield deaths declined from an average of 60 per 100,000 in the 20th century to three tenths of a person per 100,000 today? How can we account for the fact that nearly three generations of men have not had to fight a general war? Was peace maintained by the Pax Americana? Or the stability of the bipolar world? Could the United States standing guard from the inner German border to the Korean DMZ have had anything to do with it? No. It was none of these. The truth is we owe it all to the Euro. French President Sarkozy explains:

Speaking to reporters, Sarkozy called the euro “the beating heart of Europe.”

“We cannot accept the explosion of the euro, which would mean the explosion of Europe,” Sarkozy told a news conference before the G20 leaders went into a working dinner Thursday evening.

“If the euro exploded, Europe would explode. And in fact it’s the guarantee of peace on the continent where there were terrible wars — fiercer than anywhere else in the world — not in the 15th century but in the 20th century.”

And that is why — so the argument goes — the Euro must be saved at all costs. To keep Europe intact. To save the peace. That argument may not be universally convincing but it’s one hell of a line. It was either uttered in earnest by a Sarkozy who believes it to the depths of his soul or by a man desperate to use any argument to keep his pet political project alive.

The heretical argument would be to maintain that the Euro was never designed to defend the world; merely designed to defend the EU — the bureaucracy and not what it purports to represent. That viewpoint would hold that the peace has not been kept by people like Herman von Rompuy, the President of Europe; that the EU merely confused its existence with a time of peace with the idea that it caused it.

What is the truth? In the following video BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman savages Nigel Farage for imagining that Britain might actually need to defend herself in the modern world. And surely it would not have to defend anything if Sarkozy were right and while Rompuy stands guard.

But then the BBC might be wrong. However the BBC’s point of view is a much more widely held body of opinion than Farage’s, who mainstream politics views as a crackpot. And since it is viewpoints like the BBC’s which gave rise to the EU in the first place and which would the most disappointed to see it go, it might be well to understand how the better class of people regard the world.

What is remarkable about Farage is that he isn’t remarkable at all. Apart from a certain facility of expression, most of his ideas are what would have been called “commonplaces” from 50 years ago. His ideas — that Britain should be ruled by the British, that deficits should be reduced by spending less and earning more, that prisoners should be incarcerated rather than set loose in the “community”, that armies and navies are useful because they always have been — would not have been original a generation ago. They might even have been regarded as common sense. But somewhere along the line, through a reversal that historians have yet to fully explain, these common sense ideas somehow became crazy talk.

Jeremy Paxman clearly regards Farage with barely concealed contempt, almost as if he were indulging some escapee from a lunatic asylum; or treating with a retarded child too stupid to register even the most offensive insult. Yet the viewer of the video may gradually come to realize that it is Paxman, not Farage, who is chock full of crazy talk. It is a realization that turns to horror upon appreciating that neither Paxman nor his enlightened viewers have even the vaguest idea of just how insane their ideas are. Jeremy Paxman rattles on in the sincere conviction that the world is just as he imagines it.

Strange as it may seem, Sarkozy might be entirely sincere in his belief that the Euro, the EU and its masses of be-ribboned treaty paper have have kept the peace, simply one of the numberless thousands among a generation which truly subscribes to these things. This detachment from the facts, the invincibility of their fantasy is at the psychological root of the Euro debacle. They never saw it coming; they could never see it coming because reality did not compute. For there are none so blind as they who will not see. It may be a mercy that George Papandreou, rather than Attila the Hun or Hulagu Khan, is history’s chosen instrument to prick their bubble. The collapse of the European dream will be painful, but it is unlikely to be bloody. In a sense Sarkozy was right; Brussels did keep the peace by being so incompetent it has not even the wherewithal to physically hurt itself.

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