Thursday, October 30, 2008

Europe's Paradise still needs American Power

After finishing Judt’s 1996 book, A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe, I decided to see if I could find something more recent from him on the subject. I ran across the above, an article written for the NYROB entitled “Europe vs. America.” It was written in February 2005. In it he is much more critical of America than in his book. Perhaps he was influenced by the anti-American books he was reviewing and couldn’t help himself.

At one point Judt writes, “America’s strategy of global confrontation with Islam is not an option for Europe. It is a catastrophe.” I’m not sure what Judt means here. America doesn’t have a strategy of global confrontation with Islam.” Perhaps he meant “Islamism.” That would be true, but then why that would be a catastrophe for Europe is mystifying. I have noticed that Europeans, many of them, like to keep blinders on regarding the worsening situation regarding the Islamism they are not confronting. Now that strikes me as portending a catastrophe. I have written several articles in this blog on that subject already. Avoiding that confrontation isn’t going to make it go away. Taking comfort, for example in the fact that Muslims are only 9% of the French population seems rather naive. Not all of this 9% or 8% or whatever it is going to cause trouble, but Europeans don’t assimilate immigrants very well. This encourages them to live in enclaves where they hear Mullahs ranting against Christians and their ongoing Crusade against Islam. I’d like to hear how it is better to avoid confronting that problem, Mr. Judt.

Further down he refers to “Contemporary American pundits, the ‘terribles simplificateurs’ who babble glibly of Mars and Venus or Clashing Civilizations . . .”

Actually, Kagan’s book is very different from Huntington’s. The two books Judt is calling terrible oversimplifications are Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power, America and Europe in the New World Order, and Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Perhaps Kagan’s book could be called an oversimplification. I wished when I read it that he had gone into more detail, but I wished the same thing when I read Judt’s book. These are essays not fully developed works of scholarship. That Kagan is capable of first-rate scholarship is well established (see his Dangerous Nation, America’s Place in the World from its earliest days to the dawn of the twentieth century). I would point out to Judt that his book Of Paradise and Power sits right next to Judt’s A Grand Illusion? on one of my shelves. The two books are almost exactly the same size. Is Judt’s being a terrible simplificateur in his book as well? The charge of oversimplification may depend on whether the reader likes what his reading. I rather liked Kagan’s book and didn’t have the same objections to it that Judt and Ash did

In fact my note earlier today I chided France and Europe for not being better prepared for a possible Bosnian war redivivus. Judt criticizes Kagan but in the 13 years since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, Europe has done little to prepare itself for another such war. It still thinks of itself, apparently, as the “paradise” Kagan describes. Judt and Timothy Ash castigate him for doing so. They’ve had their laugh at Kagan’s oversimplification, but in the meantime those neighboring countries of yours, you Europeans, have gone on doing what neighboring countries have always done and your faith that their proximity to your European paradise is going to convert them hasn’t worked. Which means that once again the “Power” that Kagan refers to is going to have to be requested . . . or created by yourselves; something you have proven yourselves utterly inept at doing. You haven’t done it in 13 years, despite the lesson of the first Bosnia war. Why should anyone think you can do it now that Dodik is yanking on your chain? Yes, Kagan has engaged in some oversimplification. He has left out all the European self-justification and whining.

As to Huntington’s book, that is a very different matter. It is not an oversimplification. It rather clearly, in my opinion, describes a world order where clashes between “civilizations” at their “fault lines” occur and will continue to occur on into the foreseeable future. Note to Judt: What happened in Georgia recently fits Huntington’s description of a fault-line conflict. You in Europe have seen fit to swallow up some of the fault-line nations (from the fault line between the West and Orthodox civilizations). You scoffed at Huntington but you would have been better off reading him. You committed an error you could have avoided had you read him. Yeah, go after fault line nations if you have a mind to. Incorporate them into your EU, but be prepared to defend them and yourselves if anyone in the “Orthodox Civilization” objects. Your paradisiacal condition won’t protect you from Putin’s ire. You’ll have to dial that international 911 number and get hold of the American President.

Lawrence Helm

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