Friday, September 25, 2015

Europe’s Tragicomic Destiny: The Little Continent that Couldn’t

Not even the most imaginative Hollywood writers could have come up with such an unlikely scenario: the world’s second largest economy, a political entity grouping nearly thirty countries, and hosting forty military bases replete with the most modern weapons, is rendered helpless by leaderless, weaponless civilians arriving in dinghies, and proceeding to overrun it on foot with the help of apps and maps. 
How did this happen?  After World War II, instead of helping the multifarious nations jammed together on the small Eurasian peninsula to overcome their historical enmities, the US kept them in a constant state of alert vis a vis a more powerful neighbor, whose worldview clashes with its own. Washington’s systematic message to Europe has been: “We rescued you twice in one century from your own follies, now do as we tell you, so no country can threaten the most powerful nation on earth that protects you.”
Having allowed itself to be convinced that sooner or later Soviet tanks would roll across their Central plain, the Western Europeans allowed every conceivable type of materiel, together with the personnel to operate it and the superstructures to command them, to violate their sovereignty. After the unexpected fall of the Soviet Union, the nations of Eastern Europe all the more enthusiastically joined the master plan to defeat a Russian invasion that they had lived unwillingly within the giant’s orbit. 
After World War II, Europe had served first as an active client for US civilian goods, then as a passive client for war goods. But once the Communist behemoth was brought down, Wall St and the boardrooms of industry having realized that war guarantee ever-increasing profits, the US had to find another enemy: it first designated Russia, then Muslim jihadists. 
Although subordinated to the United States, post-war Western Europe gradually put together an economic and social system that allowed entrepreneurs a relatively free hand while protecting workers. When they could no longer keep the populations of their colonial empires at bay, they emancipated them, realizing they could be useful as low paid labor. The populations of France and Germany soon counted up to ten percent of Muslims, while other Western countries count between 2% and 5%.
Eventually Europeans embraced free movement across their national borders, codified in the Schengen Agreement: only its borders with the outside world were closed. However, the countries of the West having failed to realize that those of the East had only been paying lip service to socialism’s ethos of solidarity, those open borders now make the task of dealing with a massive influx of refugees almost impossible. Having not only been isolated from the West but having played no role in either profiting from or attacking the Muslim world, as relatively homogeneous white, Christian countries, Europe’s eastern countries claim they should not be expected to welcome its populations as refugees. No longer members of a group of ‘fraternal nations’, they enthusiastically participate in the common ‘European House’ as Gorbachev called it, with Polish plumbers job hunting in Great Britain, and Bulgarian prostitutes gracing the Riviera.  But they have abandoned all pretense of solidarity, returning to the mentality that prevailed during their feudal past, when they cooperated with Nazi Germany.
 Hungary has emerged as the prime example of resurgence. It pepper sprays immigrants breaching its fence with Serbia before arresting them, provoking a violent reaction and forcing Serbia to build its own fences, while Germany, determined to fulfill its humanitarian mandate, temporarily closes its border with Austria in order to catch up with processing. 
The headquarters of the European Union in Brussels has been criticized for decades for wanting to regulate everything, but perhaps more ominously, its power has left individual head of state powerless. The EU’s young, energetic High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, sternly demanded each country take a fair share of refugees, but has obtained only monetary relief for Italy and Greece, where those crossing from Turkey and North Africa debark. The French interior Minister tries to reassure parliament that he is doing everything he can to alleviate the situation, although he has prevented thousands camped in Calais from reaching Great Britain, and refused to allow refugees through France’s Mediterranean border with Italy.
Neither France’s vaunted ‘rayonnement’, nor Germany’s passion for order are any longer operative: thousands of able-bodied young men, together with a few women and children, are traipsing through what for decades had been carefully tended roads, fields and woods, leaving pup tents and trash behind, determined to secure the perks of development denied them when they were the handmaidens of Europe’s pleasures. 
This unexpected, yet predictable situation is the direct result of Europe's supine acquiescence to worldwide American aggression, which, in a supreme irony, has resulted its constituent countries once again turning against each other, revealing in almost farcical manner the impossibility of the European dream, in particular the success of the East/West reunification.
Not to mention that inevitably among genuine refugees from the horrors of war, and those who are merely pursuing easy money and fast cars, are foot-soldiers ready to pave the way for ISIS to brutally conquer Europe for 7th century Islam, rather than allowing it to gradually move toward a 21st century iteration that would echo Marx and Pope Francis.

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