Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, May 23, 2005

LET FRANCE VOTE NO

The French will vote on the EU constitution on May 29th. Gerard Baker thinks Americans should be rooting for a no. Michael Mandelbaum seems to prefer a yes. Mandelbaum argues that Americans have benefited from European unification in the past. True, but European unification came in two phases. The first phase, which took place in the first decades of the Cold War, was pro-capitalist, anti-Soviet, pro-American, and a stunning economic success. The second phase, which began with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, sought to rival American while pioneering an alternative "social model" of capitalism. It has been an abject economic failure, with Europe becoming one of the world's most stagnant regions economically, falling ever further behind America.

The secularist, socialist, not-very-democratic emerging European polity bears a growing resemblance to the Soviet Union. The European ethos smothers national pride, seeking to cultivate in its place a pan-European loyalty, though it is far from obvious that this is preferable. (From the American point of view, pan-European consciousness seems to consist in anti-American bigotry.) Europhiles want to create (to paraphrase the Soviets) a "new European man." Ominously, a landmark in the formation of pan-European opinion was opposition to the Iraq war, which was opposed by large majorities in almost every European countries (so I've read). That solidarity with a Stalinist dictator is the one thing the "European public" can agree on is one reason not to welcome the emergence of this new polity.

Maybe the best that we can hope for is that Europeans rediscover patriotism, to love their countries for their own particular virtues, histories, traditions and character. The European past is richer and more glorious than that of any other region of the world, and it is the one great resource the Europeans have. A positive form of identity would reduce the psychological need for Europeans to turn to negative forms of identity such as anti-Americanism.

The European Union has been one answer to the question: How should European nations adapt to their smallness in a post-colonial, globalizing, American-dominated world? It is the wrong answer. They should reject the constitution and think again. It would be an unwelcome upheaval if the European Union were simply to unravel. But the momentum towards "ever closer union" which is inherent in the EU's structure and in the Euro-elite's ideology should be discarded. And a French no would be a valuable symbol of that change of course.

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