Much has been written and said about making the
The leading members of the EU -- Germany, France, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands -- are already major world "players" as economic and technological powers, manufacturers and financial and trading states.
Historically, with the other European states, and crucially with Greece and Italy, they created Western civilization itself, and the modern Western intelligence, which may arguably be identified with the modern mind as it exists elsewhere.
Not one of these nations can today be considered a "failed" or archaic nation -- one living on its historical legacy.
The great Islamic civilizations of the caliphates in
India were in their time great civilizations, but like Islamic society proved unable to make the crucial transition from the political institutions and forms of antiquity and the pre-modern world, and during the age of European exploration were picked apart by European states like
So what is this problem about Europe's standing in the world today that obsesses the Europeans and generates constant self-examination, endless academic seminars and political conferences, all permeated with inarticulate anxiety?
It has no foundation in the real circumstances of Europe today. Obviously some of the EU's recently entered members have legacy problems of corruption and crime, weak political structure and uncompetitive industry and agriculture; but thanks to membership in the EU, more is being done to solve these problems than would ever have happened without EU membership.
All the EU members today suffer the consequences of crisis in a globalized financial system mainly created by
As a result, the European economies are in trouble, but in the long term theirs are no worse than America's troubles, and they are generally better off than the U.S. today in terms of employment and corporate debt. In state deficit, they are objectively far better than
But here, curiously enough, we seem to arrive at the source of the EU's present belief in its own inadequacy. Its members do not compose a military superpower engaged in world interventions intended to shape international society in a manner that will profit Europe and gratify the self-regard of the European public. This is taken as a weakness.
The actual explanation is one of elegant and edifying simplicity, linked to memories of modern terror and suffering. To use the American colloquialism:
Europe humors the increasingly dangerous American fantasy of global mission. It is time that for America's good as well as its own, the EU ceases doing so, and tries to shake the U.S. free of its illusions.
During the Cold War,
It has never been directed against European societies, other than those that have intervened in this "war" on the American side.
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(C) 2010 William Pfaff