Paul Rahe discusses the basic existential problems facing NATO and the European Union.
Politics are generational, and there is next to no one left who remembers World War II. The manner in which things spun out of control in the 1920s and 1930s is no longer even a memory. It is all ancient history now. The new generation hardly even remembers the Cold War and does not appreciate how dangerous it once was. The crises that gave rise to NATO have faded into the past. Barack Obama treated our longtime allies with a measure of contempt. Donald Trumpâ€™s off-the-cuff remarks suggest that he may think that he can do without them altogether.
The one thing that NATO could not survive is repudiation by its hegemon. We may live to regret our forgetfulness. …
There is [a] defect to the European Union that cannot be remedied. It is made up of democracies. That is a requirement for membership. But it is not itself democratically governed, and it is difficult to see how it could be. The European elite may be able to bridge linguistic and cultural differences. The peoples of Europe whom they govern cannot. The European Parliament will never be a properly representative body.
In consequence, the EU is governed by a commission appointed by the governments of its members and dominated by its most economically efficient member, Germany. In practice, there is no provision for a redress of grievances and little room for a correction of course. The ordinary citizens of the countries within the union have next to no say about the regulations under which they live and work. In effect, they are subjects within an oligarchy; and, thanks to the crisis to which the common currency gave rise and to the refugee crisis produced by the war in Iraq and Syria, there is now seething discontent. There is no way to vent that frustration by throwing the rascals out.
In the long run, such discontent is inevitable. The citizens in the various countries in Europe are unlikely to be satisfied with a situation in which they are not masters in their own homes. The more intrusive and pervasive the EU becomes, the more it will be resented. And sooner or later, when a crisis presents itself, there will be an explosion.
If the EU is to survive, the European elite will have to acknowledge that the ambition to turn the old customs union into a proper federation was folly, the currency union will have to be dismantled or reduced in extent, and the welter of regulations will have to be cut back. Charles de Gaulle envisioned a Europe des patries. It is only in such a Europe that the distinct peoples of Europe can be self-governing. Sometimes, less is more. …