Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Soft Europe

Leon de Winter, on Wall Street Journal. A Dutchman against Old Europe.

Is the Continent willing to fight for anything, besides a welfare check?

(...) After the horrors of World War II, Western Europe turned to new ideals of radical pacifism and post-nationalism. The Continent had been devastated by war twice in three decades. In the 1950s, the desire to avoid more war led it to a new ideology, permeating society and politics, that viewed national interests and cultural traditions as relative. As a result, people started to believe that peaceful coexistence with communist Eastern Europe was better than emphasizing the differences between East and West.

(...) Little has changed in recent decades. Europe became wealthier and more convinced of its idea that world peace can be achieved by talk alone. Even the West European countries in the American-led coalition in Iraq, apart from the British, are only participating symbolically in order not to offend their main ally. In the Netherlands, the authorities speak of "peace missions" when discussing Dutch military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, avoiding terms like "war" and "violence."

(...) But what does Western civilization mean in and to Europe? In the European welfare state, the system ensures that each individual can rely on maximum social security. Without doubt, the welfare state is the ultimate achievement of European civilization. But it did not come without a philosophy: the welfare state gave birth to a postmodern cultural relativism that underpins the tolerant, liberal, pacifistic and secular European societies of today. Only the Earth is still a planet on which opposing forces collide. The welfare state, based on its provision of social services and the participation of reasonably acting civilians, is unable to respond to globalization or mass immigration. Its structures work as long as the system is closed. But because of vast changes in demographics and economics, the welfare state has become too expensive. All over Europe its fundaments are cracking.

(...) Europe could have suppressed the Iranian threat if it had convinced the mullahs two years ago that it was willing to contemplate military options. Only Europe lacks core values that it holds sacrosanct and that it's willing to defend at the highest cost. It will continue to operate on the diplomatic field and cling to soft power even though this is the path of certain defeat when confronted with power players burning with geopolitical and religious ambitions. Thanks to European illusions about soft power, the free world has two options left on Iran: disaster or catastrophe. America and Israel will bleed for Europe's lack of conviction.

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