by Alexander G Rubio
Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 04:11:11 AM EST
from the diaries. -- Jérôme
The historian, and influential thinker in US administration circles, Victor Davis Hanson has written "A Letter to the Europeans", in which, not for the first time, he takes Europe to task for not standing shoulder to shoulder with The United States in its War on Terror. His field of expertise is the history of warfare, in particular as regards ancient Greece. His most recent book is "A War Like No Other : How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War".
Though the letter is in many ways a plea, an outstretched hand and a love letter to the European heritage, there's no lack of scorn for what Mr Hanson perceives as modern day Europe's deficient backbone.
Although we Americans think the European Union is a flawed notion and will not survive to fulfill its present aspirations, we hope in some strange way that it does — for both our sakes of having a proud partner in a more dangerous world to come rather than an angry and envious inferior, nursing past glories while blaming others for self-inflicted wounds of the present.
Even in this era of crisis, we cling to the notion that in the eleventh hour you, Europe, will yet reawake, rediscover your heritage, and join with us in defending the idea of the West from this latest illiberal scourge of Islamic fascism. For just once, if only for the purpose of theatrics, we would like to urge calm and restraint to a Europe angry, volatile, and threatening, in the face of blackmail and taunts from a third-rate theocracy in Tehran — or a two-bit fascist thug fomenting hate and violence from a state-subsidized mosque in a European suburb.
On the home front, a single, though bloody, attack in Madrid changed an entire Spanish election, and prompted the withdrawal of troops from Iraq — although the terrorists nevertheless continued, despite their promises to the contrary, to plant bombs and plan assassinations of Spanish judicial officials. Cry the beloved continent.
Abroad you face even worse challenges. In the post-Cold War you dismantled your armed forces, and chose to enhance entitlements at the expense of military readiness. I fear you counted only on a tried and simple principle: That the United States would continue to subsidize European defense while ignoring your growing secular religion of anti-Americanism.
The world is becoming a more dangerous place, despite your new protocols of childlessness, pacifism, socialism, and hedonism. Islamic radicalism, an ascendant Communist China, a growing new collectivism in Latin America, perhaps a neo-czarist Russia as well, in addition to the famine and savagery in Africa, all that and more threaten the promise of the West.
So criticize us for our sins; lend us your advice; impart to America the wealth of your greater experience — but as a partner and an equal in a war, not as an inferior or envious neutral on the sidelines. History is unforgiving. None of us receives exemption simply by reason of the fumes of past glory.
Either your economy will reform, your populace multiply, and your citizenry defend itself, or not. And if not, then Europe as we have known it will pass away — to the great joy of the Islamists but to the terrible sorrow of America.
It goes without saying that I feel Mr Hanson is mistaken, on a number of counts. So I've written him a small letter to, not so much argue with his stance, as to try to explain my own attitude, and that of, I think, many Europeans, which I think Mr Hanson hasn't really grasped.
How do you do, Mr Hanson?
Being a European, with a perhaps greater than average regard for Western culture and civilisation stretching back to the ancient Greeks, it was with considerable interest I read your recent article, "A Letter to the Europeans (Cry the beloved continent)". There are, unsurprisingly, a point or two on which our views differ.
I'll not venture to refute the somewhat childish American chest-thumping on the superior performance of the US economy etc., other than to question whether the slow, but steady growth of the European economies, improving the quality of life for broad sections of the population, and based on a prudent fiscal policy, as opposed to the growth of the US economy, built on ever more precarious financial bubbles, a mountain of debt and the pawning off of the family silver, won't turn out to be the most resilient in the end.
But that to one side. It is the so called war on terror, and its incarnation in Iraq, that lies at the heart of this matter.
Yes, Islamist fundamentalism is a very real danger and utterly anathema to Western values. And the time may well come when it will become necessary to defend those values by force of arms, and if that time comes, I think you will find that we effete Europeans have lost none of our flair for fighting, or our ability to beat our plowshares into swords, when need compels.
But the thing is that many, perhaps most of us, do not see this present US venture as a conflict between a defender of Western secular ideals against the forces of religious fundamentalism, but rather as a conflict, for a number of various motives, between two parties, spurred on by twin religious fervours, neither of which carries the torch for the values of the West. And to that is added the small point of victory.
The premier rule of war, which The United States may still be too young, and too little bloodied by history, to have fully internalised, is, avoid the ones you're likely to lose.
What The United States saw as spite and lack of fibre on the part of the nations of Europe in the run-up to this war, was the almost instant realisation on the part of most Europeans that the strategy proposed by The US was almost certain to lead to little gain, or even be counter-productive, as indeed has been the case. Even those who originally defended this war, and still defend the reasons for which it was fought, can hardly avoid the realisation that the practical results have been less than stellar.
We saw the same claims of European perfidy and cowardice levelled at us when the nations of Europe declined to join The United States in its war in Vietnam. But, Mr Hanson, with the benefit of hindsight, do you feel that they would have been wise to participate in that war? France had learned that there was no way, short of utter barbarity, to win such a conflict, and little profit in doing so. In addition France, and many other European powers who had experienced similar late colonial conflicts, was also never deluded into thinking they were fighting internationalist communism, but rather good old fashioned nationalism.
Again what the US is fighting here, today, is not Islamism bent on conquest, but Iraqi nationalism and tribalism. It is a fight that will not be won in any meaningful way, unless fought with utter barbarity. And even then, it would gain Western civilisation little.
Yes, Europe will fight for its ideals when threatened, but not under this banner, and not in this battle.
All the best.
Alexander G. Rubio
This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.