Letter to an American 2017
I am a Central European of 71 years of which for almost 50 years I have been readingthe NR. Not without some breaks, though, but consistently enough to be wellacquainted with developments in the American conservative camp. Very early on Ibecame a full-fledged convert to conservative ideas and principles regardingeconomic, social/cultural and political issues. And living in a Communistcountry it was natural that concerning foreign policy of the USA I could notbut identify myself with the hawkish neocon wing of the conservative camp. Inshort, I have regarded majority of American conservatives as my soulmates.
So I was all the more disappointed when I discovered unfriendly if not downright hostile attitude of substantial part of the conservative camp vis-á-vis the European Union or their support for Brexit. The EU is generally portrayed by them as a quasi super-state governed by remote unelected bureaucrats busy with foisting upon helpless states nonsensical regulations that make lives of their citizens ever more difficult.
This is utter nonsense. A few hours devoted to reading the history of European Union from its tentative beginning in 1950 as Steel and Coal Community and then in the form of the European Economic Community would provide anyone with true picture of what the EU really is, how it really works and why is it so!
Let me summarize it:
The founding fathers of the EU wanted to achieve two things.
Firstly to create international institutions in which member states would constantly meet and try to reach agreement on the issues that concerned them. The founders harboured no illusions about conflicting interests of member states, but they believed that keeping inevitable clashes within sundry councils and committees they would prevent them from escalating into war trenches.
Secondly - and more importantly - they were all too well aware that although men are not living on bread alone it is crucial that people have enough of it. Therefore they set out to establish a truly free market all over member states - bringing down all barriers that prevent goods, service, capital and people from freely moving across state borders. Their vision was a continent in which it were skills and diligence of men that would compete and NOT state governments with their subsidies, protective tariffs and sundry favours extended to companies with political clout. In short they aimed at creating identical conditions for entrepreneurs as they exist in the US - so far at least.
To achieve that took decades of efforts with inevitable occasional setbacks. In fact there still remain areas where the task is unfinished. For example the services market is not fully liberalized. Although the full liberalization was proposed by the European Commission in 2004, it was vetoed by some member states with France being the main opponent. The result was a watered down compromise.
So it can be said the Four Freedoms - of movement of goods, services, capital and people - have not been attained for 100%. Resistance from entrenched interests and the lack of support from relevant electorates in some member states for defeating them prevented that. It is the member states and not any bureaucracy that make decision on substantial issues.
Nevertheless over the course of its 60 years the framework of cohabitation of European nations known as the EU has begotten three generations of Europeans that grew up in a social environment vastly different from that of pre-WWII period. Then European nations - smarting from horrors of the WWI and subsequent upheavals - eyed each other balefully while either dreaming about revenge or fearing it. Nationalisms raged everywhere. Thus the things drifted inevitably to another round of bloodletting mere 20 years after the previous one ended. For today´s Europeans the hateful mindsets of pre-WWII people seem incomprehensible.
And there was received another completely overlooked dividend from European integration: peaceful aftermath in Central and Eastern Europe after withdrawal of the Soviet Empire. Anyone informed about the history of the region knows how many unsettled explosive issues existed among the peoples there. The Soviets put these issues in deep freeze as they would not tolerate their serfs to maul each other. However, when Soviets withdrew there was a real danger of relapse to the pre-WWII attitudes.
Fortunately enough the success of western part of Europe with overcoming their mutual hatreds and with achieving high living standards exerted such a mighty pull over people in Central and Eastern Europe that the drums of nationalism - although they were heard almost from the beginning of freedom - failed to attract substantial following. And by setting out to ultimate accession to the EU these countries automatically become closer and closer to each other.
The only exception was Yugoslavia where Serbia - due to historical reasons - looked to Russia rather than to the EU as did Slovenia and Croatia. So the country pulled apart once the Communist glue lost its strength. And viciousness of the disintegration only too well demonstrated the existence of demons that were just waiting in the wings all over central and eastern Europe.
The vision of real and close cooperation of European nations realized over decades is thus a tremendous success. But it would be a historical lie to credit this success to European nations alone. There are two co-authors of the EU. The Soviet Union and the United States. They worked hand in hand, however with utterly contrasting methods.
The Soviet Union towered over eastern European horizon like a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex that gobbled up several of its neighbours and instilled fear in every other country on the continent. That fear kept driving these countries together and was a powerful impetus for integration.
The United States provided not only military protection against the Soviet Union, but exerted pressure on the remaining free countries to overcome their mutual resentments and establish a new level of cooperation. It should be noted that already in 1949 when confronted by British reluctance in this regard the then US Secretary of State told the British PM Bevin: "we cannot emphasize too strongly that the continent is Britain´s shield against attack".
And indeed, the continent´s tranquillity unheard of in whole European history and ensuing prosperity put paid to all attempts by Soviets and their local stooges to subvert the free part of Europe from within and ultimately place Communist armies on the Channel shores.
With Soviet Empire gone and memories of fratricidal wars gone as well and with all achievements of the integration now taken by many as a part of natural order that cannot unravel, we Europeans are in for difficult times. The British referendum in June 2016 with voter turnout only slightly lower than the similar event in France in May 2017 ended with victory of leave votes. A more detailed research of motivations of many "leavers" would show that their decision was based on pure fantasies or lies. This inevitably happens when a foreign policy issue is subjected to referendum, because in every nation on earth only a small minority follows what is going on outside their country and recognizes how important for their country these developments are.
So the UK is now sailing into unknown waters, but what is perfectly known is the fact hat the UK decided to substantially weaken its influence on the continent. Despite all declarations to the contrary there will inevitably be an estrangement between us continentals and the UK .With resurgent Russian belligerency, rising islamist threat and with new economic powerhouses - none of them friendly to both US and Europe - probing their possible spheres of influence, this is not something reasonable men should welcome.