Saturday, June 04, 2005

Thinking about Europe in Atlanta airport (via Blackberry) 

I'm on my way to Brazil, but before I get there I have to pass through
Atlanta. Unlike Newark, which was deserted this afternoon, Atlanta is
bustling. There are many soldiers here, on their way to Iraq via Frankfurt.
A bunch of them were in a bar drinking beer, and I snuck in and paid their
bar tab without them knowing. It was a selfish act on my part - it made me
feel like I was doing my bit for the war effort, when in fact that feeling
is entirely fraudulent - but I'm nevertheless cheered by it. Their last
memory of America will have been of a stranger doing something nice for
them, which is the way it ought to be. If you ever have the chance to do
the same thing, pay that soldier's tab. You'll know you were kind to
people who are doing a courageous thing for you.

I then repaired to a different bar, and started reading through zillions of
emails. Among them was an "intelligence brief" from Stratfor, written on
May 24, predicting that the French would reject the European constitution
(as they of course did last Sunday). The thing that struck me in the piece
was a short bit that discussed the moral poverty of the European Union,
built as it is on the twin purposes of avoiding a fourth ruinous
Franco-German war and ensuring prosperity for all:

"Preventing war and generating prosperity are not trivial goals, but they
lack the moral drive possessed by the great revolutionary regimes - France,
the United States, the Soviet Union. What binds the EU together is a dream
of peace and prosperity. One might argue that this is a more reasonable
goal than 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.' But it is also judged by a
different standard: It is possible to sacrifice all to 'Workers of the
World Unite' or 'We hold these truths to be self-evident.' But a regime
founded on the principles of safety and prosperity cannot demand sacrifice
that threatens either. The idea of a united Europe is not a moral project -
it is a mutually beneficial contract that has no moral hold once those
benefits are no longer safeguarded.

"This gives the idea of Europe a fundamental fragility. A political system
that has no basis on which to justify hardship cannot endure hardship, and
hardship comes to all regimes."

And, I might add, this is why Europe no longer produces such men and women
who today sit in Hartsfield Airport waiting to fly back to Iraq.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jun 04, 11:05:00 PM:

Have a good and safe trip.  

By Blogger Dymphna, at Sun Jun 05, 09:32:00 AM:

Two things:

Your idea of the "secret kindness" is one of the pillars of personal happiness. Just read that the other day. It's particularly satisfying to be able to do that where those who protect us are concerned, but anytime we can do it, we become more truly ourselves. IOW, it increases the core self. So good on you.

The excerpts from Stratfor were good. I've lost interest in them for several reasons: one, at the beginning of OIF, they were horribly pessimistic. So bad, I quit reading them and returned to Belmont, who is so sanguinely optimistic. And usually right. As in both Fallujahs.

Another thing they did, which really stood out for me because I was banking on their being right: on the eve of 2000, they made their five-year predictions, of which one was that the Middle East would fade into a back-water of no international concern.

That one really blew it. I'll read their freebies, but no more subscriptions!

Happy travels to Brazil. Come back spouting Portugese at us...btw, if you have the opportunity, drink a few bottles of vinho verde (neblino)...that is one of the best, not to mention the cheapest, Portugese wines around.  

By Blogger Sean Carroll, at Sun Jun 05, 04:02:00 PM:

"Europe no longer produces such men and women..."? Have you made some sort of study of the moral fiber of soldiers from European countries, and found that they don't meet your exacting standards? When a young soldier from Europe gets killed in combat, they are just as dead as when a young American soldier gets killed.

Complain all you like about European politicians, but that's no reason to casually insult the honor of men and women who are putting their lives on the line.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Jun 05, 06:56:00 PM:


Perhaps I was painting with too broad a brush, damning the flower and chivalry of European manhood in one sweeping statement. Ooops. I would feel worse about it if I weren't confronted with wild and sweeping generalizations about "Americans" every time I travel overseas, but I agree -- in principle at least -- that two wrongs do not make a right.

In any case, I would not want anybody to get the impression that I think that the British are "European," which they are not for these purposes, and those Europeans who have known tyranny more recently (the eastern Europeans who were members of the Coalition of the Willing, and the Aznar-era Spaniards) seem to have more than average fighting spirit. But Europe is undeniably the fountainhead of the increasingly popular Western attitude that nothing is worth actually fighting for -- at least if we mean "fighting" literally as opposed to allegorically (as in "I will fight to save Social Security" and so forth). I think Stratfor rather eloquently explained in the quoted paragraph why this might be so. I'm sorry if I dulled the edge of that argument by damning European youth so uncritically.  

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