CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 20, 2017 — In his new book “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age,” author James Kirchick delivers a dark warning against ignoring growing tensions across the continent. The vote for Brexit in the United Kingdom was followed by the upset election of President Donald Trump in the United States. There are growing threats from the right in France and the left in Greece, with the potential for Frexit and Grexit to further diminish the EU.
The United States has never paid much attention to what happens in Europe. Europeans frequently chalk it up to “American arrogance,” but it has more to do with geography than anything else.
While our European counterparts decry our braggadocio, Americans often feel Europeans go merrily on their way with their social programs while leaving it to the United States to supplement their economies through defense programs and American lives.
When the Berlin Wall crashed down in 1989 and the European Union adopted a common currency, all of this was supposed to change. Mark Hemingway wrote in “The Weekly Standard” that that the new, unified Europe was meant to usher in the “Pax Europaea” for the foreseeable future. So what happened?
The West underestimated Russia as a potential source of further problems in Europe. Kirchick is and has been no fan of Donald Trump, who has only held office for two months but has shaken the global arena since announcing his candidacy for president.
Combine Trump’s weakness with the cumulative effect of the Obama/Clinton/Kerry administration and you have a recipe for disaster.
As Kirchick puts it, Obama’s “blunders continue to be ignored.”
In a review of “The End of Europe,” Mark Hemingway notes,
“As Obama was entering office, Central and Eastern European leaders—including those who know a thing or two about Russian aggression, such as former Czech and Polish presidents Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa—published an open letter to President Obama warning ‘Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods.’
“Nonetheless, Obama ignored those who knew better and moved full steam ahead with plans to placate Russia. The administration’s incompetent ‘Russian Reset’ came just six months after the invasion of Georgia, for crying out loud.”
Hillary Clinton’s misadventure with the red Russian reset button may have been a cute “kicker” for the major television networks in the United States, but it was a classic example of the ignorance that inexperienced diplomats can have on a global stage.
Obama, who has always regarded himself as an intellectual with the oratorical skills capable of sugar-coating any crisis no matter how dire, responded to Vladimir Putin’s invasion into Crimea by saying, “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”
According to Kirchick, much of what is happening today in Europe is under the radar precisely because of American apathy regarding the continent in much the same way we respond to global terrorism and an understanding, or lack thereof, of Islam. Kirchick warns there is much to be aware of in numerous pockets of conflict including rising anti-Semitism in France and ethno-nationalists in Hungary who are attempting to “whitewash the country’s Nazi complicity.”
As Kirchick sees it, Europe appears to be taking two steps backward both culturally and politically for every step forward.
It has been more than seven decades since the end of World War II, and while there are countless scars and reminders across the continent of that conflict, 70 years is more than enough time for memories to fade.
In sum, Kirchick concludes his premise with a warning, “Where Europe once had men and women like Havel, Kohl, Thatcher, Mitterand, and Walesa, today the likes of Zeman, Corbyn, Orbán, Kaczynski, and Le Pen are ascendant. Belief in joint prosperity and the rejection of zero-sum politics—necessary precursors to Europe’s unprecedented peace and prosperity—are losing adherents.”
The time has come for the United States to pay more attention to international affairs such as Islamic jihad and Europe’s internal struggles if we are going to prosper well into the future in a global arena.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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