On Sunday, March 25, the European Union celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which in 1957 established a customs union, common market, and institutions of economic cooperation among six European states—which have now become twenty-seven. Earlier in the month there was another anniversary. The United States, its coalition allies, and Iraq noted the beginning of their fifth year of combined international and internecine war in Iraq, initiated by Washington to establish peace in the Middle East.
I link the two anniversaries to make the point that even though NATO kept the peace in cold war Europe, the EU made the peace. The anniversary observances celebrated the “Europe” that in little more than fifty years has transformed a political terrain ravaged by genocidal war, totalitarian politics, torture, secret police, and a devastated human generation into a zone of peaceful cooperation and rejection of war, as well as political and economic progress, social advance, and institutional altruism without precedent in the history of the nation-state system.
The influential Washington writer Robert Kagan, meaning to be condescending, called this Europe “Paradise” in his 2003 book, Of Paradise and Power. He suggested that it existed only thanks to the United States, otherwise known as “Power.” Europe was “Venus,” he said, basking in complacent peace, progress, and prosperity, while “Mars,” a vigilant and self-sacrificial United States, kept these Europeans safe from what neoconservatives like to call the Hobbesian external world, red in tooth and claw, lusting to ravish Venus.
His book was meant to make Americans feel good about themselves, a manly race protecting their lessers, and to shame post–cold war Europeans into doing more to help the United States in its invasions, wars, kidnappings, extralegal assassinations, torture, and secret imprisonments, directed against terrorist or rogue nations such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and failed nations like Afghanistan and Somalia, as well as al-Qaeda, the bearded assassins of Hamas and Hezbollah, and their fellow Islamic extremists in nations spanning the planet.
These Europeans instead were preoccupied with training and subsidizing the states formerly under Soviet control in the Baltic region and in the Warsaw Pact, many of them with particularly tormented histories of foreign or national oppression or domestic ethnic conflict, to develop the democratic institutions and progressive economies that would fit them to become members of the European Union. Today, most of them are already members of the EU of twenty-seven, and more are on the way to membership. Not all of those already inside are happy with it all.* Pan-EU polls tend to show unenthusiastic approval of membership, but approval nonetheless, even in Britain and Poland, where public opinion is the most hostile. As Charles Moore of the anti-EU Daily Telegraph acknowledged on the eve of the EU anniversary, “The queue to join has always been bigger than the number determined to stay out. As for a queue to leave, there isn’t one.”
The year 1957 was not the real start of what became the European…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.