I encounter it quite frequently in my readings, and this time it was on Richard North’s EU Referendum blog, where he wrote in one place:
The idea – as always with le projet – was to prevent war between the French and Germans.
And in another place:
The idea was to strengthen the institutions of the European Union, relative to member countries so that the growing power of Germany could be held in check.
It’s the very widespread fear that, unless Germany is caged inside the EU, in next to no time the panzers will be rolling through Belgium into France again. And because of this le projet cannot be allowed to fail. It’s a fear upon which even the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has played on at least one occasion.
But actually, how likely is it that any such thing would actually happen? And how much is it a piece of scaremongering that is being used to bolster support for the EU?
I suppose that true believers would point out that Germany and France went to war in 1870, in 1914, and in 1939, and before that as well, so there’s a long history of it happening, and so it’s bound to happen again. But it could equally be said that, here in Britain we have been to war with more or less every country in Western Europe at one time or other, sometimes several times, and so exactly the same hobgoblin can be conjured up with Britain and more or less any country in Europe (and perhaps the world): It’s happened before, so it’s bound to happen again!
But I think there are some very good reasons for supposing that, actually, it’s very unlikely to happen. And the principal one of these reasons is that modern military technology – in the form of missiles, nuclear weapons, poison gases, space surveillance, etc – far surpasses anything that was available even 70 years ago. A war between France and Germany that started at 9 am on the 5th of April of 2021 would be all over by 9:15 am, with both sides having tens of millions of casualties, and their cities and industries completely destroyed. And such an outcome would be in neither of their interests. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is a very powerful disincentive to war. Neither side can permit it to happen. And so it won’t happen.
Also, we are currently living in the era of one single global hyper-power – the USA – which has almost all the nuclear weapons, all the missiles, all the aircraft, and all the aircraft carriers, and so on. And it’s not in the USA’s interest to permit any such war to break out. The USA has become a global policeman, to the point that most of the countries it indirectly polices now retain only vestigial military power (I’m not sure if Britain has a single aircraft carrier these days, and last I heard we were going to share one with the French).
And furthermore, nobody wants any such war. The political problems of Europe are not centred around disputes between European countries. They are problems which, in many cases, grow out of the fact that the EU has turned into an undemocratic and bureaucratic superstate. What was touted as the solution to Europe’s supposed “German problem” has itself become the new problem. The real political division in Europe right now is between its europhile political class and its increasingly europhobic citizens. And nothing illustrates this better than the fact that the EU has voted through antismoking legislation which bans smoking throughout the EU, and thus makes second class citizens of something like a third of the people living in it.
It may well be that, over the next few years, the Euro will cease to be the single European currency, and the EU projet will suffer a setback from which it may never recover. But le projet has long since become the project solely of the European political class. It serves their interests only, and nobody else’s.
The disintegration of the EU as a political project is one that can really only benefit the citizens of Europe. It would save billions (perhaps even trillions), and it would relieve the continent of a crushing overburden of petty regulations (like smoking bans). The demise of the EU would mark the beginning of an economic boom throughout Europe. The only losers would be the European political class. And this why they will play up the prospect of a European war that isn’t going to happen.
And so fears of war really belong with the same kind of scaremongering that is used with passive smoking (and active smoking), and global warming, and all the other hobgoblins sent to scare us. A little rational thinking reveals that it is an irrational fear, just like all the others. But it is a fear that it suits some people to stoke up, because they make their living by promulgating such fears.
Regardless of how the current European political-economic crisis pans out, and whether the Euro survives or not, the years ahead are likely to see the emergence of “people’s parties” struggling to shuck off the dead weight of the EU. It’s already happening, and it’ll happen more and more. And although they’ll inevitably be described as “nationalist” or “populist” or “right wing”, they’ll actually be strongly internationalist, and working through international co-operation. The war of the smoking man and woman against the bureaucratically-imposed smoking bans that have proliferated around the world is becoming an international struggle. It has to be, because it confronts a globalised enemy – in, for example, outfits like the World Health Organisation. And it’s very likely to pull in not just smokers, but also eaters and drinkers and any number of other people who have become thoroughly disenchanted with tyrannical, centralised state power.
And in its small way, the newly inaugurated International Social Impact Survey (ISIS) is a small, hesitant step in the right direction, precisely because it’s international, and it represents something of the convergence of like-minded people from all over the world. And it’s something that’s likely to be happening more and more in all sorts of other ways too.
It is, in short, the future.