A week or two back I bought The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North. It’s a history of the EU, from the first inklings in the 1920s up until the present day (more or less). The book opens with Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand standing hand in hand in front of the ossuary at Douaumont, just outside Verdun in northern France.
So deep was the wound Verdun inflicted on the psyche of France that the following year her army was brought to mutiny. Its morale would never fully recover. And from this blow were to emerge two abiding lessons.
The first was a conviction that such a suicidal clash of national armies must never be repeated. The second was much more specific and immediate. It came from the realisation that the war had been shaped more than anything else by industrial power. As the battle for Verdun had developed into a remorseless military duel, trainloads of German shells were arriving at the front still warm from the factories of the Ruhr. (p. 6)
During WW1, the French had called upon the industrialist Louis Loucheur to boost French arms production. His experience led him to a conclusion:
Thus, Loucheur came to reflect, industrial organisation was the key to waging war. From this he developed the idea that, if key industries from different countries, above all their coal and steel industries on which modern warfare so much depended, were removed from the control of individual nations and vested in a ‘higher authority’, this might be the means of preserving peace. (p. 7)
The result, 30 years later, was the pooling of French and German iron and steel production, and the beginnings of what was to become the European Union.
I was familiar with this story, but it now struck me that its logic was one that it was really only applicable to its time. Yes, prodigious numbers of shells were fired by prodigious numbers of artillery pieces in WW1. But in WW2, most of the key battles were fought using mobile armoured units. And now wars are fought using primarily aircraft (including small pilotless drones) armed with laser-guided smart weapons.
War has moved on since 1914. You no longer need to produce huge amounts of steel to make prodigious numbers of shells, artillery pieces, tanks and ships. You make fewer, lighter, smarter, precision weapons.
And so one of the premises on which the EU has been founded is one that has fallen redundant. It made sense in 1914. But it makes very little sense now, 100 years on.
In fact, it might be argued that conventional warfare has itself become redundant. Should nuclear-armed France ever declare war on (most likely) nuclear-armed Germany, the war would end on Day One with all the cities of France and Germany in ruins. It would be Mutual Assured Destruction. And this is one reason why wars are now increasingly being fought by irregular soldiers, who aren’t members of any national army.
So there isn’t going to be another war between Germany and France, or between any other countries in Europe either. The idea that the EU ensures peace in Europe does not bear scrutiny. It’s a myth.
But this doesn’t mean that the kind of tensions that result in war will be absent. And it may be argued that the EU, which was created in order to prevent wars between European states, is very likely to be the cause of the next, very different conflagration.
For by becoming the ‘higher authority’ that Loucheur (and also Jean Monnet, the principal architect of the EU) envisaged, the EU has placed itself above democratic accountability. Most of its key officials are appointed, not elected. Its parliament exists only to rubber-stamp measures initiated by its Commission. The peoples of Europe are ignored – as can be seen from the several European referendums whose results have been set aside. And they are subjected to more and more rules and regulations that are spewed out of Brussels. The EU is strangling Europe.
And this where the seeds of the next conflict are being sown, and where some have already begun to germinate and grow. The future conflict will not be a conflict between the sovereign states of Europe, but between the unrepresented peoples of Europe and their despotic EU overlords. Theirs will be a struggle to regain the democratic political representation of which the EU has deprived them. It will be a war that will resemble the American War of Independence, or the French Revolution.
Initially, it will be a purely political struggle, fought through the ballot box. But as people become ever more desperate to break out from under the EU’s dead hand, it will very likely become an open insurrection, and a civil war – particularly if the EU retains substantial political support in other quarters.
And if almost the entire European political class has been sucked into the EU, it is probably because ambitious politicians will always go wherever real power lies. And all real power now resides in the EU. Furthermore, given the EU’s propensity to award itself regular pay rises, being a politician has become a highly remunerative career choice. And since most politicians don’t seem to regard it as their job to actually represent anybody any more, or try to look after their constituents’ concerns, it’s also a very easy job. And this can only result in a deepening divide between the European electorates and their new, unelected political masters.
And today, one of them duly declared it would be ‘mad’ to quit the EU:
David Cameron thinks it would be ‘mad’ for Britain to leave the EU and is secretly backing a move by Tory MPs to warn of the perils of cutting all our ties with Brussels.
And, from his point of view, it certainly would be mad.
But the pressures from below will build up anyway, and are likely to become explosive. And in this manner, that which was intended to bring peace will instead bring war.