September 13, 2003


Quiet Voice Urges Europe to Carry a Bigger Stick: Tzvetan Todorov, a soft-spoken outsider in French intellectual circles, argues in a new book that Europe should abandon its pacifism and rearm. (ALAN RIDING, 9/13/03, NY Times)

[Tzvetan Todorov] shares the diagnosis of Europe's basic dilemma -- that its "soft" power of diplomacy, foreign aid and multilateralism can be effective only if twinned with "hard" military power -- that was offered by Robert Kagan in a much-debated article last year in the Hoover Institution's Policy Review, later expanded and published as a book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.

"The New World Disorder" is one of several new French books to address the current global crisis. In "West Versus West," the French philosopher André Glucksmann offers a strong defense of Washington's invasion of Iraq. And in another, "In the Name of the Other: Reflections on the Coming Anti-Semitism," Alain Finkielkraut warns that anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are becoming synonymous in some parts of the world.

What perhaps distinguishes Mr. Todorov's book, though, is its lack of stridency. Even in print, his voice is soft. A prolific author, he has covered a vast spectrum of theoretical and historical subjects in his books, ranging from literary criticism to essays about Soviet-era concentration camps in Bulgaria and about how Bulgaria's Jews were in the main saved from Nazi slaughter. In this book, his first to address today's world, he again tries to apply reason over emotion.

"You cannot place immediate contentment before everything else," Mr. Todorov said, echoing Mr. Kagan's view that Europe's concern for preserving its "paradise" -- its comfortable way of life -- had made it insular and ineffective as a global political force. "You must be able to defend your values."

That misses the point almost entirely: insularity, ineffectiveness, and the futile search for immediate contentment are values too and they are the values of modern Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2003 8:58 AM

I support the concept of a "bigger" Eu "stick" and the dumping of Nato. Both would provide sharper focus for the USA and be fun to watch.

Posted by: genecis at September 13, 2003 10:34 AM

You can't have declining populations, escalating welfare bills, and a serious military.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2003 10:47 AM

Good post and links. It is all true, of course, but what is truly depressing amd alarming is the rigid hold this mindset has over majority opinion and how difficult it is proving to crack. The brighest and freshist minds are with the US, but it doesn't seem to matter much.

Here in Canada, I naively hoped the war would shame us and break the rote "multilateral, UN, tolerance, etc" zeitgeist. We have an all-star line-up of columnists railing away (Steyn, Frum, Warren, Fulford, Coyne, Wente, Amiel, Gotlieb, etc.), an angry military, a majority that thinks favouably of Americans, a much larger pro-US-policy minority than the Europeans and a good share of the mainstream press opposing the government. But it doesn't seem to matter. The left doesn't really even have to respond much. The tired, dominant creed hangs over us like an endless bout of summer humidity. I don't know if the pampered boomers who run the show even read anymore.

The mainstream liberal/left in Europe and elsewhere has become thoroughly reactionary. Anti-technology, anti-growth, anti-religion, anti-strength, anti-patriotic, anti-semitic, anti-West, they ask only to be left alone to play post-war social engineering and dwell on their sexual gratification and the meaninglessness of life. Muggeridge was right; it really is a death wish.

It reminds me somewhat of the late 19th century when too many conservatives and religious people were so alarmed by radical challenges to the status quo that they made a defensive pact with the devil and allied with or tolerated extreme, anti-democratic forces. Today, the typical mainstream progressive is so bereft of underlying principles that, when faced with the Hun at the door, he can think of no solution other than to invite him in for a mediation session.

Posted by: Peter B at September 13, 2003 11:46 AM