February 21, 2008


An NRO Q&A: Death Be Not Proud: Europe’s not looking good. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, 2/21/08, National Review)

Europe is in a bad way. And as studly as he can be, Nicolas Sarkozy isn’t likely to save it from itself. So Bruce Thornton argues as he shines a bright light on suicidal tendencies across the pond. Thornton, a professor of classics and the humanities at the California State University at Fresno argues in his new book Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide.

Lopez: Is it overdramatic to say Europe has “abandoned God and country”?

Thornton: Certainly not, if one is speaking, as I do, of the European political and cultural elite. Refusing to acknowledge, in the European Constitution, the historical fact of Christianity’s role in creating Europe in the first place is pretty dramatic. So are the empty cathedrals across the continent. And the creation of the European Union, which requires the ceding of some national sovereignty, is a dramatic sign of the discrediting of the nation state and patriotism. Time will tell whether these attitudes reach beyond the E.U. elite into the mass of Europeans.

Lopez: How might Europe get on a 12-step program to recovery? Who might lead it from the edge?

Thornton: Alas, I don’t think there is any program that can restore a civilization’s self-confidence and willingness to die and kill for its values, once these have been eroded. Particularly when life seems, for the moment, so good for many Europeans, and their security is underwritten by their boorish American cousins. I think the question is not “who” but “what” will bring Europe back to its senses. A serious economic crisis, or more and more terrorist attacks, might wake enough people up. The problem is, what sort of reaction would ensue? A violent fascist revival is not out of the question. Something else that might help is for the United States to stop enabling Europe’s delusions by giving Europeans a free security ride. The European dolce vita is subsidized by America, for Europe simply doesn’t spend the money on defense necessary for the West to police the world and allow the global economy that makes Europe rich flourish in the first place. An American withdrawal from NATO might concentrate the E.U. mind wonderfully and induce Europe to shoulder its fair share of the security bill.

When he spoke here the other night, Mark Steyn too struggled with the question of how Europe could save itself, but hit the bull's-eye when he said it would have to vastly reduce the statism that atomizes its population. Of course, that isn't likely to happen and so, as Brother Cohen is fond of pointing out, that means that the point at which Europe could have been saved was immediately after WWII, when it couldn't afford its cradle-to-grave welfare systems and faced a threat from the USSR. But America--to what degree consciously is a subject for argument--chose to enervate Europe instead, sending Marshall Plan money to prop up their socialist states and taking over their defense. In effect, after getting drawn into three European wars we put them out of our misery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2008 7:45 AM

The only option to the Marshall Plan would have been allowing the Soviets to take over all of Europe.

Posted by: erp at February 21, 2008 10:41 AM

The Soviets could barely hold what they had and couldn't even take Yugoslavia. Just trying to extend further West would have brought them down quicker. And the Europeans would have had the pride of having resisted and won instead of the dispiriting effect of having us fight for them. The Marshall Plan was the Great Society for ofays.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2008 8:07 PM