Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Actually, they’re from Uranus

The New York Times Sunday book reviews can be a rather cute thing sometimes. Especially when there’s a “disturbance in the force” that one of the apparachiks of the house organ of the empire of Sneer-opia thinks they need to neutralize the existence of any notion that doesn’t conform to their world view. The usual routine for them to find among the cadres, one with a pencil and a penchance to occasionally comb their hair, to take one for the team.

What I’m referring to, obviously, is Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s attempt to make James J. Sheehan’s “Where have all the Soldiers Gone, The Transformation of Modern Europe” to stop hurting his ears.

It is titled “Europeans are From Venus.” Oh, goodness me! What a wit!

The amusing thing about this train-wreck of his is that it does such an awful job of even understanding its own examples and sources. Citing Robert Kagan’s use of the term “Europeans are from Venus” from “Of Paradise and Power” in his title gives you the sense that there was some grand change in world view over the past century that ties the shrinking capacity of European nation-states to be a global agent for change and arbiter in conflicts, and the reflexive passivity that makes the continent’s Stepford children march against virtually any moving object. They are two entirely different subjects, but to the great minds of the Euro-yack-itopia they are because they both happen to involve soldiers, and, like, guns ‘n stuff, as opposed to the conflicts addressed in any of the theses. In fact at that level of unfamiliar ignorance, you could plausibly tie gravity and sunlight to his arguments.

This outpouring of popular feeling against war no doubt confirmed Kagan in his view that those “Europeans from Venus” are now incapable of the use of military force that still comes naturally to Americans, and that it was “time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world.”
As if conflicts over which Americans have debated, taken issue on, supported or opposed, is somehow so easy to compartment in the “Venusian” mind really is easy for us. The first error is the bigoted one that you can attribute to his entire social orbit which permits him to believe that 302 million people are sufficiently similar to one another, and conform to his cartoonish view to say that without the editors laughing him to the impotent beehive of a continent whose gross neglect of human suffering he’s trying to salve.
However that may be, it’s a surely astonishing fact that no European war has been fought for more than 60 years, at least outside the ruins of Yugoslavia. Western Europe has become politically and socially demilitarized to a degree once unimaginable; after so many centuries of bloody conflict, Europeans don’t want to study war no more. In his scintillating tour d’horizon — and de force — Sheehan suggests that such obsolescence of war is specifically “the product of Europe’s distinctive history in the 20th century,” and he argues that it has created a new kind of European state along with “a dramatically new international system within Europe.”
Which is only possible if you’ve been so violent, so disruptive to humanity that your wars and ideas have killed hundreds of millions of people, that there is a need to be vanquished. This notion that they made this peace, fully born from the beneficence of their hearts is a dangerous delusion.

Which you can correct within five minutes radio listening. Of late, from that great blissful continent of EUtopia, whose dwindling number of children find themselves dancing about the maypole (both of them), we find one of many emerging forces bereft of any compelling moral framework. Not just the inability of the EU itself to embrace pluralism, but more to the point a frustrate Russia in fear of being in it’s last throws as a place with any form of social harmony and future. Never mind the age at which the men are die-ing by their own behavior, as telling as it is, just listen to the reanimated older nature of the Voice of Russia, which kicks off it’s broadcast with news of state visits as if the clock has turned back to 1977, and that whatever civil society there is outside of government is some of the art and sports that isn’t managed by a ministry.

Wheatcroft, in the cherry picking of examples about marching protestors is missing the pattern in European nature of marching armies as they remain, and the reasons they always have. To buy this line of shit so frequently parroted from the right side of the pond, you have to dissociate WHY some militaries are used. Even his citations in support of the “different, better people” argument make this quite obvious:
In late 1991, at the insistence of the German government (itself egged on, one might add, by Serb-bashing right-wing columnists in papers like The Frankfurter Allgemeine), the European Union recognized the sovereignty of Slovenia and Croatia, and then Bosnia, crucially and disastrously before the nationality questions in those territories had been resolved. This encouraged a competitive round of territorial acquisition and ethnic expulsion and “intensified the predatory war being fought by Serbs and Croatians against Bosnia.”
It was of course ludicrous as well as hubristic for Jacques Poos, foreign minister of Luxembourg, to say at this juncture that “the hour of Europe has dawned,” but trans-Atlantic denunciations of European weakness were also misplaced. When the tub-thumpers of Capitol Hill and the op-ed pages were asked 15 years ago what kind of military intervention in the Balkans they had in mind, it turned out to mean American air cover while the Western Europeans provided the P.B.I., as the British Army used to say, the poor bloody infantry, a division of labor that had little appeal in Europe.
Actually, it turned out (four times over) to require both Americans in the air, on the ground, and in the larger part of the reconstruction effort in EUtopia’s back yard.
One can talk about European soft power against American hard power, but the point is made better by Sheehan in the peroration to this excellent book. The birth of the Bolshevik regime — and then of Fascist and National Socialist regimes — was a direct consequence of the “intense violence” then poisoning Europe. The astonishingly peaceful collapse of Communism rather more than 70 years later reflected in turn “the decline of violence that, by the 1980s, had transformed international and domestic politics throughout Europe”: a change for the better if ever there was one. To put it another way, soccer is not only England’s and Europe’s gift to all mankind. It really is a better game.
Peace, you see, is being so vigilant on your passivity, that brutal hangovers of the state-fetishizing socialism can engage in genocide without any fear of intervention, mere hundreds of kilometers from the rotting boulevards where millions marched against the deposing of Saddam Hussein.

That surely must be something to be proud of. The only way to be so proud is to pasteurize the mind of the questions “why” and “when” to the reasons war is often unavoidable when the ugly memories or war are, in fact, inadequate to dissuade internecine violence and genocide from this continent that supposedly “remembers” war and brutality.

As for “whose game it is” is really the key to understanding a critic like Wheatcroft. It’s made obvious by spuriously throwing in an old quote from Evelyn Waugh:
It isn’t necessary to agree with Evelyn Waugh writing to his friend Graham Greene — “Of course the Americans are cowards. They are almost all the descendants of wretches who deserted their legitimate monarchs for fear of military service” — to see clearly that the United States isn’t a warlike country at all. In many ways it has always been more deeply peaceable in its instincts than ever Europe was.
And is the civilianization of Europe such a bad thing? Although there has been much grumbling about the Bundeswehr’s inadequate contribution in Afghanistan, some of us cannot see it as an occasion for pure regret if the Germans have changed character so drastically.
Because it isn’t about peace, the protection of innocents, or anything else – it’s about Europeans no longer “owning the game”. My sense is that if Europeans had a game, frankly ANYTHING that would work to even take a chip out of the abuse vulnerable people worldwide have to suffer, Americans would be more that happy to let them have their little never ending end-zone dance. But they have to actually do something to demonstrate that they can actually do something to support their self-flattery with fact.
And they might want to abandon their schitophrenic relationship with themselves as both a special class of humans and a mass of pitiable, emotionally vulnerable peace lovers in need to having their precious little feelings protected. Oh, and their class hatred at some point in the next century too, if they can, but I wouldn’t hold my breath – because somewhere in their S&M game of not being able to figure out if everyone in an over-or-under class, and the insistence of proletarian-seeming sameness of outcome, they’ll continue to forget as they’ve had so often before in their history – the people that get killed when they think they “know their game”. This time it might be a deterministic attempt to tax the carbon out of the atmosphere, or anti-globalize our way to impoverishing billions in Asia and Africa, but any way you shake it, the ugliness that comes out of the hubris that they can’t seem to develop in their breathtaking enlightenment will emerge to do more harm again.

Like one fellow I had to listen to last night who told me, imagining that everyone MUST agree with him, that there was something evil and calculating about George Bush spreading democracy, all you have to do is ask them when did promoting democracy and pluralism suddenly become so evil? Simple: when the people your childish hatred compels you to oppose do something you can’t bring yourself to admit is positive, and when your own world view completely failed to succeed in its’ own attempt to promote human freedom.

Much in the way that foolish old coot was willing to dispose of human dignity to make his point about his own notion of the defense of human dignity, so will the European social brain trust. Of course the humans themselves need not apply.