Spiegel Online has posted an interview with Walter Lacquer and it’s the most pessimistic thing I’ve read this summer (and I read, think, and write about war all day, so that’s saying something). To say he doesn’t have a rosy view of Europe’s future is an understatement: “Europe will not be buried by ashes, like Pompeii or Herculaneum,” he says, “but Europe is in decline. It’s certainly horrifying to consider its helplessness in the face of the approaching storms. After being the center of world politics for so long, the old continent now runs the risk of becoming a pawn.”
But what of the “soft power” that Europe holds in such high esteem? It’s currency as the home of the Enlightenment, democracy, etc, etc?
Freedom, human rights, social justice are all wonderful, and I don’t want to minimize the achievements of European societies. But a role model? Europe is much too weak to play a civilizing or moral role in world politics. Nice speeches and well-intentioned admonitions carry little weight when made from a position of weakness. In fact, all they do is aggravate China and Russia. Such reproofs are presumptuous, insincere and, unfortunately, often ridiculous. Under the current circumstances, Europe would be well advised to keep a lower profile.
Of course, life doesn’t just take place at the top. Being eliminated from the Champions League isn’t the end. But then it might be advisable to somewhat limit the generous distribution of good advice to other countries and not to invoke one’s own achievements as enthusiastically. Constant self-praise could easily become counterproductive, because one’s achievements should never be taken for granted. The EU may survive the current crisis, but what about the next one and the one after that? It is no longer a given that the majority of Europeans want to continue to the end of the path to a political union. The first stabs at moving away from that concept are unmistakable. Nothing is without an alternative in history and politics.
Check it out. Enjoy your weekend.