02 March 2007

Old Europe and the Economist

H/t to Instapundit for pointing to someone commenting on this article at the Economist on 01 MAR 2007, "We were there for America". The quote comes from a Lithuanian, but is heard through much of the old Eastern Bloc Nations such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and so on. They looked to America for hope because the rest of Europe was not looking to do anything to help *them* while they were under Communist rule. And some few felt that going back on having free-elections post-war is something that America had to be convinced of by Europeans. Western Europeans. The faith expressed in America comes from people who kept faith with the ideals of Freedom, which they saw as coming from America. I get that view from having talked with my relatives on the Polish part of the family and from their experience in going there and in exchanging letters. That is what the Economist expresses as 'Atlanticism'.

Where was Western Europe? Protesting against America, its military, its 'cultural imperialism' and all sorts of other odd things that they saw as wrong and nasty about the US. Mind you these same folks did not decry the USSR or Communism with that sort of vehemence or disdain, and often praised it and its 'liberal policies'. Thus, from that point of view I have hard feelings that the folks in Eastern Europe want to turn back the clock on those Freedoms and succumb to an all-encompassing bureaucratic State which treats everyone the exact same way they were treated under Communist rule. Even worse is the Economist's inability to actually understand the basics of history itself:

For a start, the crude division of Europe into “old” (anti-American) and “new” (Atlanticist) has hardly helped the still-shaky cause of reuniting the continent.
Could the fine folks at the Economist point to the last time all of Europe was united? Nazi rule came close, but still missed the Iberian Peninsula and, including the Italians, Egypt and large parts of the Middle East and Turkey. Before that? Genghis Khan didn't. Nor did the Holy Roman Empire. Or the Huns. Or the Goths. Or the Franks. But the Roman Empire? Yes, save for the northerly parts of the British Isles and the Scandinavian areas.

And here, using the basic view that the Economist is putting for the "Old Europe" concept, is the problem: Those people don't want to be 'united' in that way.

The Economist goes on from there:
The disproportionate presence of largely token ex-communist forces in the “coalition of the willing” has helped confirm the cynical chancelleries of old Europe in their view that the new democracies are gullible American patsies.

The implication of Romania, Poland and perhaps some other countries in the renditions scandal has blemished what should have been the new democracies’ strongest card: their commitment to human rights. How could those who had suffered in communist prisons collaborate now in the torture of other prisoners? The allegation may be outrageously unfair. But it has stuck in the minds of many.
Here I really don't understand what the Economist is getting at. Are these 'cynical chancelleries of Old Europe' unable to comprehend that one can fight FOR human rights? How about helping a Nation that has always stood firm for your own rights, kept Communism at bay and was castigated for it for decades? You know, as in a friend? Apparently this is too low-brow for these lovely 'chancelleries of Old Europe' and doing such a basic thing is actually betraying human rights in some way, shape or form.

And there is no such thing as 'token help' and any forthright help is appreciated and America understands that small Nations have little to give and so ANY support is appreciated. In point of fact the Eastern European Allies have taken on some of the toughest tasks of training Iraqi and Afghani police and the Poles, in particular, have served well and continuously by the side of the US throughout. The French, however, when asked to do a simple bombing mission in Afghanistan *refused*. Thanks, guys! Nice to know how far your support goes.

A strange universe that this Economist publication lives in:
The damage goes on. America’s role as guarantor of Europe’s security has been weakened. In western Europe, revulsion at the bloody and incompetent occupation of Iraq, coupled with a mixture of astonishing amnesia and lazy prejudice, has wiped away a shared history that stretches from the Normandy beaches to the end of the Berlin Wall.
Actually, the Polish friendship with the US stretches back to the US Revolution by sending Light Cavalry to the US to help out. Many Americans still hold ceremonies, albeit small ones, in commemoration of those brave Poles that came to Our Shores to help us become free. The Poles may, indeed, remember that the US lost 10% of its population DEAD to that war and sorrowed with us over those fallen. But then that was an incompetent war now, wasn't it? Seven years of bloody retreats and then five years having the entire thing near collapse multiple times. Yes, that was a shambles, complete and utter, and we really can't say how many died in debtors prisons in the States to pay for the high taxes with which to repay France.

But that is, perhaps, far too 'low brow' for these wonderful folks, so let us bring it a bit closer to the European doorstep. Why, through two World Wars and countless decades before that if not centuries, has Europe been unable to bring peace to the Balkans? Really, the amount of European blood that has been spilled over and around and in that region is an absolute shambles, that makes the US Revolutionary War seem like a cakewalk. And that is including all the Empires before WWI, the inter-War years, and after WWII. Those fine 'Old Europeans' haven't bestirred themselves one whit to actually find a way to bring some semblance of peace there and spend long years trying to even figure out if they can stand up a government in a place like Kosovo, while the US topples two tyrants, gets two Nations to the point where they can actually hold democratic elections, stand up their own fighting forces and help in their own protection while they fully get accustomed to this 'democracy' concept and 'personal freedom'. What is up with those 'Old Europeans'? Can't they even figure out how to help their next-door neighbors?

Apparently not, as those 'Old Europeans' wish to blame the US for taking out one regime that had supported, aided and housed those that attacked the Nation, and then take out a fascistic tyrant who not only would not be held accountable to a ceasefire, but broke his agreements multiple times and had no intention of actually coming clean on anything, returning POWs and captured Kuwaitis, and also aided, supplied and housed terrorists in his Nation. Poor 'Old Europe' wanted the sanctions to be lifted.

So they could get their money out of Saddam.

Far be it from me to put crass motives and views on the part of 'Old Europe' but France was left holding the tabs on Saddam Hussein because of all the wonderful equipment he purchased from them. With some pressure, perhaps, from Russia to capitulate as it, too, had a large bag of debt from Saddam. I am sure Germany felt some pressure, too, due to its debts from Saddam, though minor in comparison. The UK took it on the chin and did the right thing, absorbing the debts as a necessary 'lesson learned'. Wherefore art thou, 'Old Europe'? Why is it such a good thing to let murderous tyrants aiding terrorists go free from sanctions, just so that you can get a bit of debt back and have said tyrant help arm those that would attack you?

Now on the security front, the US did, actually, help another Nation to stand up after WWII. That is Japan. And we are now in the process of turning over their complete defense to themselves and will remain ready to help if they need it. Such lovely progress in only 60 years!! Yes, some day Germany will be able to do the same as well as the rest of Europe that was liberated. Take care of themselves.

Now this next part I actually AGREE with, but not in the way the Economist wants me to, I'm afraid:
Even in the new democracies, America’s standing has fallen. The cost and hassle of getting an American visa grates maddeningly. Polish and Estonian boys who fight side-by-side with Americans in Iraq are liable to be treated as potential terrorists and illegal immigrants when they want to visit. The administration has moved shamefully slowly on this injustice, and on military assistance to its eager allies.
Here I *do* want to see preferential treatment given to the Friends and Allies of the US that wish to come over, look around and maybe get hired for awhile. Possibly migrate if they wanted. Actually, I adore that idea of legal immigration from our current Friends and Allies, so as to help strengthen the bonds between our peoples. Our standing does fall when we do not show grace and honor to our Friends and Allies, no matter how small, and as a Great Nation the US should be able to show humility *and* thanks for the Friends and Allies that make us stronger as we help them to be stronger. That builds America and Freedom and Liberty.

Strange this next bit from these folks:
Yet, if the Atlantic bonds do weaken, the ex-captive nations will suffer the most. It was America that got them into NATO, and it is America that looks out for them now, much more so than nearer but less friendly countries such as Germany. Any suggestion that the east Europeans can rely on the European Union to stick up for them against Russian bullying is, on current form, laughable.
Well, perhaps if 'Old Europe' were a bit less "hostile" towards these new democracies you might actually be getting some place. And think a bit about trying to get this grand and glorious " cause of reuniting the continent" because the folks in these new democracies may not *want* to be part of a New Empire of Bureaucrats. They might prefer something a bit less distant and far more accountable than that which requires a Constitutional CD-ROM.

Again the Economist has this very strange view of history:
New radar gear and rocket interceptors planned for the Czech Republic and (probably) Poland will probably not do much to change this, You do not strengthen an alliance by pressing on your allies weapons that their public does not want. Helmut Schmidt, Germany's chancellor 20 years ago, thought that having cruise and Pershing missiles in western Europe would make America’s nuclear guarantee more credible. Instead, it cast America as the warmonger in the minds of the muddle-headed, and stoked peacenikery throughout Europe.
Now I do remember the protests galore over those missiles. Actually about US Armed Forces in general and how such things as war games shouldn't be held and that giving help to the US was making everyone worse off and that, really, the USSR wasn't that bad or evil! Yes, I do remember that! And does the Economist remember *why* the Germans had asked the US to put Pershing IIs in Germany? Does the term SS-20 ring a bell? And that Europe had no ready counter to same, so that short range nuclear missiles could be hitting in downtown Bonn in minutes... or Paris... or Rome... would you care to enlighten the world on that? And how those wanting 'peace' had little to say about the SS-20s but scads about the Pershing II?

Strange sort of 'peace', that. Wishing to be placed under the threat of nuclear attack with little to deter it locally. That actually sound more like 'willing accomplices to intimidation' rather than 'peace'. Very strange sort of 'warmonger' that wants people to defend themselves and very strange sort of 'peace activists' who seek to capitulate towards tyrants.

Then the Economist does a very interesting wind-up:
Barring an unlikely success in Afghanistan or Iraq, the strains on the Atlantic alliance will grow in the years ahead. The rivets have long been popping. Now great girders, such as Italy, are twisting and buckling. It was public anti-Americanism that brought down Romano Prodi’s government last week. Old Kremlin hands who remember how hard they once tried to destroy NATO must have trouble believing that the job is being done so well for them now by the alliance’s own leaders.
An 'unlikely success'? What is 'success' to the Economist? Could they please enlighten the world on that? Give this 'success' a bit more shape and form? Because, somehow, getting two Nations out from tyrannical and despotic rule, helping them on a path to democracy and personal freedom and in helping them to safeguard themselves against those who wish to see their Nations brought down and their people enslaved seems to be a route to long-term 'success'. And if a few pieces of 'Old Europe' go wobbly because they have no backbone for the fight *for* liberty and freedom, then they, perhaps, may find that they will lose same and need to fight to regain it. Italy has had many turbulent years and one government going under is nothing compared to what was happening when the Sicilian Mafia was being confronted and dismantled. About a government year in Italy for some number of years. If Russia wants to intimidate Europe, then 'Old Europe' may find the US standing with our Friends and Allies.

The ones who fight *for* freedom and liberty.

To help those who have been oppressed to stand on their own and help them safeguard their future. Unfortunately that gets you opposed by every tyrant, dictator, despot and thug that feels they have something to lose if people under them were free. But then I am sure that 'Old Europe' will remember itself as its own unintegrated foreign Muslim populations start to threaten liberty and freedom. They can't stand mere cartoons and react with the 'car-b-que'. Imagine what it will be like if you actually expect them to work for a living. I am sure 'Old Europe' will start to remember things. Let us hope it is before it needs to resort to the Cordon sanitaire within your own Nations. Too bad you haven't learned to stand on your own two feet, like Japan.

America was there twice for Europe and then a third, long stand during that Cold War.

And if you can't get your own house in order with those unassimilated immigrants who would love to balkanize Western Europe?

Perhaps you may remember the Poles who stood at Vienna.

Because the Poles certainly do.


Harrison said...

a jacksonian, there seems to be some problem with publishing comments on The Jacksonian Party. Seems like the verification number doesn't appear.

Nevertheless, here's what I have to say about The Modern Jacksonian - Chapter 4 - The Perfection of Imperfection:

Enthralling post! I thank you for enlightening me with this brief history lesson. Do you recommend any books on the particular topic of the Revolution and the Civil War?

Those darn Transnational Progressivists have reaped the benefits and milked all that is worth of the Nation-State: that entity that enabled them to pursue their self-interests, ambitions and goals, allowed them to exercise their rationality and intellect by safeguarding their properties (a little Lockean perspective here), provided them a sanctuary - though never perfect - has been more optimal than any other form of social and national structure ever existed.

Recognising the impossibility of realising perfection should not discourage the People of fine-tuning and drastically altering the Government if it is required of them. The People only owe it to themselves - the onus is on them to exact that change that they deem fit.

Again, I apologise for posting something O/T here. Hopefully, the server problem (or something like that) will be fixed.

A Jacksonian said...

Harrison - My thanks! And if you have a code or any such that blogger coughed up on trying to comment, let me know... or send it in to the blogger folks. I have had some problems there, myself, and sent a notice to them but no response... probably time to re-drop them a line.

For a relatively good analysis and overview of the American Revolution, the History Channel put on a stunning presentation, which they have captured in timeline version in basic text, without the added analysis seen in the series. Although not presented in tandem with that are the Founding Fathers and Founding Brothers, which looks at the familial problems and other concerns that happened within families. Although these are the more well known founders, by and large, they are reflective of the greater colonial whole in which families were pulled at cross purposes. While these are relatively glossy overviews, when a series devotes so much air time to the topic the breadth of coverage was beyond my knowledgebase at the start of it and all the interesting bits and pieces of local history along the Colonies gave a better local flavor to the happenings than I have gotten from a single work, previously. And because it does cut across historical sources, including much in the way of source material and letters, the scattering of works looking at those individual pieces are fit into the whole of the Revolution. That said some books of interest are:

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin - and even he left some parts of his life out, but words to understand and know America by
The Saratoga Campaign by David Ellis - which is so far back in my reading history that it is truly a blur, but impressed me as pre-teen
Warrier on Two Continents - Thaddeus Kosciuszko by David J. Abodaher - mostly due to local history in Buffalo and its Polish population
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
Pulaski Legion in the American Revolution by Francis Casimir Kajencki - again due to local history needs
The Revolution in America, 1754-1788: Documents and Commentaries by J.R. Pole editor
The American Revolution, A General History, 1763-1790 by E. James Fugeson

In truth most of my reading done as a boy and teen is what this amounts to... I did do research on various individual topics as they came up in other works, particularly alt-history. To understand alt-history works one must understand the context of the alternative presented and that requires actually placing the real-life context in its place. Thus an early short story I read on how Benedict Arnold came to be on the one dollar bill in an alt-history story by H. Beam Piper led to a reading on Arnold and his background... and even *that* was surpassed by what the History Channel presented so as to know the man and his outlook. That cross-synthesis of more than one source leads to a complex understanding from viewpoints that allow some of the actual events to come to the forefront. A historical novel on Citizen Tom Paine by Howard Fast helps to give insight to the man, for all the scantiness of the non-important works he left behind... more conjecture in some areas, but for some things where the historical record is not there, one needs to try and fit some context to a person in their place. That may do ill justice in some cases, but we want to know *people* not the bare record of history.

That goes nearly double for me in the US Civil War and all the recent work just on television by Burns at PBS and the History Channel give divergent views and convergent ones due to the stresses being placed by the outlook of the author(s) and producers. That is true of all the narratives from the Civil War, too. The complex compendium of problems with the Constitution vice slavery and State's Rights along with the societies within the States led to the Civil War. When one looks at just the historical events, like at the Civil War site, the length and breadth of actions and activities during the war are given an overview. As the folks at eHistory point out: "The American Civil War is one of the most researched conflicts in modern history, yet many people still desire more knowledge about it." And again I would not rely on modern sources only as the view of the purely modern, post-WWII era is not the main nor driving one in understanding US history and has plentiful defects. The historical documents, as gathered by History Central make for compelling reading in addition to later historical analysis.

Reading something like Keep The Last Bullet For Yourself: The True Story Of Custer's Last Stand by Thomas Marquis led me backwards from that event through the reconstruction into the Civil War and to understanding the man of George Custer. That research, as such, was ongoing and not driving to me, but I picked up pieces here and there from historical timelines and timetables to short readings on battles... not the stuff of scholarly research, just personal interest. And I really do eschew reading 'The People's History of...' anything. While I do see peoples making history, I only see individuals writing it and one may write about a people but not put forth their history for them. That is a very personal bias, but it is aimed at weeding out socialist, communist and transnational views which I consider to be ill-based and without understanding that only comes to convergent agreement by happenstance.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass - gives the power of the injustice of slavery and why it was a driving force and showed the outcome of what had been left unresolved from 1776.
Gray Fox: Robert E. Lee and the Civil War by Davis Burke - A man torn between two peoples and one Nation
Strategy in the Civil War by Barron Deaderick
Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Leadership by JFC Fuller
The Gettysburg Campaign by Edwin Coddington
The Centennial History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote
The Civil War by Ken Burns
The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 by David M. Potter
Two Roads To Sumter by Bruce and William Catton
Victory Rode the Rails by George Edgar Turner
Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South by Rollin G. Osterweis
Personal Memoirs of US Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
Destruction and Reconstruction by Richard Taylor

The entire industrial dichotomy of North and South of that era is one of strange confluences and contrasts on how the North centralized in cities for industrial production and the South continuing on the distributed production and agricultural outlook. And yet the railroads would interweave both and spread change. That basic factor is one that has been addressed, but underplayed by many as the sheer capability of such industrial production was a threat to the South. Those same southern plantations and outlook that were the major part of the US economy during and after the Revolution were being supplanted by industrialization. The North, because of that and having better means to accumulate and distribute such things as food and clothing, found itself at a long-term advantage to the South just on a man-per-man basis in wartime. The money was not flowing South as it could only expand outwards with agrarian culture... the money did flow North as concentration of capital and leveraging industry allowed for a greater economic output per person. While the socialists push that as a main factor, and have during most of the 20th century, I see it as a contributing factor and a leading indicator to success. That said success was not assured due to the capability or lack of same, that the populations had to their outlooks on society and the Constitution. A very few flaws in the Constitution in being unable to carry out the outlook of the Declaration and then attempting to paper them over with legislation made the entire thing worse, not better, and it also put off the day until one side could actually *win* the conflict... I am not convinced that had the Civil War taken place a decade earlier that there would not be two Nations coming out. Being unable to find a way through the civil process left the martial as the recourse.

Again, I am not well versed and deeply knowledgeable about the Civil War or the Revolutionary War as anyone with a deep interest in it will have. I have probably read more on the brief overviews and timelines and interconnections via things like The Timetables of History or The Anchor Books of World History than I do of deep scholarly works. The recurring themes of human organizations and outlooks come up in different casts and flavors time and again and knowing those helps to put a recast of similar outlooks into a different era. I have probably scrounged up about as much on Count Belisarius as I have on George Washington, which is to say not as much as any scholar. And as regional and purely local driven history was something put forward at the schools I attended as a youngster, I end up knowing a bit more about Pulaski than about Gates, which still isn't a hell of a lot, all things considered as I retain little about each and it required prodding by the History Channel to dredge up old memories.

As with so much else I try to define the things that drive events, what they are and delineate them and understand how they function in part and as part of a whole. When historical views differ I try my best to understand the stance of the historian involved and see if the views given can be de-skewed and brought into concordance. If not then it is left as different outlooks on that thing and reconciliation is sought elsewhere in the structure. That does not always work, but if it gives a good enough flow of events and understanding of the factors involved, then I stick to it until something better comes along. All histories from the personal to the oblique centuries onward can offer perspective which helps to bring history into focus and our own biases will put our own view into doubt, also, which is always to be remembered. We are continually amazed that multiple driving forces of society, economy, industry, military capability, personal outlooks and religious views can suddenly crystallize to transform events... and yet that happens often enough that it is the norm of humanity and the day to day normality between them the lull of events. Now as industry and technology compress advances, the entire formulation is sped up and we are witness to historical change before our eyes. And yet, reading accounts of the great age of industrialization, the people then saw the exact same thing.

Well, I digress! As with all things of interest in history, I always recommend starting at the top and digging into whatever catches your eye. Read and expand on other things that are of interest... it may get a hodge-podge, but your mind is trying to fit it together and doing the interesting stuff will lead to the areas that connect to you, as a person. If it continues as an interest, reading outwards to other things will gain added connections specific to you... and when those come into disagreement with the views of another, you will have the basis for understanding what a concordance should look like and where your own views are at odds. Learning never stops.