Friday, November 25, 2005

The NYT mindset: Europe Rulz - Amerika Droolz

Speaking of Cold War dead-wood, the former executive editor of the NYT, Max Frankel, has taken some time off from reality to review another revisionist Tony Judt's blinkered book, "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945."

I. Must. Control. Myself. I remember the NYT, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, and WaPo, during the Cold War. I remember their Strobe Talbot world view. Until I got hold of NRODT's mid-80s work on the then conveniently forgotten and dismissed Ukrainian famine, I believed it too.

Must. Avoid. Tangent.

Mr. Frankel has done us a great service here. He as let us peak under his scalp to see how those who were wrong about the Soviet Union still don't get America, and don't understand what prevents Europe from regaining its once great power. He as a wonderfully selective memory and a desire for the world to be as he wants it, not how it is. This is all folded in the rarified sub-group of anti-Americans, who want nothing more than to seem so sophisticated to their peers, and approved of it the oh-so-correct circles.

Let's mini-Fisk.
Buck up, Europe. Though lacking a coherent ideology, a genuine political unity and a significant military, you have stumbled upon a way of life that is preferable even to America's.
Who is in decline? Who has the weaker economy? Who has a complete inability to defend themselves? Who hates themselves and their culture so much that they don't want to bring children into the world? Where is the net migration: from America to Europe, or Europe to America?

I am an Atlanticist and Europhile. Europe is a great place (for now-in most places) to visit, and if you can do it - to live for a few years. But to try to say that Europe is a better model for the world than the US is like saying that the New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFL; just ignore the stats and record - just take my word.

I will be the first to say that the US can learn a lot from many places in Europe (starting with drinking laws, fewer obese children, and waste disposal), but ..... at best we could call it even.
Europe that has learned the value of trying to provide for the common welfare, health and happiness of most of its citizens - a Europe that, with him, sees an America overburdened by military missions and shamed by doctrinal individualism, unfair social policies and often violent tendencies.
This isn't even worth countering.
Educated in Britain and France, Judt has lived in the United States for 16 years, teaching at New York University, directing his own Remarque Institute and looming as America's most prominent scholar of all-Europe affairs. He spoke to an invited audience of scholars and answered the questions of two admiring academic colleagues, Ian Buruma of Bard College and Jan Gross of Princeton University.
Well, that explains a lot. No NRA members there. That is not a formula for a well rounded view or opinion of America. I might as well say that I understand the Europeans because I spent 10 years in Catania and spent my time with expats from the states avoiding the FBI.
... he believes that Americans have misunderstood and greatly exaggerated their country's political and intellectual influence since the 1950s. For one thing, he argues that Europeans experienced the Cold War much less "emotionally" (I suspect he means "hysterically") than Americans, thus drifting toward their own path even before the Soviet collapse. For another, he thinks Europeans rightly understood the demise of communism as a suicidal implosion, and not primarily the fruit of U.S. policy.
Really? Would Israel think it exaggerated? Where would Bosnia be? Kosovo? What would Vaclav Havel say, or Thatcher? Was the anti-cruise missile reaction "unemotional?" The Baader Meinhof Gang? The Red Brigades? The Merkel float?
The most important of his themes is that Europe's welfare states were not constructed for ideological, socialistic reasons, but rather as a "prophylactic" against the disasters that had befallen the Continent throughout the 20th century. This is not widely understood in the United States and perhaps not even in Europe.
Of course, Socialism had nothing to do with it. Of course, only the select few like yourself really understant the true reasons.
The corollary message therefore is that Europe should not lightly dismantle those systems and may better serve the world as a model than the United States or China with their stress on rugged capitalism and military strength.
Of course. That is why France and Germany don't fear the more free-market nations like Estonia and Poland. That low-tax high growth concept cannot compete with stagnation and high unemployment. Oh, and riots.
Judt acknowledged that American society has done a markedly better job of assisting and integrating immigrants. Much of Europe's future, and appeal as a model, now depends on its willingness to spread its welfare tents to the newcomers from the east and south.
And with who's money are you going to buy this love? How long can you tap that well? Has it worked in France? The Netherlands? Denmark?
There is nothing deterministic in Judt's view of how things turned out. They might have been very different if Stalin had not made crucial misjudgments in the late 1940s by rejecting Marshall Plan aid, staging a crude communist coup in Czechoslovakia and encouraging the invasion of South Korea. The Soviet aim of a neutral and disarmed Germany might well have been achieved.
"What if" is a children's game. The only misjudgement was a misjudgement of Stalin's evil that is still being made my myopic people who still cannot come to terms with the evil of Communism. There is no excuse to think all Stalin wanted was a "neutral an disarmed Germany." That is intentional blindness to history. And this guy's work will be used to "educate" people.
But if his scholarship bears any messages, Judt concluded, they are these: Americans need to stop seeing Europe as weak and decadent - even in uncertain form the Continent has progressed far beyond its past and beyond what might have been. Europe, in turn, needs to actively study its inglorious history and not just memorialize its victims in stone; otherwise the tendency to forget and to deny can corrode what has been a brilliant redemption.
I don't know who is worse, the author of the book, or the reviewer. What stupid advice: "America, close your eyes and mind and just think like I do. Europe, gaze at your navel some more and do what doesn't work because it makes me feel good."

BTW, if nothing else, the USA and Canada have a great advantage over Europe (outside a bit of Spanish and French thrown in for flavor) that is always good for an extra .5% of GDP growth: English as a common language. You know what the language of Europe is? It is English. The reason is that, by one vote, the language of economic and political power is spoken by Americans and the Commonwealth - and not Americans and a Continental language. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

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