A Cautious Perspective on European Militarism

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Never say, “Never!” While Europe will continue to pare down its militaries and shirk most of its practical responsibilities for years to come, long-term developments may surprise us all. Europe is the continent that has exported, by far, the most death and destruction, and it may not be such a bad thing for the rest of the world to get a breather from the decidedly mixed blessing of Europe's attentions. But what happens when the world comes to Europe? Combine economic cancer in Europe’s south and economic anemia in much of the north with record unemployment and ever-fiercer racism (except among elites, of course, who can insulate themselves), then toss in Islamist militancy and terror, and “democracy” may surprise us: The first wave of demagogues has already struck the political shores. A future militarization might not be for export, but a quasi-militarization of societies...which, of course, can lead, eventually, to cross-border squabbles. While I believe that this issue’s three featured essays make cogent, accurate arguments—and I do not mean to predict any of the above developments—I’d just be cautious of assuming, “Once a pacifist, always a pacifist.” The last great age of European pacifism was, of course, between the world wars (“Why die for Danzig?”). Societies can pivot with bewildering speed—and we do well to recall, in this terror-obsessed age—that the greatest single massacre of the last quarter century was not in the Middle East, or Africa, or in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. It was at Srebrenica, in Europe.