Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Europe, the banality of the good?

Timothy Garton Ash, who runs the European Studies Centre at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, writes a piece worth reading in the New Statesman. I used to read Ash during the collapse of the communist regimes in Europe and he was OK, not great, but pretty good. I haven’t really seen him write anything interesting since then (maybe he has, I just haven’t seen it). This readable but ultimately threadbare article is a perfect example of an attempt to paint over the deep philosopical and political disagreements between Europe and the U.S. He goes through the various "cultural" connections, the tremendous influence of America in Europe, etc., and then matter-of-factly states that "there is some serious power politics, too. It is dangerous for the world to have only one hyperpower. It is dangerous for America itself to be that only hyperpower." He says that the reason the political relations between the U.S. and Europe are so bad is because the Europeans are weak. Now, this kind of abstract (dare I say French) thinking is utterly unpolitical. That is, it doesn’t consider how that power arrived here, what is being done with it, to what use it is put, and so on. After all, when we speak about America we are not speaking about the Ottoman Empire, German Empire, or the Roman Empire. Never mind the question, What the Hell is a hyperpower? The U.S. did not make the Europeans weak. On the contrary, we gave them new life. And then there is this issue that Ash brings up having to do with the "banality of evil" now becoming the "banality of the good" among Europeans. And this "good" is a rich soil in which closer political relations can grow. Culture driving politics. I don’t think so, but take a look at the piece yourself and let me know if you have any interesting thoughts on it. Forgive me for reminding you of my recent piece, The Ugly European.

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