Scientology convert and couch-stomping actor Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes in a 15th century castle in Italy in front of celebrity crowd of 150 guests and the rest of the world. Going by the media coverage of the event and the bizarre adulation of the thousands of obsessed bystanders gathered outside the castle, you could have sworn Zeus and Hera were reaffirming their marriage vows on Mount Olympus in an epochal event that would resound through the ages.
In the meantime, Europe dithered.
Thomas Sowell, in a recent Capitalism Magazine column, "Where is the West?" (November 17) observed that the sixty years of European peace was "due to American nuclear weapons, which was all that could deter the Soviet Union's armies from marching right across Europe to the Atlantic Ocean." He also noted that
"Two generations of being insulated from the reality of the international jungle, of not having to defend their own survival because they have been living under the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, have allowed too many Europeans to grow soft and indulge themselves in illusions about brutal realities and dangers."
Sowell was remarking on European protests against Saddam Hussein's death sentence and the alleged torture of Islamic prisoners of war held by Americans. One wonders how contemporary "soft and squeamish" Frenchmen view the execution of Pierre Laval, who as premier headed the collaborating Vichy government during the Nazi occupation and was tried and executed in 1945 as a traitor, or the public humiliation of French women who had fraternized with German officers while Laval was sending their countrymen off to work as slaves in German war plants. Perhaps they would claim Laval deserved a light sentence and a chance at rehabilitation.
Europe has had a double run of luck since the collapse of the Soviet Union. First, it did not need to over-worry about the Soviet threat. The U.S. and its military sidekick, NATO, were sure to protect it. Then the "evil empire" collapsed of its own postponed contradictions, together with an inability to keep pace with American military armaments, and that peril vanished virtually overnight.
No European nation, however, has had to set aside as much tax revenue for military purposes, in proportion to its gross national product, as has the U.S. Thanks to the American outlay, most European nations could afford to earmark their own tax revenues to establish profligate welfare states, which Democrats and other statists here in the U.S. envy and itch to emulate. Point this out to a European politician or an American Democrat, and he will say that it's irrelevant. Welfare states, they would insist with self-righteous indignation, are a matter of social and economic justice, and have nothing to do with external enemies, imaginary or otherwise.
Welfare states, however, tend to go to war, chiefly out of the necessity to compensate for the wealth consumed in sustaining non-productive bureaucracies and growing populations of entitled dependents. Germany did it three times in the span of seventy years, beginning with the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
France will not be outdone. Successive French governments, together with its press and intellectuals, have for decades nurtured a simmering animosity towards Britain for being too recalcitrant about surrendering its sovereignty, independence and identity to an amorphous but tyrannical European Union. But Britain and France are at present like oil and water. Compare just the nominally Lockean legal system of Britain with France's semi-Napoleonic system - or Britain's with the byzantine European Union legal system, and one can begin to understand why Britain has been dragging its feet.
"Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, wants Britain to choose between being a 'vassal' of the United States, and embracing a French-led drive for European integration, her adviser on Europe has revealed," reported the Daily Telegraph on November 20th ("Ségolène urges Britain to choose between Europe and America")
Gilles Savary, a French Member of the European Parliament and Royal's foreign affairs adviser, told the Daily Telegraph:
"Great Britain is absolutely indispensable to the European Union. It is a great nation, a global power. But the question the English have to answer is - do the English consider the English Channel to be wider than the Atlantic? We on the continent have the right to deplore the fact that Great Britain appears to consider the Channel is wider."
Rephrased: We have a right to envy Britain. Dices of roast beef are indispensable to our Continental bouillabaisse, for flavor and consistency.
And the Atlantic between Britain and the U.S. is narrower? So be it. In short, Britain must decide whether to remain a rhetorical "vassal" of the United States, or an actual vanquished "vassal" of European Union bureaucracy.
Such talk seems calculated to offend Britain and guarantee its alienation. If Britain has any pride, it should continue to regard the Channel as wider than the Atlantic, and refuse to accept the role of whipping boy for the U.S. France wants to eat Britain and have it, too. So does the European Union. Like any gang of bullies, the Continentals view Britain as a reproach and a nemesis that must be persuaded to join, or be conquered, or at least be humbled through political and economic ostracism. They cannot tolerate a stand-alone.
A Britain absorbed into the undifferentiated mass of the European Union would also destroy the "special relationship" between Britain and the U.S. Britain certainly has problems - among other things, a Muslim population that wants to be separate but equal, a bureaucracy that rides roughshod in a demonstrably anti-Lockean manner over a variety of rights and liberties, a Scotland that wants to end its 300-year union with England - but it remains the most un-European of European nations.
In reporting the details of Royal's EU policies, Savary said that "Britain would be asked to sign up to the new treaty, but if it rejected calls for increased protectionism, an EU foreign minister, convergence on tax rates and moves to create a European army, then France and her allies [tentatively, Germany, Italy and Spain] would agree to a treaty among themselves."
The "new" treaty Savary spoke of would replace the EU constitution that was shot down by French and Dutch voters last summer. But, one must wonder: Protectionism - against whom? A convergence of tax rates - with what nation paying the most, because it is, among European nations, the freest and most prosperous? Is Royal's goal to guarantee the egalitarian impoverishment of all?
A European army? To defend what political entity against what enemy? And generaled by a bureaucracy, modeled, perhaps, on the Pentagon, which is no longer concerned with winning wars, but instead "hearts and minds"?
Meanwhile, from across the expanse of Eurabia, the long arm of President Vladimir Putin's SMERSH-like Federal Security Bureau has struck in London as well as in Moscow. Alexander Litvinenko, a former colonel of the Russian secret service and an outspoken critic of Putin, was poisoned with thallium in a restaurant while meeting an unknown female journalist who claimed to have evidence concerning the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October. The evidence, if authentic, probably pointed to Putin's FSB. If bogus, it was an element of an elaborate plot to exact revenge on Litvinenko, regarded as a traitor in Russia.
Complicating the assassination attempt on Litvinenko is that he is now a British citizen. Politkovskaya was the thirteenth Russian journalist to be assassinated. Her editor, Yuri Shchekochkhin, was poisoned with dioxin in 2003. In 2004 Viktor Yushchenko, a presidential candidate in the Ukraine, was poisoned with dioxin, as well. He survived the attempt on his life, won the election, but remains disfigured. It would be interesting to know how many individuals have been poisoned, shot, garroted, jailed, and kidnapped and never heard from again by Putin's agents since he rose to power.
Vladimir Putin is an incarnation of an Ian Fleming villain. His face is an icy mask of ascetic evil. In addition to directing the murderous projects of the Siloviki, his SMERSH-like faction in the Kremlin (staffed largely with former KGB colleagues) he could just as well be the head of SPECTRE, or the "Special Executive for counter-intelligence, terrorism, revenge and extortion." Putin has practiced all those arts in his bid to consolidate power and to restore Russia as a major player in global politics, using oil as both a bargaining chip and a tool of extortion. Rivals in tyranny, such as the Muslim separatist movement in Chechnya, and free press and capitalists in Russia itself, have been crushed and scattered as efficiently by his brutality as was any opposition to the Czars in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In footage of Bush's recent visit to Russia (on his way to Hanoi) Putin, purportedly an "ally" in the "war on terror," welcomed the president with a pat on the back. It was the gesture that condescends to welcome a useful idiot.
In the Mideast, assassination is also a popular tool of repression, though less subtle than poison. Just this week, Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, member of the Lebanese cabinet, and critic of Syria's (and by implication, Hezbollah's) influence in Lebanon's affairs, was shot and killed outside of Beirut by three gunmen who used, appropriately, silencers.
And in the Gaza, the life of Mohammed Baroud, a leading Palestinian terrorist, was spared extinction by an Israeli airstrike when hundreds of Palestinians formed a "human shield" inside, in front of and atop his home. The Israelis, who have adopted the "humane" policy of warning "militants" that they are about to strike in order to avoid civilian casualties, in this instance telephoned Baroud with a ten-minute warning. Israel cancelled the airstrike. The Palestinians cheered. Baroud will live on to oversee continued rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. (Daily Telegraph, November 20).
In a militarily absurd explanation for the cancellation, a spokesman for the Israeli military said, "We don't want to hurt uninvolved civilians. The terrorists are using uninvolved civilians as human shields."
Uninvolved? Hundreds of Palestinian cretins rush to protect a killer, and they are considered "uninvolved"? Every one of them deserved to die in that airstrike. They are as much Israel's enemies as the gangsters of Hamas. Who do you think will swarm over the carcass of Israel in orgies of murder, rape and looting if Israel ever succumbs to Ahmadinejad's nuclear blackmail?
If Israel wishes to survive, it must abandon the U.S. warfighting policy of treating enemy populations as "innocent" and blameless, and treat "human shields" as weapons to be eliminated as ruthlessly as are tanks, rockets and gunmen.