The European Union is of course a ridiculous, socialist, nanny state contraption. The thing is, Europeans love that sort of thing. It has also done us quite a favor. It’s been almost 70 years since Americans have had to die on European soil in large numbers. The latest in our series of videos on good news tries to tell this rarely told story…
Ah, Europe. It has added so much to world culture. Germanic Music, British Humor, the French work ethic. There is one export however that has made more of an impression than any other. And that’s violence. Europeans have killed people for land, they’ve killed people for Religion, they’ve even done it for ideas.
Europeans were so dedicated to killing people that they developed whole new ways of organizing their societies and economies to better support the effort. This innovation allowed them to conquer the world. For 500 years the outrages accumulated, and the body count continued to rise. The weapons used got more and more extreme. Each war was more cruel than the last, and every populated land mass felt the effects of European domination.
The European beast was savage to itself, and it was savage to the world.
And then halfway through the last century it stopped…
You see the thing was, Europe was so good at war that it couldn’t do it all the time. They needed to take breaks. They had to come up with elaborate ways to avoid war. In Europe it was never as simple as one Empire making a treaty with another one. The competing interests of never less than 5 distinct major powers had to be taken into account. After the European powers started accumulating world empires, it got even more complex. From the Treaty of Westphalia down to the United Nations, these efforts and organizations would work, but only for a limited period of time. They would all eventually fall to pieces or just lose effectiveness.
After World War II, however, they established something that has continued to work down to today. Visionary European politicians like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman had a plan. The idea was to tie European countries together so tightly that war between them was economically impossible. The post-war generation was able to build the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually became the European Union.
For the past 65 years no major European power has fought another. There has certainly been fighting. But it has taken place on the EU’s borders rather than within the EU itself. Even including wars like the one in the former Yugoslavia, and the one that may be developing in the Ukraine, less than one million Europeans have died by violence since 1951. In the first half of the 20th Century over 60 million Europeans died. European Wars also killed tens of millions of non-Europeans including half a million Americans. For now, that seems to be over. The European beast has been tamed.
Is the EU flawless? Hell NO! It’s a complete mess! They have no appropriate division between what Brussels handles and what the individual countries handle. They have a lot to figure out. But they are muddling through. And this process may help to redeem Europe in another way. The difficulty of the task that Europe has set itself, the attempt to get 28 different countries to work together in peace, across different languages and levels of economic development, is very similar to the tasks that face us as a world in this century. The successes and failures of the EU now will be able to teach us how to better organize the world in the coming decades.
Violence doesn’t have to be Europe’s greatest legacy.
That legacy could be lasting peace.
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