In this article Friedman argues that the present European financial crisis has essentially ended that experiment. European nationalism always existed just under the EU veneer and the crisis is bringing it back to the front. Friedman argues these forces will result, over the course of the next generation, of the EU fracturing -- the only question being how many parts it eventually breaks into.
Since the topic was Europe I looked to European actresses for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe and, after my usual due diligence, I selected the French actress Eva Green for the honor.
Ms Green has been in the movies since 2003 and has worked her way into starring roles in major studio films, including roles a Bond girl is a couple of 007 films. However, I selected her for her role in her first movie, The Dreamers, because it was an international French/British/Italian production.
The synopsis of The Dreamers has a young American film buff meeting Eva nad her brother, also film buffs, and they end up frequently naked in a faintly incestuous threesome while the 1968 Paris riots occur outside of their fantasy world. I haven't seen the movie, but I can't imagine that it ends well.
The description of the movie led me to suspect there was, aside from a lot of romping around nekkid, much European film philosophical twittery in it. The single work-safe clip I found, which I've embedded as a bonus after the article, certainly would seem to support that suspicion.
Europe, the International System and a Generational Shift
By George Friedman, November 8, 2011
Change in the international system comes in large and small doses, but fundamental patterns generally stay consistent. From 1500 to 1991, for example, European global hegemony constituted the world’s operating principle. Within this overarching framework, however, the international system regularly reshuffles the deck in demoting and promoting powers, fragmenting some and empowering others, and so on. Sometimes this happens because of war, and sometimes because of economic and political forces. While the basic structure of the world stays intact, the precise way it works changes.
The fundamental patterns of European domination held for 500 years. That epoch of history ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union — the last of the great European empires — collapsed with global consequences. In China, Tiananmen Square defined China for a generation. China would continue its process of economic development, but the Chinese Communist Party would remain the dominant force. Japan experienced an economic crisis that ended its period of rapid growth and made the world’s second-largest economy far less dynamic than before. And in 1993, the Maastricht Treaty came into force, creating the contemporary European Union and holding open the possibility of a so-called United States of Europe that could counterbalance the United States of America.
The Post-European Age
All these developments happened in the unstable period after the European Age and before … well, something else. What specifically, we’re not quite sure. For the past 20 years, the world has been reshaping itself. Since 1991, then, the countries of the world have been feeling out the edges of the new system. The past two decades have been an interregnum of sorts, a period of evolution from the rule of the old to the rule of the new.
Four things had to happen before the new era could truly begin. First, the Americans had to learn the difference between extreme power (which they had and still have) and omnipotence (which they do not have). The wars in the Islamic world have more than amply driven this distinction home. Second, Russian power needed to rebound from its post-Soviet low to something more representative of Russia’s strength. That occurred in August 2008 with the Russo-Georgian war, which re-established Moscow as the core of the broader region. Third, China — which has linked its economic, political and military future to a global system it does not control — had to face a readjustment. This has yet to happen, but likely will be triggered by the fourth event: Europe’s institutions — which were created to function under the rules of the previous epoch — must be rationalized with a world in which the Americans no longer are suppressing European nationalism.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the 2008 financial crisis initiated the last two events. The first result of the financial crisis was the deep penetration of the state into those financial markets not already under state influence or control. The bailouts, particularly in the United States, created a situation in which decisions by political leaders and central banks had markedly more significance to the financial status of the country than the operation of the market. This was not unprecedented in the United States; the municipal bond crisis of the 1970s, the Third World debt crisis and the savings and loan crisis had similar consequences. The financial crisis, and the resultant economic crisis, hurt the United States, but its regime remained intact even while uneasiness about the elite grew.
But the financial crisis had its greatest impact in Europe, where it is triggering a generational shift. Since 1991, the idea of an integrated Europe has been a driving force of the global economy. As mentioned, it also has been presented as an implicit alternative to the United States as the global center of gravity.
Collectively, Europe’s economy was slightly larger than the U.S. economy. If mobilized, that inherent power made Europe a match for the United States. In the foreign policy arena, the Europeans prided themselves on a different approach to international affairs than the Americans used. This was based on a concept known as “soft power” — which relied on political and economic, as opposed to military, tools — an analog to the manner in which it saw itself managing the European Union. And Europe was a major consumer of goods, particularly Chinese goods. (It imported more of the latter than the United States did.) Taken together, Europe’s strengths and successes would allow it to redefine the international system — and the assumption for the past generation was that it was successful.
In the context of the ongoing European financial crisis, the issue is not simply whether the euro survives or whether Brussels regulators oversee aspects of the Italian economy. The fundamental issue is whether the core concepts of the European Union remain intact. It is obvious that the European Union that existed in 2007 is not the one that exists today. Its formal structure appears the same, but it does not function the same. The issues confronting it are radically different. Moreover, relations among the EU nations have a completely different dynamic. The question of what the European Union might become has been replaced by the question of whether it can survive. Some think of this as a temporary aberration. We see it as a permanent change in Europe, one with global consequences.
The European Union emerged with the goal of creating a system of interdependency in which war in Europe was impossible. Given European history, this was an extraordinarily ambitious project, as war and Europe have gone hand in hand. The idea was that with Germany intimately linked to France, the possibility of significant European conflict could be managed. Underpinning this idea was the concept that the problem of Europe was the problem of nationalism. Unless Europe’s nationalisms were tamed, war would break out. The Yugoslav wars after the collapse of Communism comprised the sum of Europe’s fears. But there could be no question of simply abolishing nationalism in Europe. [continued after the jump]
Because Greece was the inspiration for the article, I looked to Greek mythology for inspiration in selecting the article's Hot Stratfor Babe. Specifically, I looked to Greek mythology as it is so accurately portrayed in old Sword and Sandles Hercules movies starring Steve Reeves.
Naturally, with that criteria, I selected Sylva Koscina, who played Iona, Hercules's wife, in the immortal film series to receive the coveted title of Hot Stratfor Babe for this article.
UPDATE: as a bonus I've added a preview to the film Hercules after the article.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF EUROPE
By Marko Papic, June 28, 2011
Europe continues to be engulfed by economic crisis. The global focus returns to Athens on June 28 as Greek parliamentarians debate austerity measures imposed on them by eurozone partners. If the Greeks vote down these measures, Athens will not receive its second bailout, which could create an even worse crisis in Europe and the world.
It is important to understand that the crisis is not fundamentally about Greece or even about the indebtedness of the entire currency bloc. After all, Greece represents only 2.5 percent of the eurozone's gross domestic product (GDP), and the bloc's fiscal numbers are not that bad when looked at in the aggregate. Its overall deficit and debt figures are in a better shape than those of the United States -- the U.S. budget deficit stood at 10.6 percent of GDP in 2010, compared to 6.4 percent for the European Union -- yet the focus continues to be on Europe.
That is because the real crisis is the more fundamental question of how the European continent is to be ruled in the 21st century. Europe has emerged from its subservience during the Cold War, when it was the geopolitical chessboard for the Soviet Union and the United States. It won its independence by default as the superpowers retreated: Russia withdrawing to its Soviet sphere of influence and the United States switching its focus to the Middle East after 9/11. Since the 1990s, Europe has dabbled with institutional reform but has left the fundamental question of political integration off the table, even as it integrated economically. This is ultimately the source of the current sovereign debt crisis, the lack of political oversight over economic integration gone wrong.
The eurozone's economic crisis brought this question of Europe's political fate into focus, but it is a recurring issue. Roughly every 100 years, Europe confronts this dilemma. The Continent suffers from overpopulation -- of nations, not people. Europe has the largest concentration of independent nation-states per square foot than any other continent. While Africa is larger and has more countries, no continent has as many rich and relatively powerful countries as Europe does. This is because, geographically, the Continent is riddled with features that prevent the formation of a single political entity. Mountain ranges, peninsulas and islands limit the ability of large powers to dominate or conquer the smaller ones. No single river forms a unifying river valley that can dominate the rest of the Continent. The Danube comes close, but it drains into the practically landlocked Black Sea, the only exit from which is another practically landlocked sea, the Mediterranean. This limits Europe's ability to produce an independent entity capable of global power projection.
However, Europe does have plenty of rivers, convenient transportation routes and well-sheltered harbors. This allows for capital generation at a number of points on the Continent, such as Vienna, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Milan, Turin and Hamburg. Thus, while large armies have trouble physically pushing through the Continent and subverting various nations under one rule, ideas, capital, goods and services do not. This makes Europe rich (the Continent has at least the equivalent GDP of the United States, and it could be larger depending how one calculates it).
What makes Europe rich, however, also makes it fragmented. The current political and security architectures of Europe -- the EU and NATO -- were encouraged by the United States in order to unify the Continent so that it could present a somewhat united front against the Soviet Union. They did not grow organically out of the Continent. This is a problem because Moscow is no longer a threat for all European countries, Germany and France see Russia as a business partner and European states are facing their first true challenge to Continental governance, with fragmentation and suspicion returning in full force. Closer unification and the creation of some sort of United States of Europe seems like the obvious solution to the problems posed by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis -- although the eurozone's problems are many and not easily solved just by integration, and Europe's geography and history favor fragmentation.
Confederation of Europe
The European Union is a confederation of states that outsources day-to-day management of many policy spheres to a bureaucratic arm (the European Commission) and monetary policy to the European Central Bank. The important policy issues, such as defense, foreign policy and taxation, remain the sole prerogatives of the states. The states still meet in various formats to deal with these problems. Solutions to the Greek, Irish and Portuguese fiscal problems are agreed upon by all eurozone states on an ad hoc basis, as is participation in the Libyan military campaign within the context of the European Union. Every important decision requires that the states meet and reach a mutually acceptable solution, often producing non-optimal outcomes that are products of compromise.
The best analogy for the contemporary European Union is found not in European history but in American history. This is the period between the successful Revolutionary War in 1783 and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Within that five-year period, the United States was governed by a set of laws drawn up in the Articles of the Confederation. The country had no executive, no government, no real army and no foreign policy. States retained their own armies and many had minor coastal navies. They conducted foreign and trade policy independent of the wishes of the Continental Congress, a supranational body that had less power than even the European Parliament of today (this despite Article VI of the Articles of Confederation, which stipulated that states would not be able to conduct independent foreign policy without the consent of Congress). Congress was supposed to raise funds from the states to fund such things as a Continental Army, pay benefits to the veterans of the Revolutionary War and pay back loans that European powers gave Americans during the war against the British. States, however, refused to give Congress money, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Congress was forced to print money, causing the Confederation's currency to become worthless. [continued after jump]
Hang the Christians.
H1-B visa fraud is rampant.
Why "Russian human rights" is an oxymoron.
Black silicon to the rescue?
Rising gun culture in a gunless land.
Why you should write your goals.
Russia and China play the UN like a fiddle.
The 200 greatest songs of the Sixties.
Can nanolevers kill superbugs?
The debtor nation.
Free movies online while they last.
Chavez managed to lower oil production 25% so far.
The baldness gene.
Racism ueber alles.
The statists are on a roll.
Cancel the continuing kangaroo courts in Canada.
Trade saved America from recession.
Is the Secret Service illegally grabbing hackers in Deutschland? [Sorry, German version only.]
A genetically modified cure for AIDS?
From heroes to victims.
Stubble is the way to a woman's heart.
The NT kernel, intelligently discussed.
Flying cars are coming.
Darwin vs. Lincoln.
Play games. Learn immunology.
The best of the China blogs.
The robotic musical sensation.
Obama's wealthy supporters.
The last generation of Europeans?
Indian culture revealed.
Got some bad news for all you little hunlets out there in autobahnland: 99% of Americans (that 1% are devotees of Weimar-era smut in places in NYC and LA, like for instance my neighbors here in Brooklyn) — from Christofascist theocon cheneybot worshipper of Chimpy McBushhitlerburton in East Jesus, Tennessee to racist videogame murder junkies holed up in a survivalist compound in Fanatic, Idado — are really completely indifferent to what Germans, or for that matter Spainiards, Italians, Belgians, Frenchpersons, Russians, Swedes, Norweigians, and all the other huddled massed of PC-euthanized, welfare-state besotted, noodlewrist eurogoobers think about us. YOU DO NOT COUNT. Repeat after me — YOU DO NOT COUNT. You have surrendered whatever liberties were left you by Rousseau, Bonaparte, and the Kaiser to the fat pimply bureaucrats of the EU, who are now working to hand it over lock, stock and barrell to the Muslims. Well, enjoy it, you mangy pups. It’ll be sort of sad, to see monuments of European civilization coverted into mosgues, then the physical plant of the continent sliding down into the pit where reside Muslim cities like cairo and ankara, but it’s what you want.Islam and Europeans honestly deserve each other: a pale shadow of a once sort of great people (well, not the spainiards or beligians) signing what little bits of heritage wasn’t regulated out of existence by the ‘68 crowdover to the ignorant, blood-stupid slaves of a pedophile bedoiun date-merchant and brigand. Hate away, chumps. It’s sure doing you a world of good, isn’t it.
There is a reason, a strong reason, why the West dominates the entire world, sitting astride it as a colossus. It is because Western culture in general, and American culture in particular (as the West's "shining city on a hill"), is Borg culture: We assimilate the best parts of all other cultures we contact, becoming stronger thereby. Resistance is futile.
I do not see us bowing down and surrendering to these turban-headed, Koran-waving, fatwah-issuing, jihadist popinjays and blusterers... no matter what Mark Steyn thinks. We sent them reeling back from the gates of Vienna; we brought the Barbary pirates to their knees -- literally; we crushed Turkey and Araby as a side dish in the Great War; and we dispatched the Taliban and the Baathists in a campaign that lasted about as long as it took to ship our soldiers to the field.
That jihadists, Shia and Sunni, are still extant is a testament to their relative insignificance. Until 9/11, we were barely even aware of their existence; we were too worried about Communism -- a thoroughly Western perverson. Now that the sleeping giant has awakened, terrorists are dying hot and cowardly throughout the ummah; and we have even managed to turn their more modern Moslem brothers against them.
The men and women of the West are simply not going to kowtow to a gaggle (even a largish gaggle) of child-immolating minions of Moloch... not even in "Europe" (as if it were monolithic). And as exhibit A, read this:
A German judge has stirred a storm of protest here by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.
In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which she said it was common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse.
But wait! Doesn't that completely undermine everything I just said? A German judge -- a woman, in fact -- has just denied a fellow woman an emergency divorce from her abusive husband... in essence, on the grounds of Sharia law. She ruled that the woman must endure the legally required year-long separation... even if that means her violent and sadistic husband kills her for his "honor.'
Surely that must be evidence that Europe has given up and surrendered to the dark side! Oh, but read on:
British MPs have voted for wholesale changes to the way the country is governed, with a large majority of parliamentarians supporting a 100 percent elected upper house.
Jack Straw, the Commons Leader, has said that he can't "put the genie back in the bottle" and will press ahead with change.
This was not a binding vote, it is simply the will of the Parliament. But if the House of Lords is to elected I suspect there will need to be some document laying out their powers, districts, terms, etc. I suppose they could remain much the same, but what is the point of electing people to a ceremonial position? Might as well leave the Lords appointed if there are no other changes.
I have felt somewhat opposed to this move simply on account of the importance of traditions in a stable society. Nonetheless, such a development is interesting and I wonder how they are going to manage it. Britain has a parliamentary system with almost all powers currently in the hands of the prime minister and his party. So it is not anything like the US and it is hard to see how an elected upper house would fit in if it were to be given a legislative role.
What next, the Monarchy?