26 May 2005
The EU has not prevented war and may actually create one

I have always been rather dubious about the claim that the EU and its predecessors have prevented a war in Europe and so I was looking forward to reading Helen Szamuely’s take down.  Unfortunately, I didn’t understand it so I thought I’d have a go myself.

Wars start because states find issues on which they disagree.  The First World War started because Britain thought Germany was too powerful and Germany thought she wasn’t powerful enough.  Ditto the Second World War.  The Iraq War started because the Allies didn’t like the look of Saddam Hussein.  Saddam Hussein, underpants aside, thought his looks were just fine.

The Big Dispute in Europe between 1945 and 1989 was over communism.  The Warsaw Pact thought that it should expand.  NATO disagreed.  That dispute could have escalated into a real war at any time but it didn’t.  Two possibilities: the ever present threat of instant annihilation posed by nuclear weapons or the EU (oh, hang about that didn’t come into being until 1992, I mean the EC, oh hang about that didn’t come into being until 1986, I mean the EEC, oh hang about that didn’t come into being until 1958.  No what I mean is the European Coal and Steel Community.  Yes, that’s what Euro-fanatics would have us believe kept the peace between 1950 and 1958.  That we didn’t get vapourised in the five years before was just good luck. )

No prizes for guessing which one I would plump for.  But, hey, let’s give them a chance.  Maybe, there was indeed a conversation in the Kremlin that went like this:

Boris: Let’s invade Western Europe.

Vladimir: No, Boris.  They have the Common Agricultural Policy and a Common External Tariff.  We’d never stand a chance.

OK, well that gets up to 1989.  What then?  Well, the problem is the absence of a major dispute between the major European powers.  France doesn’t grieve over Alsace-Lorraine.  Germany doesn’t want to invade Poland.  No disputes, no war.

The funny thing is about the only disputes that do exist are the creation of the EU itself.  Britain doesn’t like the Common Fisheries Policy.  France doesn’t like Spain’s wine.  Danes don’t like German immigrants.  No one likes Britain’s rebate or Greece’s budget deficit.  So far, they are survivable.  But what if they got really serious, like a demand that Britain fund the Continent’s pensions?

I don’t remember the period before 1973 (when Britain joined the EEC) that well but I am not aware of any disputes we had with our neighbours.  Nowadays, thanks to Europeanism we have them aplenty.  How long before one of them starts a war?

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  1. Professor Fischer thought that WWI started because Germany was looking for any pretext to attack Russia, which was industrialising so successfully that soon, the German rulers thought, she’d be unbeatable.

    Niall Ferguson thinks that Britain entered the war because Asquith and Lloyd George wanted to dish the Tories.

    Posted by dearieme on 31 May 2005 at 02:29pm

  2. Nicely put.

    My usual approach is this.

    Europeans were so worried about a new war that they were willing to surrender before it even started.

    The EU is the effect of not wanting war, a wish that has kept the peace for 60 years. If that wish disappeared, so would the EU.

    Posted by EU Serf on 01 June 2005 at 07:46pm

  3. I thought your reasons given for starting wars was a bit flippant, particular WWI. Some on the left do blame the Allies for starting WWI.

    The classic Left explanation, at least before 1970, was that WWI became inevitable because of the alliances and the arms race. Given the oft-stated aim that the EU will become a power to rival the US, one might ask how will that happen unless it too started to rearm. If that were to occur then we would be in a very similar situation to 1914.

    Of course the EU enthusiast would say that it is war between the member states that has been averted. This is proven by the looking at the number of wars involving Switzerland and Norway over the last 50 years. Sorry, I’m being flippant now.

    It obviously works like this:
    A chap on the Waterloo train always wears a deerstalker. When asked “why?” he says it wards away tigers. “But there are no tigers in England!” “There you are, that proves it works.”
    This joke precisely sums up why people believe the EU has kept the peace.

    Those fools think it’s down to the EU, but I know it’s because I paint my garden shed green. Rats, I’ve given away the secret.

    Posted by Jethro on 08 June 2005 at 08:15pm

  4. The Left dislikes Fischer’s explanation because it draws attention to the fact that the Bolshevik arguments about Tsarist Russia being hopelessly backward are, ahem, counterfactual, and because it fails to indict the liberal democracies which are, of course, seen as intrinsically the foe of The Left.  Anyway, Fischer did massive work in the archives and you’d need facts to prove him wrong. After all, The Left’s views of Stalin and Mao turned out to be evil lies, so why would one entertain their views on WW1?

    Posted by dearieme on 09 June 2005 at 05:41pm

  5. dearieme

    You seem to be replying to me so I guess you (wrongly) assumed I was replying to you.

    On what I have read I would agree with Fischer: Germany thought it was “now or never”. Hence they attacked Belgium and France.

    The flippant remarks were in the original article.

    Another left myth that needs demolishing is “lions led by donkeys”. Even the BBC website has a reasonable statement on the subject:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwone/lions_donkeys_01.shtml.

    Posted by Jethro on 09 June 2005 at 06:54pm

  6. Sorry for the misapprehension.  I’ve always wondered about Lions and Donkeys too: if the best army in the world, the huge German one, couldn’t come up with anything better than trench warfare, how could the tiny British one, which was later to be so busy converting civilians into soldiers?

    Posted by dearieme on 09 June 2005 at 08:28pm

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