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4/21/17

Wake-Up EU Please: Trump’s Plan to End Europe - by David Frum

The disturbing characters gaining access to the Trump White House profess to be united by their shared nationalism. That’s not how nationalism works out in real life, though. Competing nationalisms ripped apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In Ukraine, an assertive Russian nationalism has sparked a conflict that has left some 10,000 dead and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Between Hungary and Romania, between Ukraine and Poland, between Bulgaria and Turkey, there still smolder antique grievances that a demagogue could rekindle.

Of course, one nationalism has troubled the peace of Europe more than any other: Germany’s. Whenever Germany has unified—whether in 1871 or 1990—other European countries have gotten scared, and understandably so. How were they to live in peace with such a rich, strong, and well-organized neighbor? Here’s Benjamin Disraeli speaking in the British House of Commons after the first unification: “The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England.” And here (according to Helmut Kohl’s memoirs) is what Margaret Thatcher said, even more pungently, on the eve of the second: “We beat the Germans twice, and now they’re back.”

Our parents and grandparents’ second reason for supporting European integration was economic. Before 1939, wages and living standards were much higher in the U.S. than in Europe. Transatlantic trade was limited; American companies didn’t export much, and European consumers couldn’t afford to buy much. Hitler’s response to Germany’s privation was to conquer, enslave, and plunder the rest of Europe—a plan that propelled the Continent into war and genocide. The war’s North Atlantic victors built a system both more humane and more effective: An integrated European market joined to a global open-trade system has raised European living standards to compare with those in NorthAmerica, making us all better customers for one another.

The men who built the postwar world anticipated this danger and sought to avert it. They designed trade and treaty systems governed by rules, rules to which the United States would submit, even though it was the strongest party. Indeed, they intended exactly the things that Donald Trump now complains about—that the U.S. would have to make concessions to smaller partners; that it would not act as judge in its own cases; that it would subordinate its parochial and immediate national interests to the larger and more enduring collective interest. America would find security by working for the security of others.

The Americans who led the effort took this approach in part because it’s what they were accustomed to: The U.S. Constitution likewise overweights the interests of minorities and small groups. They also did it because they had learned from their wars against rulers who sought to dominate their neighbors. In the world as at home, systems that serve the interests of all endure better than systems that oppress many to serve a few.

They wanted a future in which non-Americans would be the ones who most wished to uphold U.S. hegemony and most feared to see that hegemony end. They succeeded in this, against every external danger. And now the good and wise and even glorious accord they created is more threatened than ever before—not by an enemy, but by the narrow-minded, shortsighted bullying of an accidental and unfit American president. Will the story really end this way? It all seems not only heartrendingly sad, but also teeth-grindingly stupid.

Read more: Trump’s Plan to End Europe - The Atlantic

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