Robert Kaplan: War Is Purpose, Peace Is Decadence


Globe-trotting grumpus Robert D. Kaplan, whose great reporting usually makes his less-great political thinking worth getting through, may just have completed his journey from hopeless, let-them-die Realism to sour, let-them-serve National Greatnessism. Exhibit A is his Berlin Wall piece for The Atlantic, with the subhed "We may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe to apathy and decadence in the process." The kicker:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.

Thus, with their patriotism dissipated, European governments can no longer ask for sacrifices from their populations when it comes to questions of peace and war. Ironically, we may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe in the process.

At the UK Spectator, Alex Massie has what I think is an appropriate response:

I'd say that the EU stands for, or at least has ambitions towards, peace and prosperity and that, whatever one may think of the organisation, these are hardly small things. Indeed, their absence through for much of the twentieth century was, shall we say, marked.

For that matter, absorbing the countries of central and eastern europe into the EU is itself no tiny task and one that, not unreasonably, has preoccupied europe these past twenty years. That this absorbtion has, generally speaking, been a success is also an achievement of note. And, of course, the process is not yet complete.

There is a central grain of truth in Kaplan's critique: European governments, and to a greater extent their citizens, seem to be animated by an ever-smaller sense of responsibility for international affairs. If we take that as a bad thing (for the sake of argument; it might not be), then we should certainly observe that some of that pathology has been exacerbated by Euro-tweaking (and Kaplan-reading!) National Greatness types in Washington.  

Here's a long and critical case against Kaplan's career by Tom Bissell at the Virginia Quarterly Review. Reason on Kaplan here.