Thursday, September 3, 2015

The United States of Europe Is Obviously Premature

September 5, 2015

Europe is a geographic designation: the westernmost peninsula of the Eurasian continental landmass. For the past 7000 years, it has also been the home of a restless mass of human beings, always on the move, settling and moving on, replacing former residents and coming up with one invention after another, the most important of which, from today's discussion, came from ancient Greece: participatory government (Athens); Rome: written and progressively enlarging law; and England: that kings are not all-powerful (Magna Carta); and all of them: the religious, scientific, industrial, and political revolutions.

Restless, creative Europe (and its child, America) have given the world modern civilization: the good things being nation-states governed by their own people under rule of law; majority populations (middle class) wealthy and healthy beyond imagining; cities clean and vibrant with culture and convenience; and citizens living in safety and civility as in no cities before now. Europe's Scientific Revolution did much of this.

Now for the bad things. Europe's restlessness has also given the world endless warfare since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century, culminating in two of the most frightening wars, the second of which, World War II, drew in the entire world and a third (the Cold War) almost destroyed the planet. The bad things frightened Europe's elites so much that they determined to do something radical: follow the example of the United States of America and create a United States of Europe, one in which war would be impossible.

The American example is not easy to replicate, however. Even with extraordinary founders, we had a common language and dominant religion, the good luck of geography, endless natural resources, non-threatening neighbors, and time to grow, we still had a horrific civil war over the divisive issue of slavery and still have some political alienation dogging our unity. We are only fully united when at war or during crisis. We still have to remind ourselves that we are one nation.

But Europe was very delusional to imagine that it could be a United States of Europe! There is no common language and nationalism is not dead. Watch World Cup games to see how fast national identity resurges!

Talk to the ordinary Europeans to learn how they detest rules issues from Brussels. Talk to Northern Europeans to learn how they hate the leisure life style in Southern Europe they are taxed for.  These are taxes without representation. Europe really is not one entity---until it is under attack.

And we forget that there are four Europes: Western, Southern, Northern, and Eastern.

But there is nothing like real threats to unite people who are quarreling or have been asleep. The US umbrella let them live the good life for 70 years, but now comes the storm. The Russian wolf is not dead! The New Russia is eating at Eastern Europe and extorting the rest of Europe with threats of cutting off their gas in winter. Russia is prowling the once pacified Scandinavia and even the Swedes are alarmed. They had better be united and revive their defense budgets and industries. NATO is needed and the US will help those who help themselves.

The flood of Muslim refugees, once regarded as cheap labor or welfare fodder are now seen as security threats, militant fifth columns in their midst, creating adolescent jihadis. They are no longer seen as easily assimilated. They are a huge and growing problem. Europe depends more and more on INTERPOL for protection.

The United States of Europe, the EU, was premature in concept. Their really is no single governing body in Brussels is acceptable to all Europeans. However, there is no reason why there should not be many agencies throughout the sovereign European states that can work together. NATO is one of them. The banking organizations established by the Dumbarton Oaks conference at the end of World War II (World Bank, IMF, etc) still work well. The point is that there is a modern Europe and it is is under attack. Their enemies are identifiable and they are our enemies too.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe, by George Friedman, Doubleday, 2015.

Book Review by:
Laina Farhat-Holzman

I read George Friedman's intelligence reports almost every day, and reviewed one of his books: The Next Hundred Years, several years ago. Friedman is chairman and founder of Stratfor (Strategic Forecasts), a leading private intelligence company. I think he, and several of his collages (including Robert D. Kaplan) are the best analysts of international geopolitics. Few other analysts regard geography as a major player in world affairs, an oversight that makes so many get it wrong.

For the past few years, his reports have focused on the world's borderlands, those faultlines where countries or ethnicities meet with latent hostility. His latest book, Flashpoints, explores Europe's past and present (and potential future) with an eye to the borderlands which can become flashpoints for conflict.

The only other scholar mentioning this issue was Samuel P. Huntington, with his much discussed Clash of Civilizations. Huntington noted that ever border shared with Muslim countries is, and has always been bloody. This observation has proven itself many times over in the past decades.

Europe has given much to the world in the past 500 years: the scientific revolution, religious reformations, political liberalism with participatory governance, and nationalism: the creation of nation states ideally governed by their own people in democracy. The modern world with its peaceful civil life, rule of law, and amenities available for all that were once the exclusive luxury of the ruling elites. We are only talking about Western Europe here, along with its British offspring, the United States.

But there is another side to Europe: a region of catastrophic conflicts along its many geographic and political flashpoints. The  “Enlightenment” on the 18th century has been much admired by the educated among us because it largely discarded religion as a governing institution, replacing it with “reason.” Friedman explores the underbelly of the Enlightenment, in which some of its prized institutions gave rise to unanticipated and ugly consequences.

Nationalism can be a benign institution when it only means that a country's people love their country and its culture. However, when love of country morphs into hatred of other countries, nationalism becomes an excuse for violence. Europe's two world wars exemplify this.

Reason, replacing religion, can morph into ideologies that demand as much fanaticism as that of the true believers of religion. Furthermore, the decline of religion in Europe has left the young with a nihilism that discards both national identity and cultural identity; it becomes an “anything goes” culture that is ill equipped to defend itself against such fanatical ideologies as neo-Nazism and Militant Islam.

With this book, Friedman provides us with the definitive analysis of today's Europe, exploring Europe's geography, political life, and history. The geography alone dictates regional and country borders. His important contribution is the interaction of geography, history, and politics.

In his preface, he reminds us that
     “Between 1914 and 1945 roughly 100 million Europeans died from political causes: war, genocide, purges, planned starvation, and all the rest. It was particularly striking in Europe, which had, over the course of the previous four hundred years, collectively conquered most of the world   and reshaped the way humanity thought of itself.”

How could this happen in a place that in 1913 represented the highest level of civilization, rich in culture, with a population similarly educated, with rulers related by blood (offspring of Queen Victoria) and institutions such as the military trained with the same standards and values?

Friedman shows that Europe's descent into hell in the 31 years between 1914 and 1945 was not a fluke. It was the natural outcome of the emergence of the negative sides of all the institutions it most valued---and the fact that geography matters.

Europe's unification is based on ideology and optimism, neither of these enough to overcome the geographic, cultural, and behavioral patterns of European history. Friedman explores the issues, and this book makes for fascinating reading.


August 22, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

Tevye, the father living in revolutionary times of rapid change, struggled with what to do about traditions in the much loved musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This Russian-Jewish story, later a Broadway play and then a movie, played to audiences of many other cultures around the world who understood the issues very well. The 20th century was beset with traditions biting the dust. Children were in rebellion everywhere and parents did not know what to do about it.

My own view of “tradition” is sourly expressed in my web site: “Tradition? The only good traditions are food traditions. The rest are repressive.” Indeed, history will bear me out. Most traditions around the world have to do with what woman may not do---or what must be done to them to keep them “under control.”

In an attempt to be unbiased, 20th century anthropologists have reversed what seemed to be cultural jingoism of their predecessors in criticizing the practices of the world's non-western societies. Western explorers and colonial conquerors were horrified by some of the practices they found: bound feet in China, the harems in the Muslim world, widows compelled to sacrifice themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres in India, forced child marriages everywhere, and widespread child slavery.

Fashions in scholarship change. By mid-20th century, Anthropology had swung the other way and tried to find reasons for native practices rather than judging them through our own biases. Political fashions entered too, and the new fog of political correctness blew in with Edward Said, who managed to bully a generation of Islamic scholars into fear of saying anything negative about Muslim culture.

The world has recently had an opportunity to see what kind of “traditions” the culture of Islam has resurrected from the past. Even Edward Said, were he still alive, could not paint them in rosy colors. Islamists resolutely target women, who, to avoid beating or worse, must be invisible, covered from head to toe in black, and hidden from the public arena. When monsters such as ISIS take territory, they resurrect such “traditions” as female slave markets, religiously-sanctified rape of girls as young as nine (citing the “tradition” of the Hadith), and decapitation by the sword and amputation of limbs for theft. Tradition!

And then there is African tradition. One infamous Africa scholar claimed that democracy should not be their model. The “great chief” model was a fine “tradition” that had always worked in Africa. How well it worked has been seen in a parade of villainous, thieving, dictatorships-for-life. Another scholar I heard at a conference lamented the demise of traditional village languages and scorned the popularity of English and French as languages of the colonialists. I asked him how tradition languages would allow people to talk to each other?  He had no answer.

President Obama took on the “tradition” issue in his July visit to Kenya and Ethiopia, which set everybody back on their heels! He bluntly told his hosts (I am paraphrasing) that just because certain practices have been done for centuries does not make them right! It is not right, he said, to abuse half your population just because they are female. It is not right to marry off underage girls, to deprive them of education and afflict them with genital mutilation.  This does nothing but keep your country from its full potential. It is not right to persecute people because of whom they love. (This is a very hot-button issue in Africa. Homosexuality can bring death sentences in many places, and at a minimum, is illegal everywhere. It was very bold of President Obama to even mention it in public.)

He went on to discuss another most pervasive issue. “Corruption is an old tradition, but it does not have to be permanent. I come from Chicago, which also had a tradition of corruption. It can be challenged and changed. You can change it too.” He also discussed democratic elections, and the reluctance of some leaders to step down from power. Presidents for life, he noted, are not compatible with democracy.”

Bravo, Mr. President!

Tradition?  Bah, humbug!

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or