Monday, December 13, 2004

Complete Geek Synergy: Lord of the Rings and EU Security

More than a customary cup of coffee, a column by Victor Davis Hansen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, comparing modern Europe and the Ents (of Lord of the Rings fame) jolted me out of my morning lethargy (tip to Jim Lindgren at the Conspiracy). Beyond the innately interesting analogy, if you take out the negative connotations associated with the idea that Europe is excessively insulated from outside threat it seems to remind us of an obvious idea. Europe has the means to wield extraordinary military just currently lacks the will. Would a single terrorist attack akin to 9/11 create such will? I'm not certain, but my guess is no. First, no EU nation (with the possible exception of the UK) has enough military power to effectively project that power over great distances. Second, would Europe (or a single European nation) be able to utilize a substantial, efficient military complex? A single nation would be forced to expend much political will against other European powers to deploy its national military with any great effect, and the EU is far from possessing any singular foreign policy that would be enable it to move with any efficiency against a non-state threat.

Anyway...judge for yourself. An exerpt below:

One of the many wondrous peoples that poured forth from the rich imagination of the late J. R. R. Tolkien were the Ents. These tree-like creatures, agonizingly slow and covered with mossy bark, nursed themselves on tales of past glory while their numbers dwindled in their isolation. Unable to reproduce themselves or to fathom the evil outside their peaceful forest — and careful to keep to themselves and avoid reacting to provocation of the tree-cutters and forest burners — they assumed they would be given a pass from the upheavals of Middle Earth. But with the sudden arrival of two volatile hobbits, the nearby evils of timber-cutting, industrial devilry, and mass murder became too much for the Ents to stomach. They finally "wake up" (literally). Then they go on the offensive — and are amazed at the power they still wield in destroying Saruman's empire. . . .

More specifically, does the Ents analogy work for present-day Europe? Before you laugh at the silly comparison, remember that the Western military tradition is European. Today the continent is unarmed and weak, but deep within its collective mind and spirit still reside the ability to field technologically sophisticated and highly disciplined forces--if it were ever to really feel threatened. One murder began to arouse the Dutch; what would 3,000 dead and a toppled Eiffel Tower do to the French? Or how would the Italians take to a plane stuck into the dome of St. Peter? We are nursed now on the spectacle of Iranian mullahs, with their bought weapons and foreign-produced oil wealth, humiliating a convoy of European delegates begging and cajoling them not to make bombs--or at least to point what bombs they make at Israel and not at Berlin or Paris. But it was not always the case, and may not always be. The Netherlands was a litmus test for Europe. Unlike Spain or Greece, which had historical grievances against Islam, the Dutch were the avatars of the new liberal Europe, without historical baggage. They were eager to unshackle Europe from the Church, from its class and gender constraints, and from any whiff of its racist or colonialist past. True, for a variety of reasons, Amsterdam may be a case study of how wrong Rousseau was about natural man, but for a Muslim immigrant the country was about as hospitable a foreign host as one can imagine. Thus, it was far safer for radical Islamic fascists to damn the West openly from a mosque in Rotterdam than for a moderate Christian to quietly worship in a church in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Algeria. And yet we learn not just that the Netherlands has fostered a radical sect of Muslims who will kill and bomb, but, far more importantly, that they will do so after years of residency among, and indeed in utter contempt of, their Western hosts. . . .

So will the old Ents awaken, or will they slumber on, muttering nonsense to themselves, lost in past grandeur and utterly clueless about the dangers on their borders?

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