After World War II, Europe began a process of peaceful political unification unprecedented there and unmatched anywhere else. But the project began to go wrong in the early 1990s, when western European leaders started moving too quickly toward a flawed monetary union. Now, as Europe faces a still-unresolved debt crisis, its drive toward unification has stalled -- and unless fear or foresight gets it going again, the union could slide toward irrelevance.
These 48 short essays are highly recommended for those who cannot wait for the proverbial owl of Minerva to spread its wings.
Europe's great drive toward unification can distract attention from the liberal order that already exists in most of the continent. But this extraordinary achievement is itself threatened precisely as a result of Europe's forced march to unity, especially Helmut Kohl's push for European monetary union. Europe's leaders set the wrong priority after 1989 by neglecting the east and federalizing the west. They fiddled in Maastricht while Sarajevo burned. Europeans should instead consolidate and spread across the continent the order that already exists. It provides for security and liberty; more would be less.
In the past, Germany has redefined itself as a nation only with dramatic consequences. Today it faces four distinct foreign policy choices: a deepening of the European Community; a widening of the EU and NATO to include Germany's eastern neighbors; a partnership with Russia; or the unilateral taking on of the rights and responsibilities of a world power, with all its financial and military obligations. What should Germany do? Take the eastern route, widening Europe so that it has stable democracies on both its flanks. What will Germany do? Probably nothing. Keeping to its postwar traditions, it will choose not to choose.
Did Germany's détente with the Soviet Union and East Germany drive the reunification of 1989? Or was it overshadowed by America's pressure on the Soviet Union? Timothy Garton Ash's new book never quite answers the question.