What is the destiny of the Europe of the Six? What should be its aim? Should it be content with economic integration and remain what the Gaullists contemptuously call a mere Europe des Marchands, sheltered under the American umbrella? Or should it aspire to become a power in its own right, a self-reliant Europe enjoying the status of "equal partner" with the United States, as the late President Kennedy, with unprecedented generosity, exhorted it to do? The debate on these questions now in progress throughout the Europe of the Six has been forced on its members by the American invitation to switch over to a somewhat doubtful form of Atlantic integration-the Multilateral Nuclear Force.

Even devoted Europeans saw some merit in the project because originally it could be viewed as providing a long but safe detour to the goal of a self- reliant Europe. Not only had President Kennedy often expressed his wish for such a Europe, but also the road toward this ultimate destination had been left open by the American designers of the M.L.F.; once Europe had achieved sufficient unity, they agreed, a European nuclear power might be allowed to emerge. Thus the M.L.F. could be seen as a school for nuclear self- government. When and if the European trainee inspired his American tutor with enough confidence in his loyalty to the alliance, as well as in his ability to handle a deterrent of his own, he could expect emancipation from American tutelage.

With Mr. Harold Wilson's entry upon the scene, however, things have changed. His Atlantic Nuclear Force (A.N.F.) is not a detour to the goal of European integration but a dead end. For Mr. Wilson has emphasized with the utmost vigor that he will not allow the emergence of a European deterrent which-with a blithe disregard for elementary arithmetic-he qualifies as "nuclear proliferation." Hence his demand for a veto on any future reconstruction of the A.N.F.'s constitution. The reason is no doubt partly that he cannot afford to ignore-and may even share-the lingering obsessions of many of his followers with the "German danger." But at least as likely an explanation is that he cannot conceive of Britain entering a tightly federated Europe such as a European deterrent presupposes and is therefore compelled, in Britain's interest, to discourage its evolution just as his predecessors (until Macmillan) were obliged to try to prevent the emergence of l'Europe des Marchands. Mr. Wilson's only innovation is to invoke a new and very respectable-sounding excuse for opposing European unification: "non-dissemination."

It still remains to be seen whether the Americans will really play along with him, for it would mean abandoning Mr. Kennedy's rousing vision of an Atlantic "Partnership of Equals." But if they do, they will only follow in the footsteps of Britain, which lost much of its original enthusiasm for Mr. Churchill's three-pillar structure-Europe, the Commonwealth and America- as soon as the first of these pillars showed signs of becoming a reality. Since then, the Europe of the Six, going from strength to strength, has given its uniquely helpful American uncle ample enough reason to wonder whether he has not been a bit too generous for his own good; especially now that the Six show signs of becoming ambitious as well as prosperous.

This latest development is at least partly due to the man who might well go down in history as the Fédérateur malgré lui, Charles de Gaulle. He takes his place among the Founding Fathers of a United Europe as the first to appeal to Europe's heart. Schuman appealed to the reason and good will of a disillusioned, hate-torn Europe; Spaak, architect of l'Europe des Marchands, appealed to the stomach and the pocket of a reviving and reconciled Europe. De Gaulle, the only prophet since Churchill with a charismatic personality, tries to mobilize the ambition and the pride of a reinvigorated, self-confident Europe. Nor is that all: he appeals also to the no less powerful emotion of fear felt by a Europe that is bound to ask itself whether it can still wholly rely on its American protector.

Europe's latest and most inspiring prophet appeared on the scene just when a spellbinder of his quality was most needed. Once the Treaty of Rome was signed, the blissful dawn of the European Revolution was over. "Making Europe" became the esoteric profession of a small band of technocrats. And precisely because the nations of Europe had become reconciled, their revolutionary urge slackened. It had derived most of its impetus from the postwar disenchantment with national sovereignty and its concomitant, the intra-European anarchy that had caused its internecine wars. But by 1957 the European jungle of 1939 had been changed into a garden city whose still largely sovereign inhabitants-rendered powerless to indulge in their antiquated heroics-had learned to live together as peacefully and decently as the Scandinavians had done for decades past. Why then impose further supranational disciplines? Why not rest content with l'Europe des Marchands? Economic integration demonstrably served the interests of each member state. It paid. But what had they to gain, individually, by political union-a Europe with its own foreign policy and its own defense? Only one thing: power-greater collective influence in the alliance dominated by the American protector. And would not that entail the risk of incurring his displeasure?

Thus, right from the moment de Gaulle began to call upon the Europe des Marchands to show the courage of its European convictions and transform itself into a Europe des Hommes with its own voice (his) and its own big stick (his), the Six were faced with the great question which they can now no longer evade. Does their Europe really want to become a power in its own right? Does it still agree with Spaak that "il faut vouloir les conséquences de ce que l'on veut"? Does it want to hold on to the bold aims proclaimed by the first of its founding fathers?

Even without de Gaulle these questions would have presented themselves sooner or later. The crisis in which the Europe of the Six finds itself at present is partly that which nature inflicts on every adolescent. It is nearing the age of discretion when one must choose a career, set one's sights, determine what place one intends to carve out for oneself. But it is de Gaulle-assisted only by a small élite of European militants-who has forced the adolescent at a painfully tender age to begin to think about his future. It is he who has been pressing for "political union" ever since he was compelled to realize that he was not going to achieve his unchanging aim of the power and glory of France by way of the three-power world- directorate he asked for in 1958.

It was, of course, perfectly clear from the beginning what he was really about when he started his career as the passionate prophet of a self- reliant Europe. The modern European clothes he then put on are so much too small for a man of his obsession with national grandeur that his French elbows show most embarrassingly through his sleeves. His almost psychopathic aversion to any form of real union leads him into semantic absurdities one would have thought impossible for a soi-disant Cartesien. "An integrated Europe," he has said, "would be a Europe without a backbone." He wants the sort of Europe Napoleon wanted, with this difference: that he seems to think he can impose unity by the force of his personality instead of by the force of arms. Just so did he once think he could induce the Algerian nationalists to cease their rebellion simply because he had come on the scene and asked them to trust him. He appears to see himself as the incarnation not only of French but of European "legitimacy." Yet he has nothing to offer the Europe he asks to unite under his leadership. Rejecting organic unity, he refuses to offer de jure participation in the handling of the instrument of power he is forging with his force de frappe. And living in nuclear times, he cannot offer the objects of his courtship the de facto influence which junior allies used to derive from their geographic and military contribution to the joint power of the alliance. For in an alliance whose ultima ratio are nuclear missiles, these contributions have lost nearly all their value. It is clear, therefore, what he asks of the Five: acceptance, not of l'Europe des Etats but of l'Europe de l'état c'est moi. And to this end he appeals to those feelings of supranational solidarity, European pride, European will to power, European patriotism whose very existence and, indeed, possibility he, the apostle of national patriotism, contemptuously denies. Poor, dizzy Descartes, one dreads to think of him spinning in his grave!

Yet such is the magic of the fabulous general that his attempts to rouse a European will to power have been far from unsuccessful. Its intensity varies from country to country. It is weakest in Holland, congenitally averse to that sinful thing-power and the responsibility it entails. It is strongest in Germany and France where the anti-Gaullists are no less insistent in their demands for a self-reliant Europe than their political opponents. But there is hardly a leading statesman anywhere in the Europe of the Six who does not feel compelled at any rate to pay lip service to the ideal of a Europe that can stand on its own feet as an "equal partner" of the United States. It is an ideal that can, of course, only be realized if Europe finds the way to organic union, federation. Thus by encouraging its ambitions the Fédérateur malgré lui has fanned a spirit, which can achieve satisfaction only through the creation of what he ceaselessly reviles as "ce monstre, ce robot, cette Europe sans âme, sans vertèbre, sans racines."

The prisoner of pre-nuclear thinking or, at any rate, pre-nuclear feeling that seems to get the better of his thinking, he has landed himself in what Le Monde calls a policy of "appalling, insoluble self-contradiction." Wedded to the strategy of maximum deterrence, instantaneous use of the nuclear button at the first sign of aggression, he yet justifies the withdrawal of most of his forces from the NATO Command with the argument that Frenchmen can fight well only if they know they are fighting for France. As if under his strategy there would be any "fighting"! Aiming at a Europe sufficiently strong to play the part of an "equal partner" of America within the alliance, he has adopted a style of fortiter in modo, impossibiliter in re, which renders the achievement of this legitimate aim out of the question on both counts. On the one hand, his provocative diplomacy has cost him the indispensable confidence even of such a uniquely generous and long-suffering protector as America has shown itself to be these many years past, while at the same time it has frightened off the European bride he woos with offers of nuclear protection of derisory value. On the other hand he has emptied the visions of power and glory he holds out to her by his refusal of a marriage contract allowing her a voice in the handling of this power.


Thus all those who fear the emergence of a self-reliant Europe have reason to be grateful as well as hateful to de Gaulle. As long as he is around, the two conditions for its achievement-continued American coöperation and intra-European integration-are not likely to be fulfilled. But meanwhile he is, unwittingly, preparing the ground for a new advance toward his opponents' goal. For in his role as the first rabble-rouser the Six have ever had-though a very stylish one-he has done a good deal to stimulate the will to self-assertion. He more than anyone else has given voice to a new self-confidence born of impressive achievement. With Germany having worked its way back to the status of the strongest industrial and-in classical terms-military power on the Continent, with Italy having performed an economic miracle of its own by reducing its unemployment to one-quarter of what it used to be, with France at the top of its form both economically and politically, with the Six as a whole having accumulated nearly as much gold in the kitty as America, and with economic integration succeeding beyond all expectations, this new Europe has every reason to begin to feel uppity. Nor should one forget that it has been encouraged to do so by two other charismatic personalities besides de Gaulle: Sir Winston Churchill, who first inspired it to show "the spasm of resolve" he asked for: and the late President Kennedy who, surely unique in history, exhorted it to constitute itself an "equal partner" of his country when it was already beginning to show ample signs of becoming a formidable rival.

It is one thing, however, to assert one's claim to the status of an equal partner and quite another to pay its price. Not a few of the European leaders who so glibly demand "absolute equality" with the United States take refuge in woolly talk about "interdependence" and "integrated deterrents" when asked whether they want to see Europe become a nuclear power in its own right, with all the risks and the awesome responsibilities this entails. Yet, by and large, the idea of a Europe that can stand on its own nuclear feet, if only on one, is accepted as the ultimate aim. In France de Gaulle's opponents, men like Defferre or Maurice Faure, show themselves almost without exception as convinced of the necessity and, indeed, the inevitableness of a European deterrent as they are opposed to his purely national force de frappe. In Germany they enjoy the outright support of the so-called German Gaullists as well as the qualified approval of at least some members of the ruling party who insist, as they do in Italy, that the road should be left open for the emergence of a nuclear Europe. In Belgium a man like Spaak recognizes that, whatever smaller powers like the Belgians or the Dutch may feel, nations that have only recently lost their great-power status can hardly be expected permanently to resign themselves to remaining American protectorates. And in Paris, Jean Monnet's Committee of Action for the United States of Europe, speaking for influential leaders from all over the Continent, is on record as favoring "a European-controlled contribution to the nuclear resources of the West."

With two important differences, the case for a European deterrent is argued on much the same grounds as that which one can make out for de Gaulle's force de frappe, or, for that matter, its sister under the skin, the British deterrent. The first difference is that Europe, pooling its resources, might in time be able to achieve the "second-strike capacity" which alone could make it truly an equal and as such independent of the American protector. The second is that the creation of a European deterrent would be the most constructive as well as the most realistic approach to the problem of preventing proliferation, the ideal solution of which- emancipation from nuclear tutelage through Atlantic federation-is obviously beyond man's present reach. By federating in order to become master of its own destinies again, Europe would show the world how the destructive power of thermonuclear fusion can be turned to the constructive purpose of political fusion. It would be an object lesson of the price to be paid in our day for what most men hold dearest-which is not so much power as the self-respect that goes with the responsibility it entails.

It is true, of course, that few in the Europe of the Six have any illusions as to the willingness of their peoples to shoulder the economic burdens required for the acquisition of a "second-strike capacity." They readily admit that a Europe with its own nuclear big stick would still remain dependent on its American protector. For if it were ever to make threatening gestures without his backing, the stick could only too easily be struck from its hands with one mighty preventive blow. But in their view that is not to say it would be worse than useless. Their argument here rejoins the more sophisticated defense of national deterrents. This is not that Europe and America have conflicting interests requiring different strategies of deterrence. At first sight this justification of an autonomous European deterrent seems plausible enough. For it is indeed arguable that the American strategy of "flexible response," which aims at limiting damage if deterrence should fail, would have the practical effect of limiting the damage not in but to Europe. Hence the European preference for the old strategy of maximum deterrence-near-automatic, massive retaliation involving a nuclear duel between the two giants over the head of Europe as soon as deterrence is seen to fail. But altogether apart from the doubtful validity of the assumption that in such a duel the Russian missiles targeted on Europe would remain on their launching pads, this argument for an autonomous European deterrent falls down on the score that it presupposes a "second-strike capacity." For only in that case could a European strategy of deterrence, ex hypothesi disapproved of by America, achieve credibility.

The more sophisticated argument for a European deterrent is twofold. On the one hand, the possession of nuclear weapons undeniably creates what Coral Bell has called in "The Debatable Alliance" an "aura of power" out of all proportion to their military or diplomatic efficacy; however lacking in megatons or credibility the present Chinese bomb may be, it has certainly made China's neighbors apprehensive. On the other hand, a nuclear power is bound to carry more weight, not only in the world at large but even in the counsels of the alliance to which it belongs, than a non-nuclear power. For just as the Russians cannot be wholly certain that the Americans bluff when they swear to commit suicide for Berlin, so the American leader of the Atlantic Alliance cannot be wholly certain that his nuclear allies are bluffing when they threaten to go it alone if he does not pay due regard to their interests. That is to say, among allies even the power to threaten suicide is a real power, to say nothing of the more credible threat of contracting out if the leader should show himself too aggressive rather than too feeble for his ally's taste. If the latter is sensible, he will of course never utter such threats explicitly; unlike de Gaulle, he will be careful not to put too great a strain on his relationship with his indispensable protector. The senior partner's knowledge that the junior partner is capable of fulfilling his threats, if driven to despair, is sufficient to alter the balance of power within the alliance somewhat to the advantage of the lesser partner.

Or did Suez show this theory to be untenable?

In that case the advocates of a European deterrent come back with another argument. It is that you have proved nothing when you have proved that there is no rational case for it. Even if it were true that the margin of independence derived from the possession of contemporary armament is wholly illusory, it would still meet an elementary need. Men do not live by cold truth alone. They demand something more: the ability to feel, however unreasonably, that they are not just disenfranchized citizens of Pentagonia, even though that might be a much cheaper and safer way of life; their birthright, never questioned in pre-nuclear times, to a sense of responsibility for their own fate; in short, their self-respect and what they call their honor. Now that these powerful sentiments can no longer find satisfaction in national self-defense, the modern means of which have become too costly, they are bound to set up an ever growing pressure for "self-defense" in a wider framework which, pending a federal Atlantis, can only be a nuclear Europe. Nor need it be detrimental to the cohesion of the alliance on which ultimate safety depends. For as the so-called German Gaullist, Baron zu Guttenberg, has written in his interesting "Wenn der Westen Will": "Helpless allies are more vulnerable to the enemy's threats or temptations to hedge their bets than self-reliant allies. ... A hegemonial structure is more likely to lead to suspicion and recrimination than an alliance of more or less equal partners." That is also the view of some American writers like Herman Kahn or Kissinger; the latter has said that "the unity of the Atlantic area may well be furthered by a structure which grants the possibility of autonomous action while reducing the desire for it."


The very fact that de Gaulle's appeal to a nascent European pride has met with response is the best proof that his old-fashioned tribal nationalism has been much less contagious than one might have feared. The European antibody that M. Schuman first injected into the bloodstream of the Six appears to remain remarkably effective. In fact, it looks as if the absurd contradiction between de Gaulle's predication of European patriotism and French nationalism has made all but his followers in France itself only the more aware of the latter's anachronistic character. Neither Italy nor even Germany, which one might have thought particularly vulnerable to the old fever, shows any signs of it-least of all those who are often and so illogically thought to have become dangerously infected, the so-called German Gaullists. Afflicted as their foreign critics are by incurable Germanophobia, it seems to have escaped them that one can hardly qualify as a German nationalist when choosing a Frenchman as one's hero.

The fact is of course that German Gaullism, by definition the opposite of German nationalism, is not much more than a very obvious stick with which to belabor the government in power. It has the difficult task of keeping on good terms with its American protector as well as his French miniature competitor. Nothing is more jejune than to suggest that Dr. Erhard should simply cut the Gordian knot and tell the Frenchman he is neither needed nor wanted. For while the latter may have nothing to offer in comparison with America, he has a good deal to threaten with: not only breaking up the Common Market-though this would hurt him as much as the intended victim of such a spiteful operation-but also chumming up with Eastern Europe. Moreover, the General has wooed le grand peuple allemand, both in speech and action, so effectively that to snub him might prove very costly electorally as well. Is he not the architect of the beautifully stage- managed Franco-German reconciliation? Indeed he is not. Schuman and his contemporaries were. But the myth of de Gaulle as the great conciliator has been solidly put across. And the "romance" of this reconciliation, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine has called it, is so precious to a nation of sentimentalists, who have few other friends to get romantic about, that to destroy it would be risky indeed.

Thus as long as Germany's giant protector is at loggerheads with its dwarf- competitor any German government is compelled to do a delicate balancing act. The German Gaullists' case is not that such an act is unnecessary; they are the last to suggest that Germany could afford to swap the American for the French guarantee. In so far as they differ at all with the government it is only on the question how far one can go in pleasing the one without alienating the other. And if their judgment is influenced by their preference, if they would like to go along a little further with de Gaulle, it is not because of his old-fashioned nationalism but in spite of it. They are with de Gaulle in his desire for a self-reliant Europe; they are most explicitly opposed to his archaic method of achieving it. They have remained unaffected by the ridicule and contempt which their hero has poured on the idea of European integration. They confess themselves one and all, Strauss no less than the others, convinced federalists-as indeed they are bound to do. For even their sense of national identity and pride has not yet been dissolved to the point where they would have their country surrender itself to de Gaulle's Europe de l'état c'est moi.

Those who are still obsessed with the "German danger" would do well to ponder the words of two of these men, Eugen Gerstenmaier, Speaker of the West German parliament, who was involved in the July plot, and Baron zu Guttenberg, who during the war worked for the clandestine British radio station, Sender Calais. "Germany," the first has said, "has abjured the old nationalism that championed national sovereignty. . . . The emotional depth of this abjuration is difficult to realize for those who have not had our experiences with extreme nationalism. . . . In this sense the mentality of present-day Germany is totally different from that after the first world war." "The concept of national sovereignty," writes Guttenberg, "has reduced itself to absurdity. . . . It often amazes me that those who most fear a revival of German nationalism rarely seem to realize what is the only form in which it could still manifest itself today. . . . They are hypnotized by the absurd remains of a warlike chauvinism and they fail to see that in the divided Germany of the nuclear era our nationalism can only take the form of neutralism or even pacifism."

But, it will be said, is not this allegedly harmless Germany asking for nuclear status? Is not that the reason why America offered it the sop of the M.L.F.? According to General Norstad the answer is No. America, he has said, has forced the M.L.F. on Germany. That may be putting it a little too strongly, just as another American, Professor Stanley Hoffmann of Harvard University, doubtless oversimplifies when he sees the M.L.F. as inspired by the desire to "consolidate" America's domination. There were other motives as well. One was the desire to meet the longstanding demand of the NATO Command for a force of I.R.B.M.s to offset the missiles Russia holds targeted on Western Europe. Another was the wish to forestall the emergence of a Versailles complex in Germany. Yet another was the fear that it might be driven to seek satisfaction for its alleged nuclear ambitions in a deal with France.

Perhaps these fears were sincerely held in Washington. But they can hardly explain the urgency with which the case for the M.L.F. has been pressed at a time when it was clear that it would cause the gravest tensions in the Europe of the Six. Not even the Americans themselves claim that this politico-military gimmick was urgently required for Europe's security. Nor can a convincing case be made out for its immediate political necessity. For it just is not true that there is any danger of Germany getting nuclear weapons from France. De Gaulle has made it perfectly clear that he does not dream of giving Germany a finger on the trigger in any shape whatsoever. Moreover, there are so far no real signs of the alleged German hunger for nuclear weapons. It exists only, as Die Welt wrote recently, in the imagination of Washington. Certainly, it is by no means inconceivable that in time it might become a reality. But no one with any knowledge of present- day Germany denies that that time has not yet come.

If many in Germany welcome the M.L.F., it is not because they are itching to get a finger on the nuclear trigger-which in any case the M.L.F. does not provide-but for a number of quite different reasons: because they have convinced themselves-without much regard for strict logic-that it would bind the American protector more closely to them; because it bears the trademark "made in U.S.A." and many Germans-especially the Socialists-like many Italians and Dutchmen, argue, not unreasonably, that Uncle Sam knows what is best for them, or that at any rate they cannot afford to go against his wishes, or, finally, because having been told so often that they are hungry for nuclear weapons and equality of status, some of them may by now have begun to believe it themselves.


Meanwhile, however mixed America's motives may have been in putting forward the M.L.F. and however dense the fog generated by its discussion, one thing stands out clearly. It is that the choice now facing the Six is whether to continue on the road they took 15 years ago toward a self-reliant Europe or to be deviated onto a long detour, perhaps even, if Mr. Wilson has his way, a dead end; to stick to the principle of European integration-in the hope of resuming its practice once de Gaulle is out of the way-or to switch over to an as yet nebulous form of Atlantic integration; to go on making Europe or to start making Atlantis; to opt for the remote mieux that is Atlantic federation or to go for the less remote bien of European federation. For it is no better than childish self-deception to pretend that no choice is necessary, that one can have both an Atlantic Deterrent Community like the M.L.F. or A.N.F. and European Political Union, too. In this respect de Gaulle, whose childishness takes other forms, is perfectly right. If Europe is to have a voice and a big stick of its own, which is the whole object and meaning of political union, you cannot allow some of its members to join quite a different club, whose only function is to wield just such a stick.

The crucial decision which has thus been forced upon the Six is all the more difficult because of the danger that they might not even be left with their Europe des Marchands if some of them decide to accept the American invitation. For there is always the risk-though much diminished now that France's farmers are going to do so well out of this uncompleted Europe- that the impetuous General might blow it up out of sheer disgust with what he would consider the spineless bourgeois mentality manifested by his partners.

Fortunately for them, there are some signs that Mr. Johnson does not intend to put the heat on, thereby once again showing up the Gaullist talk about "the two hegemonies" (as if there were nothing to choose between Russia's and America's treatment of their dependents) for the puerile malevolence it is. Fortunately for them, also, it seems difficult to imagine that he would back up Mr. Wilson's demand for power to reverse Mr. Kennedy's policy by sealing off once and for all the road toward a European Deterrent Community, in which alone Europe could find the strength to become an "equal partner" of America. The more likely prospect would seem to be that the Six will somehow be enabled to mark time, postponing the fateful decision whether or not to become a nuclear power in their own right until a later date when the General will no longer be around to complicate matters.

Then, and only then, the time will have come to reap the fruits of his labors, giving a voice and a nuclear fist to the Europe whose spirit he, the Fédérateur malgré lui, has done so much to awaken. Until that day nothing can be done except talk, partly-supreme irony-because he himself will not allow it; partly because America, without whose indispensable help and approval no one outside France would dream of setting up a European deterrent, would frown on it. It is only when and if American confidence and good will, so recklessly destroyed by Gaullist diplomacy, have been regained that the task of "making Europe" can be resumed.

But will France even then be ready to play its part? Will the France of the new Age of Reason, typified by men like Monnet or Schuman, reëmerge from the shadows to which it has been relegated by the new Romantic Movement led by de Gaulle? It seems by no means impossible. In this connection we do well to recall a line of one of the early Europeans, Victor Hugo, about "la quantité d'avenir qu'on peut introduire dans le présent." Those who conceived the European Defense Community overestimated this quantity with the result that their experiment failed. But is there not equally a limit to the quantity of the past one can successfully introduce into the present? Has not de Gaulle exceeded this maximum? Is it not to be expected, therefore, that this experiment, too, will fail? Is not his policy too absurdly contradictory to survive the great alchemist who promises to distill the gold of European union from the scrap iron of national sovereignty?

It is only when the Gaullist obstacle has been removed, however, that the architects of the new Europe will come up against the full magnitude of the task they set themselves 15 years ago. For, once they are free to go back to work, there will be no escaping the fact that its completion will require an immense "leap forward" or at the very least an equally arduous climb upward to full-fledged federation. Short of that there can be no hope of emancipation from nuclear tutelage, no question of a responsible self- reliant Europe, no prospect of equal partnership.

Nearly all the leading European politicians recognize this and declare themselves willing to embark on the great exploit here and now. It demands a powerful effort of imagination, however, to see them reaching their goal. For it presupposes a will to responsibility so strong as to induce the French to entrust the handling of the ultima ratio-better described in our day as the ultima dementia-to a German or Italian president or premier of a United Europe, and vice versa. Such is the contemporary price for the self- respect that most of us derive from the illusion of independence which can no longer be adequately financed from national means.

Who will be prepared to pay this price? Perhaps, paradoxical as it may seem, the French sooner than anybody else. Because with them-the men of the new Age of Reason as much as the neo-Romantics-the will to responsibility, self-reliance and self-respect, facets of the same elementary human urge, seems stronger than anywhere else. Thus a vista seems to open up so tempting in its promise that it is almost certain to prove but a mirage. It is the vision of a France which, back in its old role of the indispensable état fédérateur, once again takes the lead in the grand adventure that began 15 years ago with the crossing of the Rubicon and only last month brought the historic conquest of the long-promised "green pastures," behind which now looms a towering peak, as inaccessible but also as challenging as Mount Everest.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now