Courtesy Reuters

Europe: Decision or Drift

It is well to check one's conclusions against the sweep of events over time. The newspapers must make their daily judgments; the columnists their biweekly syntheses; the monthlies content themselves with prediction of the future or explanation of the past. All of this misses the continuum of events. Those of each day, month and year grow out of what has gone before and will mark, shape and condition what comes after them.

For three hundred years Europe has been the Hinge of Fate for those who have dwelt in the Western Hemisphere. Before the religious wars in Europe had ended in the seventeenth century, all its great nations-Spain, Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands-had established settlements in this hemisphere.

The ensuing century or more of world war in Europe to prevent French domination of the Continent was fought also in New England, the Ohio Valley, Canada, the West Indies, Louisiana and the City of Washington itself. Its various phases-the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars-all had their American counterparts-King William's, Queen Anne's and King George's Wars, the French and Indian War, and the War of 1812. To General Washington these interruptions in the development of our new land seemed the results of European enmities and collusions from which we should stand apart. But the defeat of French ambitions in Europe defeated them also in America. President Jefferson, who wisely observed that any power in possession of the mouth of the Mississippi was, and must be, our enemy, eliminated the last French possession from North America by the purchase from hard-pressed Napoleon of the Louisiana Territory.

After this century and a half of involvement with the world, the isolation from it which Washington urged in his Farewell Address came not from acts of American statesmanship and power, but from the settlement of Vienna and British seapower.

The Treaty of Vienna produced a real balance of power, and the will to maintain it, in Europe, and

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