SUMANTRA MEITRA: Europe’s Imperial Dilemma.
The British exit and the Spanish crackdown are both a direct consequence of the EU shaping up as an empire, without having the requisite will or capability to manage order across the continent or control the backlash resulting from its idealist and incoherent policies. Undermining state sovereignty has only empowered differing forces within EU. The culturally Catholic conservative Central Europeans, for example, are opposed to Brussels and Berlin meddling in their domestic affairs with unchecked migration or energy deals with the United States. Britain, on the other hand, left the EU due simply to a rational fear of Germany’s Angela Merkel opening the whole of Europe to millions of migrants. Now, ethnic groups like the Catalans have decided if they are going to be ruled by Brussels anyway, why bother listening to the middle man in Madrid? Also, there’s no logical coherence in the policy of EU supporting humanitarian interventions in Libya, and self-determination of other ethnic groups like the Kurds and Irish, while simultaneously and hypocritically opposing Catalonian independence.
A great Machiavellian paradox now tests Europe. It is too diverse, differing in language and culture, and never united before other than through forced imperium, to be bound together in the way the EU has envisioned. An empire, or its modern jargon-oriented equivalent, ultimately cannot be sustained, or defended without using brute force. After all, Westphalian nation-states came into existence as the old empires faded. That led to imperial colonial powers, which then ruled the world for centuries, before being dismantled by other regional nationalists. The last empire to fall was the Soviet Union, which kept the Warsaw pact countries under their power not by the strength of Marxist ideology, but by sheer military force. As soon as Soviet economic power collapsed, so too did the strength of their military, resulting in an opening for a nationalist tide. If the EU tries to morph into a full empire, the result would be more nationalistic backlash and chaos—to say nothing of heightened wariness and tensions with the United States, the UK, and Russia. If the EU doesn’t act like an empire, the regional ethnic groups will rebel against their national states.
And that’s the dilemma for humanity’s greatest liberal utopian project.
“Utopia” of course means “no where,” and I’m afraid “liberal” in this case is the modern, illiberal meaning of the word. But this is a solid, big-picture peace — highly recommended.