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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 25-Mar-07
Angela Merkel tries to unify a fractured Europe on its 50th birthday

Web Log - March, 2007

Angela Merkel tries to unify a fractured Europe on its 50th birthday

Using the feminine touch to keep a bunch of quarrelsome men in line, Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, worked to prevent another disastrous blowup like the acrimonious European Union summit meeting in June 2005.

June 2005: Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac
June 2005: Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac

The 2005 meeting occurred shortly after the electifying French referendum that rejected the proposed EU constitution.

At that summit meeting, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Jacques Chirac exchanged vitriolic accusations over how the EU budget, especially the agricultural subsidies, were to be divided among the EU members. Six months later, Tony Blair caved, and only that way could an interim EU budget agreement be reached.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

At that time, Jean-Claude Juncker held the rotating Presidency of the European Union; today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the seat. And she's been working overtime to avoiding a repeat of the 2005

Sunday was originally supposed to be a grand celebration -- a 50th birthday celebration, commemorating the March 25, 1957, signing of the "Treaty of Rome" that created the precursor to the "United States of Europe."

There would be a new "Treaty of Berlin." The heads of all 27 EU member states would sign the new Treaty of Berlin, and that would seal the deal for a new, grand and glorious European Union.

Unfortunately, the development of the text of the Treaty of Berlin was as contentious as agreement about the budget has been.

So Merkel developed the text in secret, showing it only to those who had to see it, not revealing it until Sunday, when everyone would be signing it.

But then Czech president Václav Klaus let it be known that he might refuse to sign the treaty, because it was prepared in secret.

So, Merkel solved that problem by deciding that there would be only three signatures: Merkel, as EU president, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, and European Parliament president Hans-Gert Pottering. It would now just be called the "Berlin Declaration."

The text of the Berlin Declaration shows it to be as bland as water. It just says, essentially, "the EU is great, thanks to everyone's help." I'll comment on the text again below.

Czech president Václav Klaus has been unhappy about references to the environment and climate change, since any treaty reducing emissions would fall very heavily on the Czech republic, where factory emissions are high.

Poland wanted the declaration to mention the Christian roots of Europe, and now Pope Benedict is accusing the EU of apostasy for refusing to mention Christianity in the declaration.

Britain wants mention of the euro currency to be played down, since Britain is still using its own local currency (the pound) in place of the euro.

And the biggest problem of all is being played down: There's still no EU constitution, and no real hope in sight. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker wants a constitution right away, but the compromise document simply calls for "renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009."

So it was a nice get-together. The leaders probably got slightly inebriated, but not so much that they would raise any difficult issues with one another. They'll all go home, with nothing accomplished, and nothing in sight.

To see how they got to this point, let's go back to the 1950s. Europe had been devastated by two world wars. Everybody was fearful that there could be another world war at any time. Finally, it was agreed by the war survivors that Europe had to form a union like the United States to prevent another war. That was the powerful motivation behind the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

That motivation is reflected in text of the final declaration:

"For centuries Europe has been an idea, holding out hope of peace and understanding. That hope has been fulfilled. European unification has made peace and prosperity possible. It has brought about a sense of community and overcome differences. Each Member State has helped to unite Europe and to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe the unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past. European unification shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict. Today we live together as was never possible before. ...

The European Union will continue to promote democracy, stability and prosperity beyond its borders.

With European unification, a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.

In the end, there is no part of this declaration more important than this sentence: "European unification shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict."

The fear of a major new European war is what has motivated the entire European project.

But of course, this fear is generational. It's the older generations that fear a new European war. The younger generations take for granted that there WON'T be a new European war. For the younger generations, all that matters is level of income, quality of life, the most stylish cell phone, the coolest car, and so forth.

At the end of 2005, when the European leaders had finally recovered from the shock of the French rejection of the EU constitution, there was a new consensus: Just wait a couple of years and try again, and public opinion will move in the direction of being more favorable.

But they've got it backwards. As the older generations, with some memory of the world wars, disappear, and younger generations replace them, the primary visceral motivation for an EU -- fear of a new European war -- is disappearing as well.

I showed this in my analysis of the exit polls from the French referendum on the EU constitution, and the results of France's 1992 referendum on the Maastricht treaty: It was people born before 1945 who primarily voted in favor, and people born after 1945 who primarily voted against.

As usual, supposedly intelligent journalists and analysts are completely clueless about all this. All they could talk about were their usual obsessions about class and income. They would ask a really stupid question, like "Why did we lose the middle managers and the moderately highly paid?" The answer to that question was that in 1992, the middle managers and moderately highly paid were born BEFORE 1945, and in 2005 the middle managers and moderately high paid were born AFTER 1945. But no article that I've seen has even discussed this point. It's simply too abstract a concept for the journalists and analysts to even grasp.

(Incidentally, this is the kind of concept that's central to Generational Dynamics, and one that I raise over and over. For example, last week I wrote about the Chinese use a carrot and stick approach with Taiwan, alternating threats of war with offers of economic incentives. They believe that the Taiwanese people will eventually become convinced that they should reunite with China. But they have it backwards: as older generations die off, the Taiwanese people are less interested in reuniting with China.

The same is true with financial trends. The 1990s stock market bubble only occurred with the generation that personally remembered the 1929 stock market crash died off; the younger generations had no fear of abusing credit, and now we're close to a new stock market crash. But analysts never seem able to connect those dots.)

But if journalists and analysts aren't intelligent enough to see the generational changes, the people that they interview sometimes are.

One news report quotes a 50-year old man as saying yesterday, "My parents had experienced two wars before (the EU was founded). My father lost his brother. I have the opportunity to live in peace here."

During the run-up to the 2005 French referendum, young people were quoted as worrying that low-paid East European workers would come to France and take all the jobs; the symbol adopted by opponents of the constitution was the low-paid Polish plumber who steals a job away from a well-paid Frenchman.

But there was a different kind of opinion expressed by an elderly French voter to a BBC reporter: "My grandfather fought in World War I. My father fought in World Wars I and II. I fought in World War II. And now, for 60 years, my children and grandchildren have lived in peace. That's a good enough reason to me to vote 'yes' on the Constitution."

This is all Generational Dynamics in action. When a genocidal crisis war occurs, the people who survive are so traumatized that they spend the rest of their lives do everything in the power to keep it from happening to their children and grandchildren. Their children and grandchildren, however, take it for granted that there will never be a new war, and so they're shocked and surprised when the new war begins in earnest.

Conflict risk level for next 6-12 months as of: 9-Feb-2006
W. Europe 1 Arab Israeli 3
Russia Caucasus 2 Kashmir 2
China 2 North Korea 2
Financial 3 Bird flu 3
Key: 1=green 1=Low risk 2=yellow 2=Med 3=red 3=High 4=black 4=Active

When I discuss these issues with people, the thing that seems to surprise them the most is that there's going to be a major new European war. This wouldn't be a surprise at all to people who lived through World War II, because they've seen it all before; it's a surprise to the younger generations because they believe that their parents are just being alarmist even talking about the possibility of a new European war.

It also shouldn't be a surprise to someone who understands that Europe has had many major crisis wars, at least since 1066, and actually back through the days of the Roman Empire. Each one of these wars was unexpected before it happened -- because the young generations rejected their parents' warnings as being alarmist.

The most recent West European crisis wars are the Thirty Years War (ending 1648), War of the Spanish Succession (1714), French Revolution (1799), Franco-Prussian war / Paris Commune (1871), World War II (1945).

The most recent East European / Mideast crisis wars are the Battle of Kosovo (ending 1389), Fall of Constantinople (1453), Ottoman conquest of Syria and Egypt (1520), War with Habsburgs (1606), War with Holy League (1699), War with Russia (1774), Crimean War (1856), World War I (1922).

There are similar lists for other countries and every region of the world. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the generational changes that produced these wars have suddenly changed. In fact, what we're now seeing is that the above two timelines (that I often refer to, for simplicity but somewhat misleadingly, as the "World War I timeline" and "World War II timeline") are now going to merge into a major Clash of Civilizations world war.

Within Europe, there is still the question of how France, England and Germany will line up with one another. Over the centuries, they've lined up as allies or enemies in several different ways. I've speculated that France will line up against England because of my own personal experiences in the 1970s, when I was doing a lot of business travel to Europe; it was perfectly clear to me that the Germans liked Americans and the French hated Americans. The vitriolic exchange, described above, involving Chirac, Juncker and Blair, represents very real, deep-seated conflicts between the French world view and what the French call the "Anglo-Saxon" world view.

BBC's <i>Robin Hood</i> publicity <font size=-2>(Source: Wikipedia)</font>
BBC's Robin Hood publicity (Source: Wikipedia)

What this shows is how powerful the fault line still remains from the 1066 war when the Norman French conquered the Saxons in England. One interesting speculation is that the Robin Hood legend has survived for centuries because of this fault line. In fact, the BBC last fall launched a brand new Robin Hood TV Series, and it's just now starting on BBC-America. What is rarely mentioned is that Robin Hood was a "good" Saxon, stealing from the rich, "evil" French invaders to give to the poor. I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that the Robin Hood legend isn't nearly as popular in France as it is in England. (Just the opposite is presumably the case for the Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) story.)

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there's no doubt at all that there will be a new European war. We can't predict what scenario will lead to that war, or which side each of the European countries will be on -- those are matters of speculation; but the final destination -- a major new European war -- can be predicted with certainty.

But there's more to be said. European wars have always had more than one component. On the one hand, there was the Christian component -- Protestants vs Catholics. On the other hand, there was the Christian versus non-Christian component -- Christians versus Jews and Muslims. Both of these components will appear in the coming new European war.

The successful July 7, 2005, London subway bombing has been a powerful tool for the Islamist radicals in recruiting young Muslims in England to form terror cells for further terrorist acts.

As I wrote in a lengthy article in November, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, many of Britain's young Muslims have set up a "Hero/Prophet" relationship with the radical clerics in Pakistan. This kind of relationship is the visceral basis by means of which new genocidal crisis wars begin. There's an emotional connection between the elder Prophet generation (the idealistic generation born after the last crisis war) and the impatient college age Hero generation (the soldiers who will be fighting the new crisis war). Last month, reporting by Peter Bergen on CNN made it clear that the young British Muslims are particularly connected to the resurging al-Qaeda leadership on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The radicalizing of young Muslims is occurring throughout Europe. A reader recently referred me to a Washington Times article by Paul Belien, editor of the Brussels Journal, and a conservative-libertarian political supporter:

"The decisive battle against Islamic extremists will not be fought in Iraq, but in Europe. It is not in Baghdad but in cities like Antwerp, Belgium, where the future of the West will be decided. ...

About three years ago, young men dressed in black moved into the neighborhoods. They had been trained in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and adhere to Salafism, a radical version of Islam. They set up youth organizations, which gradually took over the local mosques. "The Salafists know how to debate and they know the Qur'an by heart, while the elderly running the mosques do not," she said They also have money. "One of them told me that he gets Saudi funds." Because they are eloquent, the radicals soon became the official spokesmen of the Muslim community, also in dealing with the city authorities. Ms. Uijt den Bogaard witnessed how the latter gave in to Salafist demands, such as the demand for separate swimming hours for Muslim women in the municipal pools. ...

Sadly, what is happening in Antwerp is not unique. The Salafists employ the same strategy in other European cities. They boasted to Ms. Uijt den Bogaard about their international network and their successes in neighboring countries. While the Americans fight to secure Iraq, Western Europe is becoming a hotbed of Salafism."

Now, this is all anecdotal evidence from a political supporter, but it represents what is evidently a growing divide between Europeans and young Muslims living in Europe.

Needless to say, none of this was discussed in the Berlin Declaration that was adopted on Sunday.

According to the Declaration of Berlin, adopted on Sunday, "European unification shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict. Today we live together as was never possible before."

Who is the "we" in the phrase "we have learnt"? It's not the younger generations, for whom this exercise is meaningless. They're more worried about what to wear on their next date.

This is Generational Dynamics in action. The people who say "we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict" are the old dinosaurs that no one cares about anymore. The younger generations are the ones making all the decisions now, and they haven't learned anything at all. And Angela Merkel's feminine touch won't change that at all. (25-Mar-07) Permanent Link
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