Category Archives: Europe

Martin van Creveld asks: Has a new Thirty Years’ War begun in Europe?

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld gives us a chilling warning, one that appears more accurate after the attacks on Paris. Our invasions after 9/11 destabilized the Middle East, and the resulting  fires slowly grow hotter and spread. If events follow the course of the Thirty Years’ War, much worse awaits us in the future.

"The Disasters of War" by Francisco Goya.

“The Disasters of War” by Francisco Goya.

A Thirty Years’ War?

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 22 October 2015
Posted with his generous permission

For those of you who have forgotten, here is a short reminder. The Thirty Years’ War started in May 1618 when the Protestant Estates of Bohemia revolted against the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II. They threw his envoys out of the windows of the palace at Prague. Fortunately for them, the moat into which they fell was filled with rubbish and nobody was killed.

Had the revolt remained local, it would have been suppressed fairly quickly. As, in fact, it was in 1620 when the Habsburgs and their allies won the Battle of the White Mountain. Instead it expanded and expanded. First the Hungarians and then the Ottomans were drawn in (though they did not stay in for long). Then came the Spaniards, then the Danes, then the Swedes, and finally the French. Some did less, others more. Many petty European states, cities, and more or less independent robber barons also set up militias and joined what developed into a wild free for all.

For three decades armies and militias chased each other all over central Europe. Robbing, burning, raping, killing. By the time the Treaty of Westphalia ended the hostilities in 1648 the population of Germany had been reduced by an estimated one third.

The similarities with the current war in Syria are obvious and chilling. This war, too, started with a revolt against an oppressive ruler and his regime. One who, however nasty he might be, at any rate had kept things more or less under control.

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Is Europe sliding towards civil war?

Summary:   Islamic immigrants (and their descendants) are only 5% or so of Europe’s population. But their numbers are rising fast due to their higher fertility and continued high rate of immigration. Here Dutch journalist and author Renzo Verwer shares his grim speculation about the future of Europe if this continues. Second post in this series.

Warehouse Fire

Warehouse burning on 4 November 2005 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France. AFP Photo by Jack Guez; GettyImages.

Europe: Sliding Towards Civil War?

By Renzo Verwer
From website of Martin van Creveld, 15 October 2015
Posted with the author’s generous permission

Day by day, thousands of asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle East are entering the EU in search of their Promised Land. Germany alone expects 750,000 in 2015. Over the first half of 2015 the EU has admitted 400,000. This foreshadows a great increase over the figure for the whole of 2014, which stood at 562,265. To be sure, not all these people will be allowed to stay. Far from it. But many will remain, legally or not.

As any child can understand, this vast inflow, both legal and illegal, will necessarily have consequences for European society. Yet quite a few European leaders claim that nothing will change. Or even that immigration will have a positive effect on the society in question; for instance, by providing industry with labor. Not so. First, the fact is that each immigrant costs the country in which he or she chooses to settle tens of thousands of Euro a year. Second, their arrival often means that religious and ethnic tensions start being imported. Having seen how these things developed in an Amsterdam flat shared by Ethiopians and Eritreans, I can bear personal witness to this problem. Not nice; not at all.

Take a look at the following piece of news, originating in a mall Dutch village blessed by a center for immigrants in search of refugee status (“In Orange you for or against asylum seekers” — in Dutch). A fascinating quote:

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Stratfor: Why Germany Cannot Stop the Flow of Migrants

Summary: Europe’s people thought that the economic crisis that began with Greece in 2010, quickly spreading, was their test of the decade. They’re slowly realizing that the flood of migrants, especially from the Middle East, poses a far larger and more profound threat — disrupting not just the European Union, but also to the politics of its individual nations. Here is Stratfor’s analysis of the dilemma facing Germany, the EU’s core.  First post in this series.


Why Germany Cannot Stop the Flow of Migrants

Stratfor, 29 October 2015


  • Germany will not be able to compel Greece or Turkey to stem the flow of migrants without jeopardizing other, more pressing priorities.
  • Winter will lower the number of arrivals, giving the European Union room to strategize and negotiate.
  • Ongoing fighting in Syria means that the surge in arrivals will likely pick up again in 2016.


A massive wave of migration has been sweeping Europe for much of 2015 as hundreds of thousands of people arrive from conflict-ridden parts of the globe. The European Union is still struggling to find a way to stem the flow or adapt. Germany, as both a major migrant destination and EU leader, has led the effort. On Oct. 25, a selection of European leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss the crisis, including representatives of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece. Non-EU members Macedonia and Serbia also took part. The summit was the latest attempt to come to a consensus on a solution to the problem and contain the resulting political fallout.

Of course, the Continent has always struggled to deal with the arrival of new immigrants. Peninsular Europe sits at the westernmost edge of the massive Eurasian landmass, which encompasses the Middle East and is closely connected to Africa. New arrivals have often taxed the Continent’s naturally fragile geopolitical balance. In antiquity, for example, the influx of nomads off the Central Asian steppe precipitated the end of another Continental bloc — the Roman Empire. The European Union has had to deal with this challenge since its inception. The unprecedented surge over the past 10 months, however, has called into question current domestic political arrangements as well as the structure of the entire bloc.

Routes of Tension

Ultimately, it has been the sheer number of migrants this year and the shift in arrival routes that have led to deeper structural problems. In 2014, the primary route into Europe was across the Mediterranean from the south. Migrants traveled in boats of up to 800 passengers from the North African coast to Italy and Malta, the so-called southern route. In 2014, 170,000 people took this journey, the vast majority from African countries, with 25% (around 42,000) coming from Syria. So far in 2015, volumes on this route have remained much the same, with the number of migrants holding relatively steady at around 139,000. The one key difference, however, is that Syrians now make up just 5% of the total.

But while the Italian route has been relatively static, migration along the alternative eastern route has surged. In past years, the journey began with a walk over the land border between Turkey and Greece. New arrivals would then either remain in Greece or continue into Europe through the Balkans.

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Germany’s treatment of Greece shows what the Right wants us to become

Summary: The Greek-eurozone tale is a common one, much like that of America’s inner cities. As usual, the Right begins its tightening with the weak and poorly behaved. People are told that they deserve their harsh fate.  But it doesn’t end with them, as austerity is a medicine always requiring another dose.  {1st of 2 posts today.}


Previous posts reported economists’ explaining the roots of the Greek crisis, so unlike the simple morality play in the newspapers. Yesterday’s post said that events in Europe result from similar political forces at work in America, both pushing the west to the Right. This provides evidence of that, in a small way, by Tyler Cowen, a conservative Professor of Economics at George Mason U: “Greece and Syriza lost the public relations battle“. It’s quite revealing, which we see at the opening.

One of the most striking aspects of the Greek situation is just how much the Greek government has lost the public relations battle.  They have lost it among the social democracies, and they have lost it most of all with the other small countries in Europe.

Conservatives respect public opinion (vox populi, vox dei), except when it’s just the views of the mob. But public opinion is malleable, and condemnation of the Left has been a knee-jerk reaction of the news media for centuries — as we’ve seen in America from the first great public relations campaign against William Jennings Bryan in 1896 (the most expensive Presidential campaign ever) to the demonization of Martin Luther King (“commie agitator”). The campaign against Greece ranks among the best of them, driven by a mix of fact and fiction.

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The Greek crisis shows Europe’s 1% winning, just like their cousins in America

Summary: Previous posts reported economists’ explaining the roots of the Greek crisis, so unlike the simple morality play in the newspapers. This post looks at its politics, a narrative of victory by Europe’s 1%, a milestone on their 2-centuries-long quest to destroy the Left. Progress requires sacrifices, so examples have to be made — such as the people of Greece. Nike, goddess of victory


  1. Devastated Europe
  2. What’s the cause?
  3. The Right triumphant
  4. What happens next?
  5. For More Information

Image of Nike, goddess of victory. By Emanuel Lakozas. She no longer favors Greece.

(1)  Devastated Europe

The crisis is one of Europe, not just Greece. As Paul Krugman shows, the people of Europe are paying a high price for their leaders’ policies. Due to its long-standing weakness and incompetent leadership, Greece is merely the worst affected.

GDP change in Europe 2007-14

From Krugman, New York Times, 29 May 2015.

Krugman explains the cause of these dismal results:

… what’s striking at this point is how much the origin stories of European crises differ. Yes, the Greek government borrowed too much. But the Spanish government didn’t — Spain’s story is all about private lending and a housing bubble. And Finland’s story doesn’t involve debt at all. It is, instead, about weak demand for forest products, still a major national export, and the stumbles of Finnish manufacturing, in particular of its erstwhile national champion Nokia.

What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket. Finland had a very severe economic crisis at the end of the 1980s — much worse, at the beginning, than what it’s going through now. But it was able to engineer a fairly quick recovery in large part by sharply devaluing its currency, making its exports more competitive. This time, unfortunately, it had no currency to devalue. And the same goes for Europe’s other trouble spots.

(2)  What’s the cause?

The cause is often described as stupidity by Europe’s leaders. Journalist Ryan Cooper gives this hyperbolic assessment: “The eurozone has become a murder-suicide pact“. Continue reading

What can we learn from Greece’s crisis?

Summary: Now the final act has probably begun in the long divorce of Greece from the European Monetary Union. Ignore the predictions. They’re just wild guesses. Rather let’s take this moment to contemplate how Greece — and Europe — got here.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”
— Jean Monnet in his Memoirs (1978). He was one of the architects of the program to unite Europe (see his Wikipedia bio).

EU flag burning on the ground

Unnecessary death of a dream.

After years of confident assurances that all would probably work out for the best, Greece has gone off a cliff. This was long expected by readers of the FM website. In July 2007 they read that the European Monetary Union probably couldn’t survive the next recession in its current form. The cracks opened in 2010; in February 2012 I predicted it would not survive the crisis.

Europe’s lending and monetary stimulus programs to the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) delayed the crack-up until 2010 and extended the slow decline since then, Now the crisis has begun. It will almost certainly bring big changes to Greece. As for the rest of Europe, and to the unification program, who can say? Greece is small, but it might create large precedents for others to follow.

While journalists report the exciting events to come — entertainment for America’s outer party (managers and professionals), because what difference does it make? — we can ponder how this happened and what America can learn from this.

We’ll see many economists explain why this resulted from incompetent politicians. This crisis would have been manageable if tenured economists at majored universities ran the world! Barry Eichengreen (Berkeley) says “Path to Grexit tragedy paved by political incompetence.” I suspect that a tag-team of Solon, Pitt the Younger, and Washington would have found this crisis difficult to handle.

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Stratfor: A high stakes cage match – Nationalism vs. the European Union

Summary:  The European Union appears to be starting its long-predicted endgame, when its  design flaws create insolvable crises. This analysis by Stratfor goes to the heart of the EU, describing the forces that seem likely to halt or reverse the 65 year-long march to unification. They make a bold prediction which, if correct, will change the course of 21st C geopolitics. {2nd of 2 posts today.}


How Nationalism Undermines the European Union

Stratfor, 29 May 2015


  • The loss of economic prosperity has hurt European integration efforts. Member states will now push to devolve power from the European Union to the national level.
  • Nationalist and anti-establishment parties in member states will undermine fundamental EU policy.
  • EU institutions will be able to manage this trend in the short term, but the economy will force Brussels to reshape the European Union.
  • Over time, nationalism will trump European integration and governments will repatriate power for the first time in EU history, leading to the collapse of the union.

On May 29, 2005, French voters rejected a proposed European Constitution in a nationwide referendum. A week later, the Dutch followed suit. This clear rejection of greater European integration was an iconic moment in the history of the European Union. Although it came in the form of a nation-state constitution, the European Constitution would primarily have collated all previous EU treaties into a single document. This symbolic act, plus the granting of more legislative powers to Brussels, would have been a major step toward a unified Europe formulated in the wake of World War II.

A decade since the Dutch and French referendums, the European project is in its deepest crisis. The economic turmoil that began in 2009 and produced the eurozone crisis has awakened nationalist instincts that undermine pan-Europeanism. These centrifugal forces have always been present and, historically, led some members to opt out of certain initiatives. The key difference in 2015, however, is that nations will choose to backpedal on integration — a first in EU history.

Integration and Sovereignty

The contest between nationalism and pan-Europeanism has been at the core of the European Union since it was first formulated in Rome in 1957. The union is an attempt to create a transnational entity out of a group of nation-states defined by different economies and political traditions, divided by a history of conflict. To unify these states, the European Union promised peace and economic prosperity. The resulting organization was a hybrid between a unified pan-European entity and a community of sovereign nation-states. In the ensuing decades, these competing visions have continued to clash, with nationalism succeeding several times in slowing the integration process.

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