This nonacademic but erudite view of European history shows that the 20th century’s trauma of war and violence is not quite behind us.
Stratfor founder and chairman Friedman (The Next Decade: Where We've Been…and Where We're Going, 2011, etc.) examines the history of Europe’s geopolitical formation since the Ottomans seized Constantinople in 1453 for patterns that might explain the devastation of the two world wars and the unquiet peace since. On the cusp of World War I, Europe enjoyed the status of a “magical place,” the pinnacle of civilization in terms of science, politics and culture, but it was soon to be eclipsed by three decades of unimaginable bloodshed. The German sense of victimization and insecurity prompted this fabled country of “philosophers and cathedrals” to fill the space left by the collapsed institutions of the Weimar Republic with “blood, race and myth.” By the end of the misery of World War II, Europe was depleted and could not even feed itself without the aid of the United States. Moreover, it was via U.S. management that Europe regained its “pride,” as well as economy, from the Marshall Plan, which was supposed to create an irresistible economic integration that made future wars impossible. There was great optimism, even prosperity, within Europe until 2008, when, according to the author, two events changed everything: Russia went to war with Georgia and the financial system collapsed. Russia was relevant again, nationalism awoke, and some poorer nations (e.g., Spain, Greece) struggled mightily while Germany, reunited and wealthy, became the “arbiter” of economic crisis. What Friedman calls the “borderlands” again erupted in war and displacement—i.e., the “flashpoints” of the Balkans and Caucasus that continue to demonstrate that the “passions that had defined Europe prior to 1945 were alive and well.”
A thoughtful, uncluttered treatise considering Europe’s intractable patterns of unemployment, immigration and racism.