Order the summer edition here

Europolitic striptease

The End of Europe. Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age
Forfatter: James Kirchick
Forlag: Yale University Press (USA)
Europe must fight alone to maintain the rights-based society we take for granted. 


Europe's crises throughout history have taken many forms. EU cooperation, developed in the post-war period, hailed by anti-establishment representatives such as peace scientist Johan Galtung and crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, remains easily a stalemate for anyone affected by the Union's politics. For the past decade, the crises have been in line and have created the basis for an EU resistance most reminiscent of disgust.

Whereas the nations of Europe used to war with each other with bombs and grenades, there is now war without arms and across borders. The conflicts are no longer about territories, religion or ideology, but about the euro, the Schengen agreement, agriculture, fisheries, data storage – you name it.

All Norwegian economists, led by Aftenposten's recently retired economics editor Ola Storeng, have long announced the imminent death and burial of the European single currency. With the British EU announcement, an exceptionally large migration press and a series of spectacularly gruesome acts of terror in recent years, commentators are lining up to describe the continent's next major collapse. The author of The End of Europe. Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age With his book title selection, James Kirchick may appear to be contributing to the doomsday prophecies. However, readers with such expectations will be disappointed.

Author's 007. The journalist and activist Kirchick is no where at all. He received his education at the prestigious Yale University of America, and has gradually built up an impressive journalistic portfolio with his regular reports in media such as the Washington Post, New York Times and Huffington Post. The road to these respected press institutions went through the liberal magazine New Republic and Radio Free Europe – at the same time that Kirchick fought hard for gay rights at home in the United States as well as in Russia.

That being said: The End of Europe is a pleasure to read for anyone interested in history and international politics. Kirchick writes light and catchy, with speed and precision. His opinions are intertwined at surprising times and from surprising angles. The first chapter on Russia is almost reminiscent of a James Bond movie – albeit without artificial effects, but with thorough academic references to every trick and crunch the author takes. Kirchick's account of Vladimir Putin's rehabilitation of Josef Stalin is fascinatingly detailed and extremely credible. Any doubts about the connection between the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and the takeover of Crimea are liberally swept aside.

Those who claim that the European Union has failed should ask themselves the questions: In relation to what? For the Thirty Years War Europe? Napoleonic Empire? Or the Third Reich?

Snowden and the Jews. Through the last seven chapters, Kirchick addresses four main themes: anti-Semitism, espionage, immigration and nationalism in Hungary, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Greece and Ukraine respectively. In contrast to the well-documented Russian chapter, it may seem that the author is letting his own fad horses take over; criticism of Edward Snowden, and defense of the Jews of Europe. His presentation of both themes is exciting and clearly important. But when he attributes Snowden's espionage – to say the least of an otherwise liberal author – to be the main cause of Europe's impending collapse, along with discrimination against the Jews, he overlookes many other important issues.

Most interesting is the chapter on Viktor Orban's attempt to purge the role of Hungarian authorities during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to extermination camps. The fact that the same man led a party that received the Rafto Prize in 1989 for his human rights work is not mentioned, of course, but is a cross of thought and a reminder of how power can corrupt.

Temperature Change. Quite so abruptly Kirchick's book changes character. The chapter on France is exclusively about Jewish discrimination and the consequences of the weakened Jewish presence in French society. It may seem one-sided, but written with admirable insight and respect for the role and position of the Jews in the development of European civilization. Descriptions of anti-Semitic events in France in recent decades leave little doubt as to why so many Jews emigrated to Israel during the same period.

The growing influence of Islam and the EU's inability to cope with the wave of immigration dominate the discussion of Germany and the European Union. Interesting and relevant, but no eye opener. On the other hand, Kirchick's extensive portrayal of Edward Snowden's "wrongdoings" and how the whistleblower was exploited by Russian-dominated forces is noteworthy.

Kirchick's explanation of why the British voted to leave the EU is interesting, but does not bring much new. That 70 per cent of all immigration in the last 15 years has come from former British colonies outside the EU deserves repetition: This means that the British authorities have been completely free to put their foot down without so much as a beep from Brussels. Kirchick argues well that the absence of the British during the Minsk negotiations on Ukraine / Russia in 2015 contributed to a new political map of Europe, which significantly weakened London's position. He thinks EU skeptics Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, who claim that the union has failed, should ask the questions: In relation to what? For the Thirty Years War Europe? Napoleonic Empire? Or the Third Reich?

Country by country, the author of the political leaders dresses their populist national outfits and shows how naked they are left facing basic European values.

Textbook. Paying the Chinese just over NOK 70 billion to build the British nuclear power plant, Kirchick believes game changer. The fallout of Beijing's demand not to accept the Dalai Lama and the disregard that even British MPs were not granted Hong Kong visas during the 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations make our own government's silence after Liu Xiaobo's death fade. Kirchick also highlights the creation of Beijing-run financial institutions that gradually take over the Keynes-based World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A deeper dive into this matter, with the same broad source reference as in the book, would lift The End of Europes last part considerably – because there is something Kirchick can do, is to link historical, economic and social events together and to analyze the political consequences in a courageous way. This does The End of Europe into an entertaining textbook about our time, with many opinions to care about.

Awakened readers will note Kirchick's frequent use of opinion polls – whose seriousness is not always as obvious – as the basis for drawing decisive conclusions. Consistent spelling of "Mitterrand" (with one year) is not only annoying, but probably also testifies to the author's lack of knowledge of French politics.

Join yourselves! According to James Kirchick, the impending European Ragnarok has roots both in the historically-fortified anti-Semitism that still characterizes the continent, along with the toxic political atmosphere that mass immigration and Islamic skepticism have brought. Country by country, he dresses his political leaders' populist national outfits and shows how naked they are left facing basic European values. With America's declining leadership role in the West, Kirchick is afraid Europe will not be able to resist a Machiavellian Russia on the one hand and the political renaissance of nationalism on the other. The call from the American to the Europeans is to happen on their own to keep alive the rights-based society we have so far been blessed with – so that the European dream can continue.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

You may also like