Whirl Is King All around Us: The World May Be Closer to Nuclear War Than It Was at Any Time in the Cold War-Even Closer Than during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: George F. Will

'Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus.'

--Aristophanes

Whirl is indeed. Has there been a moment since the end of the world convulsion of 1939 to 1945 when so much was in motion? Perhaps the autumn of 1956, when the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolt coincided with the Anglo-French attempt to undo Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal. That attempt was doomed by American opposition, which made brutally clear that Europe's supremacy had vanished.

Since then, Europe's nations--more precisely, their elites--have been trying to turn "Europe" into more than a geographical expression, into a political entity, so the elites can be elite in something consequential. The result is a metastasizing European Union bureaucracy--and military impotence. Hence geopolitical irrelevance.

Consider NATO, founded in 1949 for the purpose (so said Britain's Lord Ismay) of keeping the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down. Russia--with a GDP smaller than California's and declining birthrates and adult life expectancy which by 2050 could leave it with a smaller population than that of Iran or Vietnam--is virtually a member of NATO. But, then, NATO now is less a military alliance than a minor-league United Nations--a political organization--with a useful intelligence role.

The arms-reduction agreement President Bush reached with Russia is redundant proof that arms control is impossible until it is unimportant. Arms-control agreements reflect, they do not cause, great events. U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty, which has inhibited development of ballistic-missile defenses, caused the usual cries that this would "re-escalate" (Jimmy Carter) and "reignite" (Sen. John Kerry) the arms race. Not exactly.

Other perishable predictions, mostly emanating from Europe, were that Israel's short war against the Palestinian Authority would magnify Yasir Arafat's standing. Instead, it seems to have catalyzed thinking among Palestinians about alternatives to the PA thugocracy.

On his European visit Bush warned that because threats to Europe come from outside of Europe, NATO must be prepared to act, as is said, "out of area." But it was heavy lifting to get NATO to act in Europe's own backyard, the Balkans, and it did so only after a long run of the continent's worst violence since 1945.

Europe's backyard is becoming bigger as the EU expands eastward, partly in the delusional hope that sheer geographic size will make the EU a geopolitical match for the United States. …