Magazine article The Spectator

Let My People Go Home

Magazine article The Spectator

Let My People Go Home

Article excerpt

BY 1945 Germany had been destroyed and Churchill could poke about its ruins, but Britain had been reduced to a secondrate power and Europe's fate would now be decided in Washington and Moscow. The British Empire was unravelling, and Churchill himself was about to be pitched out of office as the socialism he despised was imposed by his opponents. Having fought two wars to slay the German beast, the British Empire fell on the corpse.

Today, the United Kingdom is cracking up, and England's old rival dominates Europe because Britain abandoned 'splendid isolation' to contain a Germany that had grown to its size and power, but did not threaten its vital interests. That the British stand was heroic is undeniable; that British policy was wise is debatable. For, in just 30 years after 1914, the greatest empire of the modern world had been reduced to an American dependency. The principal cause of this historic decline was identified by the historian A.J.P. Taylor:

Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a great war, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one, or to fight it on a limited scale. This was the secret of Great Britain's greatness so long as she stuck to naval warfare and did not try to become a military power on the continental pattern.

Americans would do well to study the British experience to avoid the British fate, which was itself mirrored in the collapse of the old European order.

Between 1910 and 1950 the West suffered the greatest calamities in the history of civilisation. All the great houses of Europe collapsed; all the great Western nations were horribly bloodied in two world wars; all the great empires were destroyed, or in the process of dissolution. Only America was left with the capacity to resist the barbarisation of mankind in the name of communism. America did so for four decades to emerge triumphant in the Cold War. Yet, today, one sees in America the same hubris, the same missionary zeal, the same mindless braying about 'hegemony', the same foolish treaty commitments to fight in regions of the world with no relation to US vital interests that one. saw in the later European empires. If America is not to end the coming century the way British, French, Germans and Russians ended this one, we must learn the lessons history has taught us.

With the Cold War won, it is time that Europe, a continent as populous and prosperous as North America, reassumes full responsibility for its own defence. We Americans are not Romans; we cannot remain in Germany for 400 years. With Russians no longer occupying East Germany, Eastern Europe, the Baltic states or Ukraine, Western Europe has never been more secure. France and Britain, with nuclear weapons, have never been in less danger and are capable of defending themselves. A united and democratic Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, is fully capable of resuming its historic role of defending Central Europe. America cannot forever play the roles history and geography have given to other nations. Nor is there any valid reason America should do so. After all, how long should 260 million Americans have to defend 360 million rich Europeans - from 160 million impoverished Russians?

The United States should withdraw all its ground troops from Europe and amend the Nato treaty so that involvement in future European wars is an option, not a certainty. The trip-wires put down by Acheson and Dulles, which would put America at war with a nuclear-armed Russia the instant it has crossed one of half a dozen frontiers, should be pulled up, and the mandate of the Constitution should be restored: before America goes to war, Congress must declare war.

The Balkan wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia have lasted for nearly a decade but, until we attacked Belgrade in 1999, America remained unaffected. We have no vital interest in that blood-soaked peninsula to justify a permanent military presence that could mire us in a guerrilla war and invite terrorist retaliation. …

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