Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pushback

Judah Grunstein accepts my description of Sarkozy's recent behavior but believes that his defects and qualities coexist in roughly the right combination to provide a specific for Europe's chronic ills. I don't disagree with Judah's rather optimistic corrective to my jaundiced pessimism, but I'm not sure that the cure, if it occurs, will redound to Sarkozy's benefit. His activism has pointed up the need for greater European-level coordination, particularly in economic and foreign policy. It has not demonstrated that the best way to achieve that coordination is to establish a cult of personality around a willful national dervish. Europe needs a leadership cadre whose interests somehow rise above their national and regional origins. As the history of the United States has demonstrated, it is a tricky thing to maintain a balance between the interests of the whole and those of the parts. Two things are essential: offices at the transnational level that fulfill the ambitions of the most ambitious men, and a professional civil service capable of providing continuity and support to those striving politicians. Europe's civil service is too small and EU offices, in their present form, are too unrewarding to create the nucleus of a superstate. The move from the Confederation of European States to the United States of Europe will not be easy, and Sarkozy's abrasiveness is not likely to make it easier.

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