Blogs: The Skeptics

Gettysburg Might Just Be the Most Bloody Battle of the Civil War (But the Aftermath Might Have Been Worse)

How China Could Strike Back at Donald Trump over Taiwan: Unleash North Korea

If the European Union Is the Titanic, Bet on the Iceberg

The Skeptics

Economic crisis threatens Greece again. There has been little serious reform of the sort necessary to encourage productivity and growth. Past bailouts have done more to protect French and German banks than average Europeans. The increasingly unpopular Tsipras government, which stoked resentment against the rest of Europe while complying with the latter’s demands, faces pressure to undertake another round of austerity. Germany and the Netherlands, European institutions and the International Monetary Fund are bickering among themselves and with Athens.

French politics is shifting dramatically rightward. President Francois Hollande, with single digit approval ratings, is not running for reelection. His socialist party has been given up for dead. Most observers expect the National Front’s Marine Le Pen to reach next year’s presidential runoff. While unlikely to win, her party received more than 27 percent of the vote in regional elections last year. The likely winner is Francois Fillon, who, in the right’s primary, unexpectedly trounced both former president Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, who had been leading the opinion polls. Fillon is a social conservative who supported economic reform while emphasizing traditional values and taking a hard line on security issues. Still, a Le Pen triumph no longer is viewed as impossible, and she pledges to support France’s costly welfare state and hold a referendum on EU membership if elected.

Then there is Germany. A month ago, the New York Times called Angela Merkel “the last powerful defender of Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance” and “the liberal West’s last defender.” That was before she joined politicians in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland in targeting Islamic residents.

A sympathetic Charles Lane complained in the Washington Post, “At a time when the world badly needs a stable, confident Germany, her decisions fractured the rock upon which that stability and confidence have rested since World War II: domestic political consensus mediated by broad-based political parties.” Merkel’s image as the politician with “safe hands” ran afoul of last year’s refugee crisis.

The Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, publicly criticized her approach. For the first time, polls found support for the grand coalition of the CDU/CSU, with the Social Democratic Party occasionally dipping below 50 percent. The Alternative for Germany, which began as a liberal party critical of the Euro, turned into an anti-immigration party. It is running at 12 percent in the polls and has broken 20 percent in some state elections. Although the AfD is unlikely to enter government, Germany now has a party to the right of the CDU/CSU with unpredictable, but likely negative, impacts on German politics.

Populist and nationalist currents flow elsewhere: the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands and Poland. Established ruling parties have crashed and burned in Portugal and Spain. Belgium barely survives as a country. And voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU entirely.

British politics has grown ever more convoluted. Another Scottish independence bid is possible. The Labor Party has returned to the socialist policies of the bad old days when the country was “the sick man of Europe.” Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party has abandoned Margaret Thatcher’s (classically) liberal approach for nationalism and social conservatism. If the EU pushes harsh terms for London’s departure, the May government might choose a “hard” Brexit and distance itself from the continent.

In short, the celebrated European Project is a wreck. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy warns that “the disheartening reality of economic disappointment, political paralysis, racial tensions, and terrorist threats has gravely undermined the dream of unity that drove the construction of the European Union.” But more fundamental is the fact that the EU being created has changed. It started as a loose collection of European states cooperating for common ends, but has turned into a consolidated continental state run by a heavy-handed bureaucracy with little concern for what European peoples desire.

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Trump's Team Should Ditch the 'Clash of Civilizations'

The Skeptics

Economic crisis threatens Greece again. There has been little serious reform of the sort necessary to encourage productivity and growth. Past bailouts have done more to protect French and German banks than average Europeans. The increasingly unpopular Tsipras government, which stoked resentment against the rest of Europe while complying with the latter’s demands, faces pressure to undertake another round of austerity. Germany and the Netherlands, European institutions and the International Monetary Fund are bickering among themselves and with Athens.

French politics is shifting dramatically rightward. President Francois Hollande, with single digit approval ratings, is not running for reelection. His socialist party has been given up for dead. Most observers expect the National Front’s Marine Le Pen to reach next year’s presidential runoff. While unlikely to win, her party received more than 27 percent of the vote in regional elections last year. The likely winner is Francois Fillon, who, in the right’s primary, unexpectedly trounced both former president Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, who had been leading the opinion polls. Fillon is a social conservative who supported economic reform while emphasizing traditional values and taking a hard line on security issues. Still, a Le Pen triumph no longer is viewed as impossible, and she pledges to support France’s costly welfare state and hold a referendum on EU membership if elected.

Then there is Germany. A month ago, the New York Times called Angela Merkel “the last powerful defender of Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance” and “the liberal West’s last defender.” That was before she joined politicians in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland in targeting Islamic residents.

A sympathetic Charles Lane complained in the Washington Post, “At a time when the world badly needs a stable, confident Germany, her decisions fractured the rock upon which that stability and confidence have rested since World War II: domestic political consensus mediated by broad-based political parties.” Merkel’s image as the politician with “safe hands” ran afoul of last year’s refugee crisis.

The Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, publicly criticized her approach. For the first time, polls found support for the grand coalition of the CDU/CSU, with the Social Democratic Party occasionally dipping below 50 percent. The Alternative for Germany, which began as a liberal party critical of the Euro, turned into an anti-immigration party. It is running at 12 percent in the polls and has broken 20 percent in some state elections. Although the AfD is unlikely to enter government, Germany now has a party to the right of the CDU/CSU with unpredictable, but likely negative, impacts on German politics.

Populist and nationalist currents flow elsewhere: the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands and Poland. Established ruling parties have crashed and burned in Portugal and Spain. Belgium barely survives as a country. And voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU entirely.

British politics has grown ever more convoluted. Another Scottish independence bid is possible. The Labor Party has returned to the socialist policies of the bad old days when the country was “the sick man of Europe.” Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party has abandoned Margaret Thatcher’s (classically) liberal approach for nationalism and social conservatism. If the EU pushes harsh terms for London’s departure, the May government might choose a “hard” Brexit and distance itself from the continent.

In short, the celebrated European Project is a wreck. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy warns that “the disheartening reality of economic disappointment, political paralysis, racial tensions, and terrorist threats has gravely undermined the dream of unity that drove the construction of the European Union.” But more fundamental is the fact that the EU being created has changed. It started as a loose collection of European states cooperating for common ends, but has turned into a consolidated continental state run by a heavy-handed bureaucracy with little concern for what European peoples desire.

Pages

Donald Trump Should Embrace the Economic Benefits of Peace

The Skeptics

Economic crisis threatens Greece again. There has been little serious reform of the sort necessary to encourage productivity and growth. Past bailouts have done more to protect French and German banks than average Europeans. The increasingly unpopular Tsipras government, which stoked resentment against the rest of Europe while complying with the latter’s demands, faces pressure to undertake another round of austerity. Germany and the Netherlands, European institutions and the International Monetary Fund are bickering among themselves and with Athens.

French politics is shifting dramatically rightward. President Francois Hollande, with single digit approval ratings, is not running for reelection. His socialist party has been given up for dead. Most observers expect the National Front’s Marine Le Pen to reach next year’s presidential runoff. While unlikely to win, her party received more than 27 percent of the vote in regional elections last year. The likely winner is Francois Fillon, who, in the right’s primary, unexpectedly trounced both former president Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, who had been leading the opinion polls. Fillon is a social conservative who supported economic reform while emphasizing traditional values and taking a hard line on security issues. Still, a Le Pen triumph no longer is viewed as impossible, and she pledges to support France’s costly welfare state and hold a referendum on EU membership if elected.

Then there is Germany. A month ago, the New York Times called Angela Merkel “the last powerful defender of Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance” and “the liberal West’s last defender.” That was before she joined politicians in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland in targeting Islamic residents.

A sympathetic Charles Lane complained in the Washington Post, “At a time when the world badly needs a stable, confident Germany, her decisions fractured the rock upon which that stability and confidence have rested since World War II: domestic political consensus mediated by broad-based political parties.” Merkel’s image as the politician with “safe hands” ran afoul of last year’s refugee crisis.

The Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, publicly criticized her approach. For the first time, polls found support for the grand coalition of the CDU/CSU, with the Social Democratic Party occasionally dipping below 50 percent. The Alternative for Germany, which began as a liberal party critical of the Euro, turned into an anti-immigration party. It is running at 12 percent in the polls and has broken 20 percent in some state elections. Although the AfD is unlikely to enter government, Germany now has a party to the right of the CDU/CSU with unpredictable, but likely negative, impacts on German politics.

Populist and nationalist currents flow elsewhere: the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands and Poland. Established ruling parties have crashed and burned in Portugal and Spain. Belgium barely survives as a country. And voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU entirely.

British politics has grown ever more convoluted. Another Scottish independence bid is possible. The Labor Party has returned to the socialist policies of the bad old days when the country was “the sick man of Europe.” Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party has abandoned Margaret Thatcher’s (classically) liberal approach for nationalism and social conservatism. If the EU pushes harsh terms for London’s departure, the May government might choose a “hard” Brexit and distance itself from the continent.

In short, the celebrated European Project is a wreck. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy warns that “the disheartening reality of economic disappointment, political paralysis, racial tensions, and terrorist threats has gravely undermined the dream of unity that drove the construction of the European Union.” But more fundamental is the fact that the EU being created has changed. It started as a loose collection of European states cooperating for common ends, but has turned into a consolidated continental state run by a heavy-handed bureaucracy with little concern for what European peoples desire.

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