To the Editor:

Josef Joffe’s witty and graceful tour d’horizon (“Europe Does Not Exist,” February) powerfully suggests a question to this American reader: namely, can this be true?

The answer is no.

Whenever large numbers of people start to get killed, Europeans instinctively look to the United States. But the sky will not darken with transports nor will the harbors be clogged with troop ships. The U.S. has had it with that. We are not going to trade one dead American for one pampered European suddenly caught short with no military. As Joffe makes clear, we face far more serious threats. Furthermore, even should the Europeans man up and form armies of tens of thousands, who would supply them? We no longer have the requisite military-industrial capacity nor do they. Finally, why would we? Consider how close we came to not entering World War II. The undetected Japanese surprise attack, and then Hitler’s declaration of war, gave us no choice. I do not believe FDR would otherwise have gone in. 

The key question of the day is whether or not Europe catches on to the perilous state she is in. She can fix it if she starts now. That could make the difference between freedom and dictatorship, a role we Americans have twice played reluctantly. Will our European cousins put down their lattes long enough to assess their real situation? Or will they remain immobile, perhaps imagining that the dire state of things is some kind of alarmism? Or a storm they will escape?  The world awaits Europe’s answer. For everything depends upon it.


Arthur Waldron

Department of History

The University of Pennsylvania

To the Editor:

I find it puzzling that Josef Joffe would try to persuade America to continue to provide Europe with “a credible guarantee,” namely the big military umbrella that we provided during the Cold War era.

Why should we do that when, as Joffe notes, there is a yawning gap “between [Europe’s] fabulous wealth and feeble will”?  

Is it credible to believe that Germany—even if it had not cut its military expenditures by two-thirds after the Wall fell—would send soldiers to defend Estonia or Latvia, or even Poland? Even if the U.S. and Britain had a brigade or two stationed east of the Vistula?  It’s not credible at all. Were Putin to invade, Germany would seek to “negotiate,” one round of jaw-jaw following another, backed up, perhaps, by the threat of more economic sanctions. Among the elites of Western Europe, “borders” appear to be out of fashion now.   

When Serbian death squads hunted down Bosnian Muslim males in the summer of 1995, massacring 8,000 in Srebrenica, where was Europe? The Dutch soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers refused to defend the victims. The UN gave the Serbs 30,000 liters of gasoline, which the death squads used to transport the men to their deaths.

And again, today, Europe has shown itself unable to come together in the face-off with Putin’s revanchist moves in the Baltics and  Ukraine.

Joffe argues that America should not have to “coddle Europe.” I fully agree. It’s not our job in America to stiffen European spines. Nor can we force Europeans to spend more on their own defense.

For those very reasons, Europe cannot be a “strategic asset” for America.”


Edwin Harwood

Needham, Massachusetts


To the Editor:

Europe exists, despite Josef Joffe’s compelling analysis of its weaknesses. His article eventually refers to the geographic core of the European Union, which does evoke the Holy Roman Empire. But there is a more recent precedent for a successful gathering of many disparate European nationalities under one political roof: the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Rooted in the 16th-century battles against the Ottoman Turks, it lasted until World War I, when Austria Hungary, the cradle of operetta, was revealed to have become an operetta itself, devoid of substance.

The EU is perhaps best seen as a reincarnation of Austro-Hungary, rather than the Holy Roman Empire, except that now it combines the worst of Colbert (French mercantilism erecting barriers to trade without) and of Bismarck (Prussian bureaucracy erecting barriers to reality within). Europe has a history of 2,000 years of murder and mayhem. The very words we use to talk about oppression, cruelty, and evil—tyranny, dictator, crucifixion, auto de fé, ghetto, pogrom, concentration camp, etc. were invented in Europe by Europeans.

The question Joffe does not address is whether a rearmed, muscular European superpower really would be in America’s interest. Given the pervasive anti-Americanism of Europeans, it is not certain at all that such a superpower would be a friend and ally. As a competitor and adversary, it would be even more dangerous than the former Soviet Union. Based on market economies, an adversarial Europe would not have to divert resources to oppress its own people, and its scientific and technological capabilities would pose a much greater threat to us than the Soviet Union ever did.

Since the inception of the United States, Americans have gone to war against almost every European power, starting with the War of Independence against Britain. We have fought France in Canada and in Vichy, Spain over the Philippines and Cuba, Russia after it was taken over by Bolsheviks and during the Cold War. And hundreds of thousands of American lives were lost to stop Germany and its allies, twice in the last century, from murdering even more Europeans. It would be a tragedy if we had to go to war against a united European superpower.

The American security shield has served the U.S. well, even if Joffe is not correct in stating that “not a single shot was fired in Europe during the Cold War.” Shots were fired in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and East Germany, and it was only by the most diplomatic groveling that shots were not fired in Finland or Poland. Nevertheless, every penny spent on keeping the Europeans from killing one another again has been well spent. Europe may well have become a Rossini opera, but do we really want it to feature screaming Valkyries, once more, in the next act?


Walter Schimmerling

Washington, D.C.