As I continue to digest the far-reaching impacts of James Burnham’s magnum opus “The Managerial Revolution“, I keep stumbling upon things that require at very least a cursory reflection; an organization of thoughts as I try (like Burnham did) to figure out “What is Going On?” in the world.
Specifically, I’ve been chewing on something the author said about the post-WWII geo-political organization of the world. Burnham saw three poles arising to dominate the world at the end of the conflagration. These would be the United States, Japan and a united Europe. He believed that Russia would split, due to the dissimilarities between Europe-facing Russia and Russia of the far east. And he never really considered China.
He was, as most prophets of foreign affairs, only partly right. But his analysis of Europe is by far the most interesting. Because he considered that a Europe whose borders had been broken down by the war would never again return to Westphalia. The failure of the Maginot line and the reality of fortress Europe united was something that was far too powerful in the imaginations of the policymakers. However, he assumed that a united Europe would exist under the tutelage and supervision of a powerful Great Britain. It was his belief that the great island kingdom would bring its extraordinary power of order to bear on the organization of continental affairs, creating a world power par-excellence.
Its ironic, and sad but just also a reality that it was Germany and France who came to dominate the continental project (not England and France), with England after Brexit returning to a status on the peripheries. Not that this is bad – a glimmer of a new England can be seen in the vaccine rollout and the dramatic quashing of a virus that still ravages a Europe that cannot even manage a vaccine rollout strategy – much less a world empire. And what a United Kingdom unencumbered by EU nonsense can achieve is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, the UK never played anything more than a back-seat role in the European Union.
I often wonder why this was – why is it that post WWII England did not take her rightful place as the indispensable European nation. Could be it was Charles de Gaulle’s successful blocking of England’s EU membership (in that case it was the common market) until 1973. It might have been British fatigue at war after war after war; or maybe imperial malaise after the dissolution of their empire which left them without the energy to embark upon the massive organizational efforts of forging a new alliance. It probably has not-a-little to do with the fact that British Labor Party has always been too close to communism (as exemplified in the Corbynites), making them unable to engage in the construction of union under the imposing threat of the USSR (I wonder if this isn’t why de Gaulle kept them out).
My point, if I have one – things are not always as they seem they will be. England’s status of world domination was so secure following WWII and was lost, squandered, puttered away or perhaps just abdicated. Although to be sure, nothing is eternal – England has been written off before – and I for one have hope that an England returned to her roots can find again her voice in the world without the dour ‘supervision’ of the technocrats in Brussels – but we’ll see.
My final thought on this, there has been a lot of debate on how its a shame for the UK to have left the EU. How it will diminish them. The reality is that the real shame is that the UK was not given its rightful place at the core of the European project. I was talking with an Armenian friend yesterday, a wide ranging discussion about the pandemic and the war and the future. “The problem with Europe,” he said – in relation to the conflict with Azerbaijan, “is that they cannot project power.” This statement, alas, sums up why the EU has failed as a geo-political block. They assume that their tremendous prosperity (brought by capitalism) and the security provided by the United States’s nuclear umbrella, along with their newfound humanitarianism product of apologetic revisionist moralizing as a lament for their role in colonialism will give them the clout they desire in world affairs, to have their word heeded. But this is still a world of guns and bombs (and now cyberattacks). England has always been a martial island – it has had to be. What would Europe have become, under the supervision of England not afraid of power and its use? It certainly would have been a better world for the US. We are tired of global dominion – it would be so nice to share it with a positive actor in the world for a change.
For heavy weighs the crown…