Jean Claude Juncker is fond of reminding us of how wonderfully the EU ensures peace in Europe. He was at it again yesterday and eulogised his beloved transnational bureaucratic dictatorship as “a benign fraternity.” His short memory allows him to overlook the breakdown in fraternity during the Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian wars of the 1990s. All the Eurocrats there have ever been repeat relentlessly that it is only the EU which prevents the rise of aggressive, expansionist factions and they often add the judgement that if only the EU had been around in the 1930s the Nazis would never have been allowed to tyrannise the continent.
There are more holes in this argument than there are on the golf course at St Andrew’s. But the chief flaw is the one that is always overlooked. The European wars of the last 150 years happened not because of upstart rogues such as Hitler and his gang: they were all the logical consequence of Prussian militarism.
I’s not the Nazis. It’s the Germans – stupid!
When Napoleon conquered Prussia In 1806 he issued an edict which limited any Prussian army to 42,000. The King of Prussia obediently recruited such an army. Then, after a year, he dismissed the whole lot – officers and men – and recruited a further 42.000. He did the same every year, so that after a decade he had a trained army on active service and a very substantial reserve of 420,000 highly trained soldiers led by an elite and aristocratic officer class.
It wasn’t the Nazis who instigated the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It was the Germans under Otto von Bismarck – and specifically the North German Confederation of States – which aimed to extend German hegemony.
Similarly in the years before 1914 it was Kaiser Wilhelm who wanted to build a great trading empire and for Germany to have its “place in the sun.” He was well-equipped to achieve this with one of the largest standing armies in Europe to support him. Moreover, his political and popular support was assured because for a century the officer class had also formed the administrative class, thus unifying the interests of the military and the government.
This was the powerful tradition inherited by Hitler in 1933.
But what Bismarck failed to secure by force or arms in 1870-71, Kaiser Bill between 1914-18 and Adolf Hitler between 1939-45, Angela Merkel has achieved without firing a shot. Through the EU and monetary union via the Euro – the Deutschmark by any other name – Germany effectively controls the twenty-seven EU states and oppresses the unindustrialised southern states of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. If you want confirmation that there is a de facto German empire, just ask the impoverished Greeks or anyone among the 50% unemployed young people in Spain
This hegemony is operated more completely by Frau Merkel than dreamed of by Otto, Wilhelm or Adolf.
I am sure the delicious irony is not lost on Jean Claude Juncker.