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Europe's Road to War Europe's Road to War
The failure of collective security
by Paul-Marie Coûteaux MEP. £6.99
Paperback, 132pp
An examination of the origins, history and track record of "collective security" and its latest manifestation, the EU's "Common Foreign and Security Policy".
Reviewer Rodney Leach

[eurofacts (Vol 4 No 18) - 2nd July 1999]

This call to arms by a passionate and intelligent Gaullist provides an insight into Gallic thinking that will take the average British Europhile into new and disconcerting territory: even the best informed of Eurowatchers will be startled by some of Professor Coûteaux's reasoning.

Coûteaux has three main targets: Germany, the USA and European supranationalism, and two lesser targets, Britain and free trade. Each of these is for him an affront to France. Germany, in Coûteaux's thinking, is now approaching the culmination of 130 years of attempted hegemony over Central Europe, first under Bismarck, then in 1914 under the Kaiser, then under Hitler, and finally through the European Union. All these episodes involved a shift eastwards in Europe's centre of gravity, accompanied by plans to Germanize the Continent's institutions, not only by the adoption of a centralised economic system but more significantly by the destruction of the nation state in favour of a regional structure modelled on the German land.

To readers of John Laughland's The Tainted Source this will be a familiar, if still shocking, account. The similarities between the current EU and the Nazi concepts of the shape of post-war Europe are at first sight alarming - until one reminds oneself of Germany's last half-century of impeccable atonement and of the universally pervasive imperialism of the previous 80 years. Even so, Coûteaux's picture of Germany's restless, borderless, tribal (for it has no natural frontiers) ambition makes compelling reading.

Faced with the threat of German domination to the East, Coûteaux sees France as cravenly prone to self-deluding Vichyism. The object of French politics should have been to play the balance of power game, like Britain. This would have entailed the permanent division of Germany. Once France allowed German reunification, it was obliged to switch to a futile policy of containment through "binding in" its more powerful neighbour into supranational EU institutions. The effect was to give Germany all it could have desired, reducing France to the role of supporting actor and turning Europe into an undemocratic shell of ersatz unity.

Coûteaux goes on to demolish the notion of collective European security. Starting from the premise that "moral" foreign policy is a pathetic fallacy that was responsible for both World Wars, he denounces the 1918 Armistice, the Briand-Stresemann Nobel Peace awards and all the well-meaning wringing of hands at the League of Nations that led to unopposed Nazi diplomatic and military victories. On Coûteaux's analysis, Europe in 1946 still did not absorb the lesson that only the nation state has the courage and legitimacy to stand up to tyranny. Accordingly, the Continent failed to produce a credible defence capacity and soon fell into a "paradox" - the USA became its protector, precisely because Europe itself is not and cannot be a nation state, being permanently doomed to internal disagreement.

Coûteaux has difficulty resolving his own paradox. As a good Gaullist, he regards American military dominance with the same distaste as German economic dominance. His somewhat unconvincing solution is the restoration of French independence to "counterbalance" the USA. In the event of war, he advocates an ad hoc coalition of European nations. It is an interesting sidelight on his rejection of ethics in defence policy that he treats America as if it was not much more than a balancing force to the former USSR.

Coûteaux turns next to England, which he conceives of, in a not altogether unfriendly way, as insular but global, a "Trojan Horse" for free trade and a master of self-interested and perfidious diplomacy. In Albion's belly are concealed Japanese motor manufacturers, Commonwealth interests and the American law of the jungle. Worse, Coûteaux suspects Britain of conspiring to the detriment of Catholic France not only with Anglo-Saxons but also with Germany and even Flemish Belgium (yes, Flanders).

The book closes with a visionary call on the French right to throw off the shackles of European illusion and the German special relationship and arise again in all her glory. This chapter will strike the phlegmatic British reader as way over the top. But even as the car plunges off the rails, the passenger will look back on a thrilling and instructive ride, full of Gallic wit, learning, cynicism and perception.

Professor Paul-Marie Coûteaux was elected as a French MEP on 13th June 1999 on the RPF list.

the june press