September 29, 2011

Charles de Gaulle as euro-skeptic

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:13

Conrad Black provides a thumbnail sketch of de Gaulle’s real intentions regarding European integration:

Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille in 1890, to the family of a monarchist schoolteacher. De Gaulle was a Flaubertesque haut bourgeois, as well as an officer of the French army when it was rivaled only by the German army as the greatest in the world, and was unrivaled as the most storied army of all. He was imbued with the middle-class concept of the value of savings, frugality, pay-as-you-go. To him, greatness and security could never be bought or sustained on the installment plan. And mere politicians, whom he considered a lesser breed swimming in a sticky fondue of moral weakness and opportunism, could never be trusted to resist the temptation to pander, devalue, or seek short-term gain.

De Gaulle’s farsightedness was not confined to national projections of household economics; he also warned of the dangers of Euro-integration. He was the chief architect of the Franco-German friendship treaty of 1963, and — as a veteran of the terrible hecatomb of the Battle of Verdun and a World War I prisoner of war of the Germans, as well as the founder of the Free French in World War II — he knew as well as anyone the horrors of the centuries-long conflict along the Rhine. He also favored a common market and the end of violent ancient rivalries among the many European nationalities. But he always saw a homogenized, centralized Europe as a dangerous fantasy. He believed that a Continental interest, composed of as many as 20 or 25 languages and cultures, would be only an alphabet gruel, blended and stirred by faceless bureaucrats from the little countries, and not representing any real popular interest at all.

He thought that the original Common Market of France, West Germany, Italy, and Benelux could be used by France, effectively maneuvering between the U.S. and the USSR, and between Germany and the Russians, to project and amplify France’s — and, more particularly, his own — influence. Up to a point, while the U.S. was mired in Vietnam, and before European Communism became too enfeebled to challenge the West (which de Gaulle also foresaw), he was correct. But he believed that an unlimitedly accessible Europe would become an incoherent Tower of Babel, governed by bureaucratic intermeddlers in the name of feckless politicians, and liable to excessive outside influence, including from the U.S.

H/T to Monty at Ace of Spades HQ for the link.

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