EUROPE ESCHEWS 'UNION': RETURN OF THE TRIBES
By RALPH PETERS

New York Post, NY
June 1 2005

June 1, 2005 -- TODAY, the Dutch vote on the proposed European
Union constitution. They're expected to reject it, as the French
did Sunday. But whatever the result of the referendum, something's
happening in Europe that international elites swore was impossible.
Tribes are back.

In Europe, they're called nations, which sounds more distinguished.
But the French voters who refused to submerge their identity in a
greater European state behaved as tribally as any Hutus or Tutsis in
central Africa - or any Arab clan in Iraq.

Certainly, there are practical issues at stake. The French fear an
invasion of their welfare state by hardworking East Europeans. They
dread hints of a market economy and Turkey's prospective membership
in the EU. The Dutch are still reeling from the failure of their
multicultural experiment and the grisly rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

But the underlying cause of the voter shift from continental
integration to the nouveau chauvinism erupting from Paris to Moscow
is far cruder and more explosive: the undiminished importance of
group identity, of primal belonging.

If anything should strike us about this turn from Greater Europe back
to a Europe of competing parts, it's how wildly the intellectuals
were wrong and how ineffectual elite power monopolies proved in the
end. For a half century, Europe's approved thinkers insisted that a
new age had begun, that historical identities were dying. The wealth
and power of a borderless Europe would rival, if not exceed, that of
the United States.

Instead, we see a squabbling, grasping continent. Far from feeling
solidarity with their Polish or Hungarian counterparts, French
farmers view them as the enemy. Labor unions in Germany and France
have turned Slavic job-seekers into bogeymen who'll rob the daily
bread from the native-born.

The Dutch feel doubly under siege, invaded by an immigrant community
that rejects their values, while simultaneously in danger of being
gobbled up by a leviathan Europe that would seize control of their
destiny.

For Europe's political elites - accustomed to docile, bought-off
populations - the turn against further EU integration has been an
enormous shock.

The German vote that thumped Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder last month
was a vote against globalization and a European meta-identity. In
his first public appearance after Sunday's "Non!" vote, President
Jacques Chirac looked like a walking corpse.

Satisfying to watch? You bet. But the pleasure we can take in the
humiliation of Schroeder and Chirac masks the fact that, for all
their rhetoric and anti-American posturing, they were do-nothing,
status-quo leaders whose authority never rose above the nuisance
level. We may come to miss their fecklessness and gourmet-level
pandering as nationalism swells among their electorates.

Whenever Europe's nationalist tide flows back in, the innocent drown.

The EU is far from Europe's first attempt at integration. The medieval
church exercised transnational authority until the Reformation
galvanized German identity. The multicultural Habsburg empire split
in two, thanks to primitive nationalism. After the Great War, its
Austro-Hungarian remnant shattered under nationalist pressures.

Group identity is indestructible. Despite genocide, Armenia rose
again. Poland's back. The phony Yugoslav identity died in a storm of
bullets, leaving behind antique nations. The Soviet empire dissolved
into bloody nationalism. Irish pubs have conquered the world, but
it's hard to find an EU-themed watering hole.

Forget the genetic arguments against racial purity. Ignore the
historical facts. What matters is who men and women think they are.
Belief is always stronger than truth. It certainly would appear
rational for Europeans to bury their differences and subscribe to a
greater, unified identity. But humankind isn't rational. That's been
the crucial lesson of our time.

What man or woman on that old, bloodstained continent says, "I'm a
European" with the same conviction he or she says "I'm French" or
"I'm Polish" or "I'm Russian"? The last time we heard that Europe
had overcome its national identities was on the eve of World War One.

France may not invade Germany this summer, but we need to escape the
illusion of a new, pacifist Europe too sophisticated to repeat past
errors. This is the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic
cleansing, the source of history's grimmest wars.

Europe may be good for some ugly surprises as its states struggle with
faltering economies, declining birthrates, angry Islamic minorities
and a lack of opportunity for the young that resembles the plight of
the developing world. Expecting Europe's nationalities to behave is
as foolish as hoping to beat the house in Vegas.

We may discover that Europe has changed less than any other part of
the globe, that all the bureaucrats in Brussels can no more suppress
the local tribes than could the Roman legions. For all of our concern
about a European super-state, we may live to regret the return to a
Europe of nations.

Ralph Peters' next book is "New Glory: Expanding America's Global
Supremacy."