The Wall Street Journal chronicles the necessity of a European about-face in favor of a return to the tradition of realist politics.
The EU isn’t in trouble today because its leaders are “too European.” The EU is in trouble because its leadership isn’t European enough. It is time for the continent to return to the tradition of realist politics that gave rise to its modern union in the first place.
With anti-immigrant feeling growing across the continent, even as the wave of migrants threatens to grow, the EU is unable either to manage the flow or address its causes. Europeans are deeply and bitterly divided today about how to handle this unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants, but the problem isn’t going away.
Europe must regain control of its frontiers; its citizens must believe that their union can prevent an unending flow of migrants across the sea and over land. This means more naval power in the Mediterranean and expanded surveillance of Europe’s frontiers. It also means building up European hard-power capacities (including intelligence and military options) to better manage events in North Africa and the Middle East that affect vital European interests.
Europe must recover its traditional appreciation of hard power. No major European country spends anything like enough on defense. The bureaucratic-legalistic mind-set that now reigns in Brussels will have to be modified. In matters of diplomacy and security policy, today’s permanent European councils and parliaments will have to yield to more flexible arrangements based on the prerogatives of national governments.
To recover its élan and continental identity, Europe needs to stop pretending that history is over—that the stark old realities of international politics have given way to irresistible liberal progress. Europe must instead embrace the national states and cultures at its historic heart and exploit their creative power; it must rebuild its military capacities; and it must proceed with a clear-eyed focus on European interests in a dangerous world.
Such an EU—decentralized and outward-looking—might persuade British voters to reconsider Brexit. At a minimum, it would command Britain’s respect and draw it into deeper cooperation on military and political responses to the continuing crises to Europe’s east and south.