Robert Kagan has stirred up a great deal of controversy in recent years for arguing in his book "Of Paradise and Power," that Europe and America have developed fundamentally different worldviews of international relations and the use of force. While America is largely operating in a realist world where force is necessary to preserve security, Europe has entered the world of the Kantian Peace, in which international norms and polite diplomacy determine states' behavior.
Kagan attributes this to two factors. First, the two world wars took place on European soil, and it was mainly to prevent a third war that the European Economic Community was formed, later to become the European Union. Second, Europe has been placed under the American security umbrella, making it unnecessary for European states to maintain large militaries of their own. Thus, Europe no longer has a military option; it must rely on diplomacy, foreign aid, and economic power to achieve its foreign-policy goals. This has shaped their thinking to a great extent.
This divergence of viewpoints has caused significant problems for the United States. Aside from the cost of maintaining the security umbrella, and of cleaning up European messes like in Bosnia and Kosovo when the Europeans are unable to, the United States can no longer expect Europe to support its foreign-policy. A sort of militant pacifism has taken root in Germany especially, but other places in Europe as well, that sees the realist behavior of the United States as an evil as great as that of her enemies.
But Europe's demilitarization is useful to America as well. First, it removes the possibility of yet another European war, particularly in the case of Germany, which would be extremely threatened by any military buildup in surrounding countries. Germany, in turn, is the most powerful economy in Europe and has no natural borders; if she chose to build up a military, Germany may well feel like she could expand at will. Nobody wants to go through all that again.
Second, a disarmed Europe increases American power. If the American military dwarfs that of Europe, the United States will be less constrained in its actions. Some in Europe, particularly the French, seek to build up a European army for the express purpose of balancing the United States, but I doubt they will get anywhere soon. Even during the Cold War, European countries fell chronically short of their military obligations under the NATO alliance. Moreover, the whole continent is struggling under the weight of their social programs, which are putting them deep into debt. A rebuilt military is out of the question, at least for the moment.
But that does not address Old Europe's increasingly-strong pacifism and lack of backbone. This should be worrying to all of us. Consider the difference between our response to the World Trade Center attack, and the Spanish response to the Madrid train-bombing. Our attitude went from complacency to a thirst for vengeance; the Spanish, on the other hand, responded by retracting their foreign involvements. Granted, the situation was different in a few ways, but there was no sense of national anger and resolve such as was found in America. The Spanish government persists in viewing the attack as a criminal act, not as an act of war.
If this corrosive pacifism will not be counteracted by the governments, it is up to the individual citizens of Old Europe to rediscover their will to survive. Much of the problem can also be found on the micro level, and is created by government regulation: in Britain, as is often reported in Samizdata, citizens are forbidden to defend themselves against armed robbery or burglary, and most firearms are likewise forbidden. Naturally, violent crime is skyrocketing, as the criminals are given free rein. Similar situations are found in much of Old Europe.
I believe the best way for Europeans to rediscover their courage would be if the governments lifted their restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms. It would do much to reverse the culture of powerlessness and fear, and accustom citizens to the use of force to defend against evil and threats to life and liberty. This new attitude would perhaps spill over into the national arena as well, giving European leaders a badly-needed jolt of fortitude.
Sadly, the governments like their citizens to be disarmed and quiescent. The official hostility to firearms use will likely persist for a long time, and with it, the unfortunate brand of European delusion and pacifism.