President Obama made a trip to Britain last week to persuade people to vote to remain in the European Union in the forthcoming referendum.
The prime minister, David Cameron, has been panicking that the public might vote for “Brexit,” shorthand for Britain leaving the EU. So he thought Obama would help swing it.
It did not go according to plan. Obama said that if Britain left the EU it would be sent “to the back of the queue” in negotiating trade deals with America.
This was greeted with outrage. The British take a dim view of being threatened. They also thought Obama had a damned cheek swanning in to tell them to continue to accept the loss of national self-government that membership of the EU inevitably entails. An opinion poll showed that, after his remarks, fewer wanted to remain in the EU than before he arrived.
It is obvious why the US wants Britain to remain.
America’s historic Anglo ally is regarded as a vital bridge between the US and mainland Europe, representing America’s point of view to a resentful continent.
Israel seems to have much the same attitude, wanting Britain to stay in because it believes that Britain can help mitigate the EU’s antipathy toward the embattled little country.
America is looking on anxiously as the internal stresses of the euro and the crisis of mass migration threaten to engulf Europe. It is worried that if Britain departs, the shock waves might cause the EU to break up altogether.
Obama’s message was that Britain should stay in because, in an ever-more threatening world, nations are stronger together than apart.
This totally misses the point. I am in favor of Britain leaving the EU so that it can become once again a democratic, self-governing nation. I also believe it would be in the interests of the US, Israel and Europe itself if the EU were to break up.
To understand why, we need to go back to the beginning.
The idea of a union of European nations emerged after the carnage of the First World War. It faded but reappeared again after 1945, when the feeling became overwhelming that Germany needed to be constrained so that Europe would never again promote fascism or war.
It started as a mere trading alliance called the European Coal and Steel Community. The supranational agenda was subsequently implemented through a stealthy ratchet effect.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community. In 1992 this morphed into the federal EU through the Maastricht treaty, with its superstate ambitions made even more explicit through the Lisbon treaty in 2009.
Britain, which joined the EEC in 1973, signed up out of despair. Bankrupt and in hock to America after the Second World War, demoralized by having lost an empire and not having found a role, the nation that in 1940 had stood alone against Hitler now told itself it could no longer go it alone in the world.
The European project itself was born out of despair.
The experience of Nazism and the Holocaust had shattered Europeans’ belief that the nation could be trusted to defend freedom and democracy.
Nations, it was thought, led to nationalism, and nationalism to war. Nations thus needed to subordinate themselves to a supra-national, bureaucratic European entity which would enshrine and enforce universal values. This became the EU behemoth based in Brussels.
Denying national self-government, however, is to deny democracy. The paradox of the EU, therefore, is that in pursuing the noble ideal of defending democracy it has destroyed it.
With the entire EU governing class committed to this anti-democratic enterprise, the peoples of Europe are now in an escalating state of revolt against it.
Uncontrolled migration, Islamization and the absence of any ability to hold EU rulers to account have caused mass alienation among the European public from the political mainstream. This has created rising support for ultra-nationalist and extremist parties.
The terrible truth about the EU is therefore that, rather than defeating fascism, it is the midwife to its sinister rebirth. Israel’s anxiety that European fascist parties will gain traction if the EU breaks up is accordingly fundamentally misplaced.
Other oft-stated fears about the EU disintegrating are equally myopic. Russia’s President Putin, it is said, is rubbing his hands at the prospect because Europe will then be weakened and he can walk all over it.
Putin, though, has already been walking all over Crimea and Ukraine, not to mention aggressively buzzing British fighter jets off the coast of England. He is out of control because the EU’s institutionalized feebleness (and the retreat of Obama’s America from its historic role as freedom’s policeman) is painfully apparent to all with eyes to see.
As for the claim that the EU has maintained an otherwise unachievable peace between Germany and France, a more plausible explanation is that after 1945 Germany became a democracy and has also been constrained by the American-led NATO alliance.
In any event, this is all looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Europe is facing a far bigger and more immediate threat from the war being waged against Western civilization from within the Islamic world.
The Islamists understand Europe’s fundamental weakness all too well. The retreat of the churches under the onslaught of secularism has knocked the stuffing out of Europe’s core values. In addition, since the Holocaust was perpetrated by a country considering itself the very apogee of the Enlightenment, European intellectuals lost faith in reason, progress and Western civilization.
This they proceeded to unravel through a systematic attack on the building blocks of the culture. They undermined the family and education and imposed multiculturalism, victim culture and other ideological fixations with universalism. The EU is the perfect embodiment of all this thinking.
Far from strengthening its member states, the EU has eviscerated them. Most important, there is no European identity with which people can identify.
People feel bound to their nation through shared ties of language, law, religion, history, culture and tradition expressed through democratically elected and accountable institutions. Only if Europe’s nations restore this connection will their people fight and die to defend them. The West can only be defended by an alliance of independent nations. No one will ever fight and die for Brussels.
There are other ways in which an independent Britain would benefit America, whose culture is also under siege from anti-Western loathing. That has been exported to it in large measure from Britain. If Britain leaves the EU and becomes again a proud and independent nation, it will detach itself correspondingly from the anti-democratic creed of utopian universalism.
That in turn will undermine its belief that Western nations are innately illegitimate and oppressive and the developing world always their victims. And that will lessen its hostility to Israel.
So would Brexit be good for the Jews? Let’s put it this way. It would give Europe and the West a fighting chance against those waging war on the entire Judeo-Christian world. All that remains is for Britain and Europe to see it.Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).