Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ike on the French and European Unity

When my wife and I take trips, short or long, I usually read to her. (She drives.) Today, we took a short jaunt and I finished reading to her from a book that I first read back when I was in high school, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, by Dwight Eisenhower.

This wonderful memoir by one of the greatest Americans of all ends just before his first run for the presidency in 1952. The last chapter talks about his role in establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), one of the key ingredients in the long-fought and ultimately victorious battle to kill the Soviet Union.

In light of recent history, a few passages that I read today cracked my wife and me up:
From the first, the small countries in NATO agreed with the idea [of not amalgamating each nation's military into multinational units, allowing their units to be part of larger corps and armies]. Originally, Mr. Churchill was opposed. And the plan, largely designed by the French, soon ran into opposition---from the French.
You might recall that the European Union constitution was largely the brain child of France and recently was defeated in the Netherlands---and France.

Then this:
By early spring of 1952, all the [NATO] governments, except France, were ready to sign the protocol for an international military organization with unified commands. Sometimes the French seemed to believe that only they had any military experience or possessed any real military knowledge. To some of us in NATO Headquarters, this seemed strange in view of recent history...
These critical words came from a man who was known for his diplomacy and tact.

One other thing: In an earlier post about the French and Dutch repudiation of the European Union constitution, I discussed what the implications might be for the US and mentioned that historically, the US has supported greatet European unity. I also mentioned that Eisenhower was a strong advocate of that unity, asserting that was largely a military judgment on his part, Certainly, the military aspect of things held sway with Ike. But re-reading At Ease reminded me that his belief in European unity was for more than just military reasons. There, he wrote:
Personally, I have no doubt that one day a kind of political union will eventuate...

My own message to the NATO governments never varied--I hammered it home everywhere. If we could make a go of a practical pact permitting common military plans, procurment, organization, and control of the forces of NATO, the security of Western Europe would be assured. The region would then become a complex which would be, militarily, economically, and politically, as powerful as any other in the world.

Beyond the military advantage, there was my conviction that European unity was both possible and necessary to the full achievement of its destiny...

No comments: