Finding an Analogy for Tomorrow

We now know what Europe’s future won’t be like: it won’t be like the last forty years. Neither in politics nor in economics will the future have the clarity of sharp division. Armies of opposing alliances will not be poised along the inter-German border, Western Europe’s economic system will not end at the boundaries of West Germany; and, short of a war, Germany will not be re-divided. That alone seems clear. But Germany’s role in West and East Europe; and America’s role; and the role of Europe east of Germany’s border (the Oder-Neisse Line); and the definition of Europe itself: all these are in question. Under the circumstances, “choose your analogy” can be a useful game to play, even while admitting that no new order in Europe will precisely resemble any past order. Earlier analogies can kindle the imagination, particularly for those whose personal experience reaches no further back than the cold war. Analogies can suggest what has changed and what has not changed, and they can help one calibrate the impact of two things that do seem truly new: nuclear weapons and the institutional interdependence embodied in the European Community (EC).

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