What Caused the Peace of Europe?
JULY 20, 2008
After century upon century of periodic warfare, the continent of Europe has, for the last 60 years or so, enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace. Why is that? To hear many Europeans tell it, the recent spate of peace in Europe is due to the advanced moral sentiments of its peoples. After enduring centuries of bloodshed, in the 1940s Europeans finally grew up, and learned to settle their disagreements peacefully (unlike the warmongering Americans).
This explanation is only plausible to the extent one ignores just how fragile and limited the peace of Europe since WWII has actually been. One can say that Europe has known 60 years ...view middle of the document...
If peace with one’s immediate neighbors is evidence of moral advancement, then perhaps it is the U.S. that has something to teach Europe, rather than visa versa.
Still, by the standards of European history, the last 60 years have been relatively peaceful, at least on the continent itself. If moral advancement is not the cause of this peace, then what is?
No doubt there are many causes here. The increased wealth of Europeans may make them less willing to make the sacrifices necessary for war (though it has apparently not eliminated their willingness to fight wars abroad, nor has the U.S.’s wealth prevented it from getting involved in military conflicts). Democracy may have reduced political leaders’ ability to go to war for personal aggrandizement (though fascist Spain has managed to avoid war for longer than its democratic neighbors, and a war of sorts exists even as we speak between a democratic Israel and a democratically elected Hamas. Trade between countries is no doubt also an important factor, as evidence indicates increased trade and commerce between nations tends to lead to...