Hanson, for his part, proclaims that the German national character will guarantee its future dominance. "Germany's new European order is clear: If you wish to live like a German, then you must work and save like a German," he writes. "Take it or leave it."
The prospect of Europe's German future is not only an Anglo-American dream come true -- it reassures all Westerners that their economic system isn't fundamentally broken. Those sturdy Germans show that if you play by the rules of prudence, you can sidestep financial apocalypse.
But that's a dangerously optimistic view, as Walter Russell Mead has cautioned. "The German political establishment," he warns, "seems willing to destroy Europe to avoid telling German voters the truth about how stupid it has been. Germany's leaders are doing everything possible to conceal the ugly truth that the mistakes that the German banking and regulatory establishments made in underwriting Club Med debts are as much a cause of Europe's woes as spendthrift Greeks."
Sweeping these embarrassing facts under the rug does more than reinforce the lie that there are merely economic solutions to what are deeply political problems. It misleads us into believing that the German regime created by the Allies after World War II has the future of Europe safely in hand. A few institutional tweaks to the European Union's treaty system cannot forge the legitimacy needed to get Europe's house -- or head space -- back in order.
The fact is, it will take more than economic arrangements to rebuild a shared political identity from the rubble of the EU. As Clifford Orwin rightly observes in his pessimistic take on the EU's future, "Europe remains a meddlesome abstraction embodied in an all-too-concrete bureaucracy."
That's where Napoleon and France come in. Orwin also argues that Europeans have no sense of shared identity: "Nothing in their modern history supported the elevation of their political allegiances to a continental plane." But Bonaparte proposed, and many accepted, just such an elevation of Europe's political allegiances to a continental plane. Even after he fell, the Germans opted not to expunge the Napoleonic Code he left behind. Just last year, Poles restored a commemorative monument to Bonaparte in Warsaw that reminds us -- along with another statue that still stands in the courtyard of Milan's city art gallery at the Palace of Brera -- of the Emperor's enduring reach. His conquests came and went, but Bonaparte's ability to focus the explosive popular power unleashed by the French Revolution and express it as something grandly European has left an indelible mark.
The French Empire fell not because Europe's peoples rose against him, but because Napoleon chose to march on Moscow instead of allowing Europe's new and greater unity to sink in. He gambled the continent and lost. And now, as a very different kind of gamble has Europeans fearing that all, yet again, will be lost, the importance of shared values that are more than platitudes grows.
Today, if Europeans wish to find concrete support for the values that unite them, it's France or bust. The usual alternative, Britain, is retreating from European politics -- reducing its military profile and leaning heavily on France in the process. Both liberal interventionists like U.S. President Barack Obama and wary conservatives gaining influence on the right are ready to shift America's military center of gravity decisively away from Europe. The limited U.S. intervention in Kosovo was controversial when America's strength and world domination were unquestioned. Today, there is no stomach for the deeper, more difficult interventions that will have to come in any European country where anti-austerity unrest spirals out of control.