As a Europhile and occasional foreign policy pundit, something that really bugged me during the post-9/11 era was the tendency to think of dusty explosion-ridden backwaters as the key regions of the world for Americans to think about and to basically write Europe off as an interesting and important place on the grounds that it wasn’t dysfunctional or violent enough. One thing that I think is finally coming home to people this year is that objectively speaking, European events can have a lot of impact on American life. That America had an interest in a strong, prosperous, and free Europe was a commonplace of 20th Century foreign policy and as we see the economic headlines today it’s still true.
“The European Union is a big economy,” writes Ezra Klein, “bigger than ours, in fact.” And he’s right. Ben Bernanke isn’t the most important central banker in the world. Jean-Claude Trichet is. Huge dramas in Iraq that involve the death and maiming of tens of thousands of people have relatively little impact on the average American, while Eurozone problems that are trivial in comparison can wreck your retirement or cost you your job.
Which isn’t to say that we should send the Marines to Brussels. But it underscores the fact that knowledge about the (complicated!) politics of Europe and the European Union is very much worth your time to obtain.