Letters | Saving the eurozone, ‘tariff’ penances, and remembering Afghan refugees

 

CART BEFORE HORSE

As an economist, I believe one should not neglect to highlight the eurozone’s problems when addressing the issues of the European Union. James J. Sheehan seems to be doing so in his review of Perry Anderson’s Ever Closer Union? (“Here to Stay,” March). Sheehan states that “replacing [the euro] with national currencies would be extraordinarily difficult to accomplish and would have incalculable economic consequences.” This hides the fundamental shortcomings of the eurozone.

The fundamental problem can be summarized in two words: policy error. In 1999, European leaders put an economic cart, i.e. the common currency, in front of a political horse, i.e. political (fiscal) union. To seek a currency union without a political union is illusory. The designers of the EU and the common currency believed in the necessity of a federal Europe—ultimately like the United States of America—and hoped that a monetary union would lead to a political union. Unfortunately, however, the eurozone political leaders have been kicking the can down the road since the common currency’s inception. How can anyone expect the eurozone to succeed without achieving a political union that allows for a common treasury and banking system?

German political leaders (represented by the successors to Chancellor Angela Merkel) hold the key. To save the euro (and the EU), German leaders must be able to persuade German voters to graduate from prioritizing short-term, parochial German interests to a more inclusive Weltanschauung that would tolerate Germany becoming a temporary financier to save the peripheral member countries that need help.

The legendary Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany allegedly lamented, “God made a grave mistake. He set a limit to the level of our intelligence but did not set a limit to our stupidity.” When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Germans proved him wrong. I believe that Germans have another opportunity to demonstrate their beloved late chancellor wrong by saving the euro and the European Union.

Yeomin Yoon
Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University
South Orange, N.J.

 

JAMES J. SHEEHAN REPLIES:

My thanks to Professor Yoon for his thoughtful letter. I agree with his diagnosis of the eurozone’s fundamental problem, but I am afraid that the solution he suggests is not possible at the moment: Germany will not—and perhaps could not—create the kind of political institutions the euro needs to function like a national currency. The EU is stuck with the euro and will have to learn to live with it as best it can. 

 

‘TARIFF’ PENANCES & PENITENTIALS

I thank Michael Marchal for his comments about my article “How the Irish Changed Penance” (Letters, April), but I’m puzzled how he can claim I did not mention “tariff” penances and their eventual abuse by those who had others “pay” their penance for them. In fact, I devoted a full paragraph to the problem and another lengthy paragraph to numerous specific tariffs. The same section of my article discusses “penitentials”—another topic Marchal oddly claims I omitted.

I did leave out the forgotten initiative of the 1980s in which Marchal was involved and which he says fell afoul of supporters of “traditionalism.” I was telling the tale of Irish monks in antiquity, not North American laymen of our day.

John Rodden
Austin, Tex.

 

WHO REMEMBERS?

Andrew Bacevich is right to remind readers of the impact of news cycles on memory (“The Value of ‘Whataboutism,’” April). I write from Abu Dhabi, where roughly ten thousand refugees displaced during America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan still await resettlement. Since last August, the UAE has stepped up to offer medical services, vaccinations, meals, clean beds, and more while State Department officials deal with our own bureaucratic hurdles in helping these people find homes in the United States or elsewhere. It’s one of the strains on our relationship with the UAE government at the moment, but who, except those working on resettlement, remembers?

Bacevich rightly points out the “complexity” of war and its “chameleon” character and the understandable but imprudent desire for the United States to entangle itself more deeply in combat—again. He points out our amnesia with Afghanistan and Iraq, and though he doesn’t say it here, he could just as easily add Korea and Vietnam. Contractors and arms dealers have done quite well in all these failed missions, while untold numbers of people have been displaced, maimed, or killed. A strong military should form part of diplomacy, and while it is clear Putin has no concern for rules of war, international law, or diplomacy, we need to remember, as Bacevich points out, repentance and reparation, not just military might.

I wish Bacevich’s balanced voice were among those advising the highest levels of government during these very complex times.

Edward J. Dupuy
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Published in the June 2022 issue: 
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