The End of History has ended. It officially ended with Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History in the early Nineties. It’s a book that captures the optimistic zeitgeist of that decade—born of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of communism.
The basic idea was that once communism faded away—the reality, not the ideal, which will forever exist in the minds of many intellectuals—the world would become a more liberal, democratic and commercial place.
It was an argument with real legs. East Germany was digested by the West without a burp. The Baltic states prospered. Asia took off. A rising commercial tide lifted all boats.
Since then, the world stage has been increasingly occupied and guided by Davos Man—a rational, technocratic economic citizen of the world; the very culmination of history itself.
A central-casting example of Davos Man is John Kerry, America’s jet-setting, deal-making, profiting secretary for the environment. Kerry was morally outraged and scandalized by Putin’s nineteenth-century invasion of Ukraine. Didn’t Putin know that such anachronistic efforts are not allowed or tolerated in the European theater? (The Middle East and Africa are still okay though . . . )
It turns out that Putin does not respect Davos Man. He thinks Davos Man is weak and he is strong. Davos Man lacks the courage to defend what he deems his own. Putin believes there is little that Davos Man sees as worth shedding his own blood for.
In stark contrast, this nineteenth-century relic of a man is willing to shed blood and absorb the consequences. Putin sees the world and calibrates statecraft through the lens of the nation and national prestige — which is inseparable from his own person. Nineteenth-century guys are dangerous, particularly when they hold twenty-first-century arms.
The story of history is the story of the Strong Man plundering the Weak Man. In short, if you can’t defend what’s yours, it’s not yours. This is how borders are drawn and peoples forged. If we want out of history, we need more than what John Kerry—and his miniature version, Antony Blinken—bring to the table.
The question before us now is whether Davos Man is capable of effectively standing up to nineteenth-century Man. Presently, Davos Man is pushing back with the only tools in his statecraft toolbox: shaming and “crippling sanctions,” along with arm’s-length provisions of weaponry and intel.
If the sanctions work—and I hope they do—Europe and the United States owe a Marshall Plan to Ukraine and an apology to Volodymyr Zelensky for not answering his call for sanctions as a deterrent to invasion.
It must be painful for Ukrainians to watch Western intelligence congratulating itself—and being praised in the media—for knowing exactly what Putin’s intentions were (which, by the way, were publicly delivered). All the heads of European nations—Zelensky included—were aware of Putin’s intentions.
All Western intelligence added were the movements of people and materiel on the ground. They saw the future, they knew what was coming, and they chose not to deploy the only real weapon in their arsenal. Unlike with bombs, sanctions can be easily turned on and off.
Statesmanship is seeing what is coming down the pike and marshaling the national attention and resources required. This is what Churchill did. He saw the gathering storm of Nazism and told his people the truth—sadly to no avail. Yet at least they were warned, and bore not only the pain that came from not heeding the warnings but also the responsibility.
Zelensky should have known what was coming. He knew that Putin was going invade and that his justification, which his nineteenth-century brain could not countenance, was the threat of Ukraine joining NATO.
Zelensky should have tried to parlay a deal with Putin—with the US as a backstop—that Ukraine would not join NATO. Who knows if this would have assuaged Putin? In fact, we will never know. Looking at the rubble of Ukraine’s cities, the dead, the wounded and the fleeing, it seems a failure of leadership on Zelensky’s part to have not tried.
A wise man ought to know his limitations and the limitations of his allied partners. Zelensky did not want a ride out of town and out of trouble. He said he was going to stay and fight—but the bullets he needed should have been bought or begged before the the war started. Without the materiel and lacking in preemptive backup support, he should have made a deal. After that deal was inked, he could have regrouped and armed his nation for another day.
While Ukraine is being reduced to rubble, it appears European Man is waking out of his end-of-history slumber.
In defense of European Man’s martial weakness, it’s a natural, intentional byproduct of American foreign policy. Sorry, guys. The intent of NATO was to outsource European self-defense to the United States.
The natural and necessary consequence of this dependence on another’s arms is the creation of pusillanimous nations led by ungrateful egomaniacs with inferiority complexes. Europe has slept comfortably under a blanket of freedom that it does not pay for and lives longer thanks to drugs it does not develop. News alert: we aren’t too fond of you either.
Europe’s most important contribution to the world is championing independence from fossil fuels. In their defense, they show no interest in living up to their own talk. Germany, the most prosperous and green-conscious member of the EU, was in the process of becoming energy-dependent on Russia, the very country that provoked the creation of NATO for Europe’s protection. That level of idiocy is enabled by American foreign policy welfare. Again, our apologies.
For Europe’s sake, and ours, we need to wake up to history’s present requirements.
The time has come for Germany and Europe to lean on the United States for their energy needs, not their security needs, and for the United States to get back to drilling and building the infrastructure needed to fuel the free world. Also, Germany—if it really gives a shit about the environment, the physics of energy and the needs of its economy—just might build more than a few nuclear power plants. If ideology keeps a nation from doing what is existentially required, it deserves to reap the consequences of what it sows.
Most importantly, Germany and the rest of Europe need to immediately start arming themselves to defend their own interests with their own arms. Many European nations have started doing this since the outset of Russia’s invasion. To ensure the necessary recovery of Europe’s martial spirit, the United States needs to restructure its support and its on-the-ground participation in NATO.
The rationale that the United States is the guarantor of European security no longer makes sense. Davos Man has made Europe wealthy. Wealthy and weak—with our help. Individually and collectively, European Man needs to get his martial mojo back.
The United States will happily sell you the arms to rise to the occasion. But it’s worth repeating: the American taxpayer and soldier is no longer that into you.
It’s time for Europe to man up. It’s time for you to stop imagining a world you cannot afford or defend unless you go from 2 percent of GDP to 20 percent. If you do this, you’ll like the European Man in the mirror, and the nineteenth-century men—and the nations they command—just might leave you to enjoy your peace and prosperity.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Spectator World.