Washington Should Squeeze Europe Like It’s 1945

In March 1945, the New York Times called Europe a “dark continent” in a condition that “no American can hope to understand.” Destroyed by political extremism and laid waste by a catastrophic war, Europe had become a problem for “every human being in Capetown, in Kansas City, in Brisbane, in Lhasa.”

Quickened by the emergence of the Soviet Union as a global rival, the United States’ reordering of a prostrate, rubble-strewn Western Europe in the late 1940s produced an unprecedented economic, political, and societal success. Leveraging its economic strength to shape structural change, Washington facilitated the rebirth of the Western European economy, which quickly recovered from wartime destruction. With the Marshall Plan and other programs, the U.S. government conditioned its support on cooperation among European countries, which kick-started the process of economic and political integration, as the late Tony Judt described so well in his magisterial Postwar.

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