Thank you for the link to a very good article that I hope has received the attention it deserves. From an outsider's perspective, the "big question" certainly seems to lie in your "What is the point of the European Union?"
But big ideas seem to follow from such big questions and the demands of necessity -- so perhaps we can hope that the EU will seize the moment presented by her immigration crisis. If not, perhaps Mr. Juncker's "last chance" will have been squandered and so end the experiment.
The line in your article that really struck me as most important though, was was where you wrote "Prosperity – which was initially seen as a means – gradually became the end. " This, I think, is a penetrating statement of the malaise that infects the West generally.
Thank you for your comments. Many of you have raised the point that current difficulties are not the result of nostalgia, but rather fundamental challenges arising in our societies and world. This is precisely the point. The nostalgia described in the article is a side-effect of the deeper uncertainties arising from our changing world. In the absence of new ideas it has become all too easy to fall back on old models driven by a hope that we can return to the past (and often to a past that never existed at all). This kind of sticking our heads in the sand is folly and distracts from coming up with real solutions to real problems.
Thank you all for your excellent and thoughtful comments. Underlining many of them is a sense that it is not our leaders who are really to blame, but flaws in the liberal democratic system itself that demands wishy-washiness. I ascribe to this somewhat and indeed the article makes reference to the pressures politicians are under within the context of the 24-hour news cycle which has increasingly come to define modern democracy. But we should not resign ourselves simply to shrugging our shoulders. Yes the world is unpredictable and yes there is a need for flexibility. But at the same time there is also a need for leadership and direction setting. Not to strive for some level of assertiveness is to condemn ourselves to perpetual reaction and defensiveness. This is by no means suggesting a thoughtless move forward, after all fools rush in. We must certainly leave ourselves room to maneuver. But too often thoughtfulness has been used as an excuse for paralysis. In the context of international affairs rudderlessness simply begets more unpredictability. To avoid this vicious cycle we must demand something more from our leaders---like actual leadership.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It is true that efforts to “thaw” relations have been ongoing since before the nuclear talks (indeed there have been efforts dating back to the 90’s)—however it is premature to say that these attempts have resulted in a fundamental shift in ties between Iran and the Atlantic Community. Relations are still frosty—though shifting.
As for the linkage between resolving the nuclear issue and progressively bringing Iran in from the cold to contribute to regional solutions, while there is a long way to go on both counts (as of today it appears that the most likely outcome of the Geneva talks will be an extension of the July 20 deadline), it is not simply wishful thinking to suggest that normalizing relations on the nuclear front will make it easier to work with Iran in other areas. As noted in the article, the nuclear issue is a fundamental component of Iran’s pariah status. Removing this thorn is an essential, though not sufficient, element of productive engagement with Iran more broadly.