In the space of two weeks, three European governments have fallen, sending seismic shock-waves across the continent and calling into question the experiment that has consumed its elites for decades: the construction of a centralized, socialist superstate known as "Europe."
It may just be that the foundering of the coalition government in the Netherlands, the repudiation of Nicholas Sarkozy in France and the plunging fortunes of the two main Greek parties represents more than a rejection of austerity measures dictated by Brussels at the behest of the Germans.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, these political developments are probably not going to end the creeping, sovereignty-crushing European venture or even mark the beginning of its demise. But they may just constitute the end of the beginning of the end of "Europe" as a single, transnational political enterprise.
To be sure, French voters elected socialist Francois Hollande, who favors the European Union and reflexively supports the vision of its founders that has seen it evolve from a trade pact to a community to proto-political union. Still, his electorate, like the Greeks and Dutch, wants no part of the EU's main project at the moment - fiscal discipline and budgetary austerity.
The trouble is that such rebuffs threaten the wholesale unraveling of various financial houses of cards constructed in recent months by Germany's Angela Merkel with help from her very-much-junior partner, France's Sarkozy. They have been aimed at giving the appearance of managing the yawning economic crises confronting EU members far beyond Greece - including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and, yes, France. But as publics across the continent balk at taking the unpalatable medicine ordered up by Berlin and refuse to give up their unaffordable social services, short work-weeks and long vacations, there seems little hope that the patient will recover.
Unfortunately, several other worrying factors are adding to the economic turmoil afflicting Europe at the moment. These include the following:
• In many nations of the European Union, the chickens are coming home to roost as what has been in some nations a decades-long bid to offset declining birthrates among the native population by importing immigrant laborers transforms the host countries. Sarkozy's fate was ultimately sealed by the decision of supporters of Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration National Front party not to vote for him in the second round of the French presidential election. Similar sentiments saw Greece's fascist-sympathizing Golden Dawn party garnering roughly 7% of the polling this weekend at the expense of mainstream conservative and leftist parties.
• Closely tied to concerns about the numbers of immigrants in one European country after another is the sense that many of them are Muslims who seek to impose the Islamic supremacist doctrine known as shariah where they now reside. As authors like Bat Ye'or, Mark Steyn and Bruce Bawer have observed, the trends are in the direction of such populations exerting disproportionate influence politically and establishing no-go zones and other privileged status. Such developments fuel a sense of inequity and outrage on the part of the natives.
• Rising hostility towards "the other" in some parts of Europe is also bringing to the fore once again widespread anti-semitism. Jews are discouraged from wearing their religious garb in public as attacks on them and their synagogues have become more and more frequent and violent. Many are fleeing their native lands and those staying behind are becoming fearful - for good reason - to a degree they have not experienced since World War II.
For all these reasons, Europe may soon be in for another of the horrific cataclysms that have plagued it for nearly all of recorded history. In fact, we have become so accustomed to the tranquility and prosperity the continent has known for the past half-century that most of us forget that such conditions are very much the exception there, rather than the rule.
It is unclear how a new round of disorder or even war might be precipitated in Europe. And the mere threat of such a prospect may - as it has in the past - prompt a redoubled effort to shore up the European Union and its faltering common currency, the Euro. The forces being unleashed at the moment, however, may prove resistant to such exhortations to perpetuate what is increasingly perceived to be a punitive and anti-democratic enterprise.
Needless to say, if Europe once again descends into the vortex of economic privation, religious and/or ethnic "cleansing" and possibly strife that has happened so often there, our own tranquility and prosperity will be jeopardized, as well. We must, however, resist the temptation to try to prop up the European Union as the solution to such prospects and invest, instead, in efforts to work with national governments there to make them more responsible, accountable and disciplined - something the project known as "Europe" has not been to date and can, as a practical matter, never be.
At the very least, we cannot expect that what emerges from the wreckage of profligate spending and subordination of sovereignty that is Europe will provide the reliable partners and robust militaries that we are told will permit us safely to reduce our own capabilities and burden-share with our allies. If history is any guide, it is as likely that we will wind up fighting in Europe again - perhaps catalyzed by an ever-more-bellicose Russia once again formally led by Vladimir Putin - as that we will benefit from substantially greater help from that quarter.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Frank Gaffney's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.