Back to the Burqa?

As I noted last week, we keep reading and hearing of rape. Almost always it is men who do it to women, rarely the opposite. There are three reasons for this, all of them important. First, as the French sage Denis Diderot (1713-84) once wrote and the absence of male brothels indicates, perhaps the most important difference between men and women is the formers’ greater ability to enjoy the embraces of strangers. Second, there is the overall difference in physical strength. In lower body it is as five to three; in upper body, as two to one. Third, there is the obvious anatomical difference between the genitalia of people of both sexes. For a woman to rape a man is almost impossible; even if she can overcome him in a hand to hand struggle, or else by threatening him weapon in hand, when the critical moment arrives his apparatus may very well not function.

The three factors are linked. Women’s physiology puts them at risk of becoming pregnant and also makes them more vulnerable to STD. As a result, throughout history they have had more to lose from casual intercourse than men did. True, the introduction of modern contraceptives has gone a considerable way to alleviate these problems. But this does not change the fact that women, having weaker bodies overall, still have more to fear in one-on-one encounters where most sex takes place.

The difference in strength means that, other things equal and except under rather unusual circumstances, the only ones who can save women from being raped by men are other men. Occasional suggestions, put forward by feminists and others, that women should take self-defense classes or carry some kind of weapons from pepper spray upwards tend to be not only useless but counterproductive. Men, after all, can learn judo and the use weapons at least as well as women can. That is why chances are that, if women take up these suggestions, they will only add physical injury to the unpleasantness, humiliation, and psychological trauma that being raped entails.

Rebus sic stantibus—and I do not see that they are going to change any time soon—the only remaining question is: Which men should do the protecting, and what forms should the latter assume? Note that, during the first ninety-something percent of their existence on earth and in many places until very recently, humans have lived in tribes. One outstanding characteristic of tribal life is the absence of a strong, centrally-run, police force able and willing to deal with crimes of every kind. All the more so, of course, in case the tribe in question is nomadic as most were for a long, long time. Rather, should any kind of crime be committed, it is the victim and his or her relatives who are expected to deal with it by demanding revenge and inflicting retaliation.

Focusing on rape, an excellent example of the way these things worked is provided by the book of Genesis (34.1-31). “And Dinah, the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Schechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her… And it came to pass… that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each men his sword and came upon the city boldly and slew all the males,” Schechem and Hamor included. Taken to task by Jacob their father, who feared the possible consequences, the two retorted: “Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?”

With the shift to more settled societies, things gradually changed. The more hierarchical, strongly governed and policed a community, the greater the pressure on women’s male relatives not to resort to self-justice but leave the task of apprehending, judging and punishing the perpetrator to the authorities. However, progress in this direction tended to be slow. As late as the nineteenth century European women, for fear of being harassed and attacked, were strongly advised not to travel on their own. By one story, those of them who did so by rail were told to put needles in their mouths to prevent strangers from kissing them while the train was passing through dark tunnels. The higher women’s own social rank and that of their relatives, the more true this was. In less developed countries women who travelled often disguised themselves as men, as the British explorer Gertrude Bell did.

Nor is the change by any means complete even today. In her 1998 book, Desert Flower, former supermodel and U.N special ambassador Waris Dirie recounts how, during her youth in her native Somalia, she was threatened with sexual assault. In response, her father—the same, incidentally, who insisted that she should be circumcised—went about armed with a knife. As, on pain of his honor and following a centuries- if not millennia-old tradition, he was supposed to do. Two decades later there still is no shortage of countries where powerful but thoroughly disciplined (disciplined, also in the sense that their members will not themselves turn into rapists) police forces do not exist. By default, it is women’s male relatives who are entrusted with the task of protecting them.

The protection women demand, however, will come at a price. To obtain it a woman must, as far as possible, be sequestered and kept within the home. Even if that means she cannot work or go to school. If she goes out nevertheless she must not only be chaperoned but dressed in such a way as to conceal her, as far as possible, from prying male eyes. Her freedom to communicate with the opposite sex must also be limited—because, unless it is, her male relatives, trying to save her from being raped, are going to get a knife between their ribs or a bullet into their backs. These facts go a long way to explain, and to some extent justify, the way Islamic societies, many of which remain tribal in spite of the recent move towards urbanization, treat their womenfolk. Including, among other things, the recently lifted Saudi ban on driving.

And the future? Starting in the late eighteenth century when the first modern police forces were set up in countries such as France, there has been a strong trend to abolish the right to self-defense. To the point that, if one catches a burglar and injures him during the subsequent struggle, one may well end up by being prosecuted.

There is, however, no guarantee that the trend will continue. Take Europe. Owing to a combination of modernity and a dense population, it has long been perhaps the most strongly-policed continent of all. Now, however, the presence of large numbers of immigrants has created enclaves where the police is afraid to go. The enclaves are inhabited by populations whose ideas concerning what is and is not allowable, is and is not desirable, in relations between men and women differ sharply from those of the native majority.

Even in Germany, the country which a century ago gave rise to the so-called FKP (Freie Korper Kultur, aka nudism), that movement is now on the retreat. As I myself, having visited the lakes of Potsdam every year over the last eighteen years, can testify. There was a time when many people went swimming naked; now it is mostly old people who do. And they seem to be dying out. Meanwhile more and more parents are warning their daughters to avoid going out at night, visit dark and lonely places, and the like. With good reason, let me add. Separate swimming classes, separate taxis, and separate hotel floors are gaining in popularity. Social change is driving fear of rape, and fear of rape is driving social change.

How far these changes will go, and where they will lead, no one knows. Back to the burqa, perhaps? If so, don’t be surprised.


As my readers know, I do not normally use this blog to quote other people at any length. If I do so this time, that is because I am shocked. Right from the beginning of human history—possibly even before human history, properly speaking, got under way—one of men’s most important tasks has always been to protect their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and women in general from being raped by other men. Even at the cost of their lives, if necessary.

No longer. So weak, so utterly despicable, have European men in particular become, that they have abrogated this responsibility, perhaps the most basic any human community owes the fifty percent of its members who are female and on whom its future depends. More basic than equality, more basic than any other number of nice things I could think about. I quote from a recent book on this and related topics.*

“Throughout the 2000s, the question of sex attacks on local women by gangs of immigrants had been an open secret [in Britain]. It was something nobody wanted to speak or hear about. There was something so base, and so rank somehow, in even mentioning it. Even to imply that dark-skinned men had a penchant for abusing white women seemed to so clearly originate from some odious, racist text that it appeared impossible, firstly even to even imagine that it might be happening, and secondly that it should be discussed. British officials were so terrified about even mentioning such crimes that every single arm of the state failed to respond over the course of years. When the same phenomena occurred on the continent precisely the same problems were encountered.

Even to mention the fact in 2015 that most of the recent arrivals into Europe seemed to be young [and single, MvC] men was to court opprobrium. To question whether all these individuals might have brought modern views about women with them was unmentionable (precisely, as in Britain, because it seemed to speak to some base, racist smear). The fear of falling into a racial cliché or suffering accusations of racism prevented authorities and the European public from admitting to a problem that had spread across the continent. And the more refugees a country took in, the greater that problem became.

Even in 2014 in Germany the number of sexual assaults against women and boys was growing. These included the rape of a 20-year old German woman in Munich by a 30-year old Somali asylum seeker, the rape of a 55-year old woman in Dresden by a 30-year old Moroccan, the attempted rape of a 21-year old German woman in Munich by a 25-year old Senegalese asylum seeker, the rape of a 17-year old girl in Straubing by a 21-year old Iraqi asylum seekers, the rape of a 21-year old German woman near Stuttgart by two Afghan asylum seekers, and the rape of a 25-year old German woman in Stralsund by a 28-year old Eritrean asylum seeker. While these and many other cases made it to court, many others did not.

Alongside the growth in cases of rapes of Germans came the increase in the number of rapes and sexual assaults in refugee shelters. During 2015 the German government was so short of to house the migrants that it was initially unable to provide segregated shelters for women. A [The outcome was rapes] across Bavaria. And as in Britain a decade before, the authorities were so worried about the implications of the fact that in a number of cases they were found to have deliberately covered them up. In Demold, where an asylum seeker raped a 13-year old Muslim girl, the local police remained silent about the assault. An investigation by Westfalen-Blatt claimed that local police were routinely covering up sex assaults involving migrants in case it gave ammunition to criticisms of the government’s open door policies. Nevertheless, rapes of children were reported in numerous cases, including at a facility in Bremen.

As the number of cases increased throughout 2015, the German authorities eventually could not hold back the growing number of reports of rapes against German women by recent refugees. These included the rape of a 16-year old girl in Mering, an 18-year old girl in Hamm, a 14-year old boy in Heilbronn and a 20-year old woman in Karlsruhe. In a number of cases.—including the case in Karlsruhe—the police remained silent about the story until a local paper broke it. Countless other assaults and rapes were reported in Dresden, Reinbach, Bad Kreuznach, Ansbach, Hanau, Dortmund, Kassel, Hanover, Siegen, Rinteln, Moenchengladbach, Chemnitz, Stuttgart, and other cities across the country

Eventually, this unmentionable subject became so bad that in September 2015 officials in Bavaria began to warn local parents to ensure their daughters did not wear any revealing clothing in public. ‘Revealing tops or blouses, short shorts or miniskirts could lead to misunderstandings,’ one letter to locals warned. In some Bavarian towns, including Mering, police warned parents not to allow their children to go outside alone. Local women were advised not to walk to the railway station unaccompanied. On a daily basis from 2015 onwards there were reports of rapes on German streets, in communal buildings, public swimming baths, and many other locations. Similar events were reported in Austria, Sweden and elsewhere. But everywhere the subject of rape remained underground, covered up by the authorities and deemed by most of the European media not to be a respectable news story…

Throughout 2016 the spate of rape and sexual assaults spread to every single one of Germany’s sixteen federal states. There were attacks literally every day, with most of the perpetrators never found. According to the [Social Democratic, MvC] Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, just a tenth of rapes in Germany are reported and of those that reach trial only 8 percent result in a conviction. Moreover, several additional problems emerged from these cases, not least that there appeared to be a concerted official effort to suppress data about crimes where the suspects might be migrants… Just as in Britain a decade earlier, it transpired that German ‘anti-racism’ groups had been involved. In this case they had pressured the German police to remove racial identifiers from al suspect appeals for risk of ‘stigmatizing’ whole groups of people.”

The outcome? In Bavaria alone the number of rapes, many of them committed by refugees, during the first half of 2017 increased 48 percent over the corresponding period in the previous year. The equivalent figure for Britain is 19 percent. In London’s borough Tower Hamlets, said to have “one of the smallest White British populations of any local authority in Britain,” one poor girl was said to have been sexually assaulted three times in a single hour.

Cowards, cowards, cowards.


*D. Murray, The Strange Death of Europe, Kindle ed., 2016, locs. 3464-525

Guest Article – Sliding Towards Civil War?

Europe: Sliding Towards Civil War?

by Renzo Verwer*

Day by day, thousands of asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle East are entering the EU in search of their Promised Land. Germany alone expects 750,000 in 2015. Over the first half of 2015 the EU has admitted 400,000. This foreshadows a great increase over the figure for the whole of 2014, which stood at 562,265. To be sure, not all these people will be allowed to stay. Far from it. But many will remain, legally or not.

fighting-chimpanzee-bonobo-pan-paniscus-democratic-republic-congo-africa-36707241As any child can understand, this vast inflow, both legal and illegal, will necessarily have consequences for European society. Yet quite a few European leaders claim that nothing will change. Or even that immigration will have a positive effect on the society in question; for instance, by providing industry with labor. Not so. First, the fact is that each immigrant costs the country in which he or she chooses to settle tens of thousands of Euro a year. Second, their arrival often means that religious and ethnic tensions start being imported. Having seen how these things developed in an Amsterdam flat shared by Ethiopians and Eritreans, I can bear personal witness to this problem. Not nice; not at all.

Take a look at the following piece of news, originating in a mall Dutch village blessed by a center for immigrants in search of refugee status ( in Dutch).

A fascinating quote: “Feije handles the money. Angela [Feije’s wife] has stopped doing so. ‘As a woman, a group of Arab inhabitants did not accept me. They did not want to give me money.’

‘That is not how we would like to run our shop,’ says Feije. “This is the Netherlands.’ ‘But here is no point in trying to resist,’ says Angela. ‘We have switched roles. Now it is I who do the administrative work, order merchandise, and look for suppliers. Soon we shall start selling toys too.’ They must change, so as to make a living.”

Is this kind of discrimination legal in the Netherlands? In Europe? If not, where is the police? The United Nations, which is always busily fighting Islamophobia, does not say a word. Nor does anybody else. Feije and Angela have accepted the new situation. When I raise the question among anti-discrimination groups on Facebook, or among self-styled opponents of discrimination, many of them—even women—answer by saying: “Yes, the Christian Church did not believe in women’s equality either.” Discrimination used to be prevalent in the past. Ergo it is OK now.

European customs have already started changing. For the better? What do you say?

Or take a look at the following pieces of news:

Life in the refugee camp “jungle” near Calais is hell. Muslims who convert do so at the risk of their lives. Muslims look down on blacks. Those responsible for running the camp are considering separating people of both sexes as well as those belonging to different religions. In other words, we are importing apartheid and social regression. Europe’s key values, such as women’s emancipation and religious freedom, are being thrown overboard.

Conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims (in which the Muslims are often the aggressors) have become part of daily reality. People who oppose immigration and the emergent multicultural society are often called xenophobes and/or racists. The Dutch liberal MP, Alexander Pechold, whose party came second in the polls, has said of them: “What can one do? Some people just cannot take a little fresh air.” The comment is both depreciating and coarse. To believe him and his fellow liberals, the terrifying monster is not IS. No; it is the media and the “extreme right.”

As to officialdom, its “strategy” is to deny reality. In every clash it is the unbelievers who must retreat, the Muslims who win. And the more Muslims enter the Continent, the more true this becomes.

I often think we have already missed the boat. Civil war in Europe cannot be ruled out—even though most of us feel things will not reach that point anytime soon. My own Dutch countrymen are naïve beyond belief. Over a decade after the murder, at the hands of a muslim fanatic, of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and politician Pim Fortuyn by an activist, both politicians and ordinary citizens are still astonished by the fact that “here in the Netherlands, such things can happen!”

Tensions between Kurds and Turks, Jews and Muslims, are growing. Many of our people reject our incompetent governments or even despise them. Social life is becoming more and more troubled. As history teaches us, these are just the factors that lead to civil war. In our great cities religious fanaticism and ethnic conflicts are becoming part of daily life. You can see it happening in the suburbs of Paris. And in those of Amsterdam where Muslims are demanding segregated swimming lessons and Jewish schools are being protected by the police.

No, disturbances will not break out in all places at once. Certain parts of the country will surely be spared, more or less. But I think that, 10-25 years from now, the pot will start boiling. Civil war will force people to choose sides… to look away… to fight… to resist… and become friends with farmers, of course.

Civil War is something we in the Netherlands can hardly imagine. Think of armed ethnic and/or religious gangs fighting each other in the streets. Of difficulties with the supply and distribution of goods. Of states within states. Of no-go areas and police forces which refuse to enter certain neighborhoods. Of bands of street fighters robbing, beating up, and killing people just as they please. In particular, being Jewish will not be fun.

And terrible things, things we do not even dare think about, will happen. Those who collaborate with the stronger side will survive. My advice to you good Europeans: accept discrimination against women and start hating Jews. And agree that your Western tradition is in urgent need of modification. Be nice to Muslims, and everything will turn out OK.

It is high time we started thinking whom it is that we admit. Not all refugees are “miserable.” They include a great many assholes as well as people who do not belong here at all.

Or else the day will come when Europe as we know it is gone.

* Renzo Verwer (Woerden, the Netherlands, 1972) is an author and a dealer in antiquities. He has published books about love, work, and the chess master Bobby Fischer. His most recent one (in Dutch) is titled Freedom of Thought for Beginners. His website is

Sic Transit


Last week I got a request, one of many I have received over the years. Two scholars asked me to do a chapter in a book they were going to edit. The topic? Security challenges facing European states. That includes strategic and doctrinal responses, technological and industrial capabilities, European armed forces in action, the web of alliances, etc, etc. The book was going to be published by Oxford University Press. My role was to do the chapter on land forces.

I told my father, who is 96 years old. He responded with one word: nebbish (Yiddish for “poor bastards”). I on my part turned down the offer. Why? Because there was no challenge in it. Starting in 1571, when the Turks were defeated at Lepanto, no other non-European navy has ever dared challenge the Europeans at sea. Starting in 1683, when they tried to capture Vienna and failed, the same was true on land.

European navies and armies together ruled the world for several centuries. What were often almost ridiculously small expeditionary forces easily swept away any opposition they encountered. The point was reached where, in 1914, five European states—plus one that was an offspring or Europe, plus one that had successfully started to imitate the Europeans’ methods—dominated practically the entire earth. By 1939, owing to the rise of the USA, the USSR and Japan, that domination was no longer as complete as it had been at the beginning of the twentieth-century. Still it was strong enough.

Depending on how things are calculated and whom one believes, World War II is said to have caused the deaths of anything between 50 and 80 million people. Perhaps as many as two thirds of them were Europeans. Especially in 1944-45, when the Allies were closing on Berlin from east and west, the Continent was hell on earth. Entire armies were being destroyed or captured. Entire cities were being pulverized from the air; until, in Germany, hardly two stones were kept standing on each other. No wonder the survivors turned towards pacifism. The Continent which for several centuries had produced the world’s best sailors and soldiers wanted nothing more to do with war.

To be sure, some European States still tried to behave as if nothing had changed. Many of them sent their troops to fight in the colonies. “Over there,” as the phrase went, they tried to put down rebellions, uprisings, brushfire wars—a term frequently used during the 1950s—guerrilla, terrorism, or whatever. In all cases their opponents were puny (sometimes literally so, like the Viet Minh). Often the attempts involved massive bloodshed and even more massive cruelty; one need only think of the interesting methods the French “paras” used to “win” the battle of Algiers.

In the end, all of them failed. In my view that even applies to the British “victory” in Malaysia which has so often been held up as an example of what could be achieved. In reality it was a triumph of propaganda, not arms. It was orchestrated by none other than Winston Churchill. Returning to office in 1951, Churchill had the good sense to announce that “we shall win this war, then we shall get out.” He did “win,” and he did get out.

The end of the Algerian War in 1962 marked the last time when any European power seriously tried to hold on to its overseas possession. True, in Europe itself the Soviet Union continued to pose a formidable challenge. However, those who carried the main burden of dealing with that challenge were not the Europeans but their American Allies. The latter spent about twice as much on defense as all European states combined.

To be sure, things developed differently in different countries. By and large, though, all kept cutting their defense budgets and, with them, their armed forces’ size and capabilities. Starting in 1967, almost all of them also did away with conscription. So strong did pacifist sentiment become that many forces found it almost impossible to attract high-quality manpower. That, incidentally, was one reason why they increasingly turned to women; who, as everybody knows but nobody dares say, for many purposes, are no more than half soldiers.

As the Cold War came to an end the process accelerated. Take the Bundeswehr, which during the first few days at any rate would have to bear the brunt of an eventual Soviet attack. In 1989 it had 500,000 soldiers in twelve superbly armed divisions. Now it has 186,000 and three respectively. Much of its equipment is out of date, inoperable, or both. The armed forces of NATO’s remaining members are no better off. Most of the countries in question only spend between 1 and 2 percent of GDP on their militaries. In late 2014 it was decided to raise the figure to 2 percent. No sooner did this happen, though, than the resolution was declared to be “non-binding.”

The Europeans’ miserable failure to deal with the challenges facing them over the last quarter century speaks for itself. Had it not been the US, no doubt Saddam Hussein would still have been in power. In 1992-95 it was the US and not the Europeans which put an end to the war in the former Yugoslavia. In 1999 it was the US and not the Europeans who did what had to be done, if it had to be done, in Kosovo. In both 2002—the war in Afghanistan—and 2003—the invasion of Iraq—so limited was the role most Europeans played as to be barely visible. But for the US, the Persian Gulf would long ago have become a Persian Lake. And so it goes.

There used to be a time when the French prided themselves on their furor Gallicus and the Germans on their furor Teutonicus. Others had similar beliefs—I vividly remember the British officer who, long ago, looked at me down his nose as he said that they, the British, were rather good at “the smacking business.” They may have been. But by now they have become pussycats like all the rest.

In view of this total lack of the will to fight—in the face of a growing challenge from Moscow, what is more—of what value and interest are strategic and doctrinal responses, technological and industrial capabilities, the web of alliances, and all the rest?

As so often, the answer is blowing in the wind.

The Things that did Not Happen

v0_masterSeventy years ago, World War II in Europe came to an end. No sooner had it done so—in fact, for a couple of years before it had done so—people everywhere had been wondering what the post war world would look like. Here it pleases me to outline a few of their expectations that did not become reality.

* In 1945, much of Europe—and not just Europe—was devastated. Tens of millions had been killed or crippled. Millions more had been uprooted from hearth and home. Scurrying about the continent, they were desperately seeking to rebuild their lives either in their original countries or elsewhere. Entire cities had been turned into moonscapes. This was true not only in Germany (and Japan), where British and American bombers had left hardly a stone standing on top of another, but in Britain (Bristol, Coventry), France (Caen, Brest), Belgium (the Port of Antwerp), the Netherlands (Rotterdam and Eindhoven), Hungary (Budapest), and Yugoslavia (Belgrade). Transportation and industry were in chaos. With unemployment, cold—the nineteen forties witnessed some of the harshest winters of the century—and even hunger rife, many expected large parts of the continent to go Communist.

In fact, it was only Eastern Europe that became Communist. And then not because its inhabitants, war-ravaged as they were, liked Communism, but because Stalin and the Red Army forced it on them. Many west-European countries, especially France and Italy, also witnessed the rise of powerful left-wing parties. So did Greece, which went through a civil war as vicious as any. None, however, succumbed to the red pest. By 1950 production was back to pre-1939 levels. By the late 1950s, though eastern countries continued to lag behind western ones as they had begun to do as early as 1600, most of the continent was more prosperous than it had ever been.

* During the first years after 1945 many people worried about a possible revival of Prussian-German militarism and aggression. It was that fear which, in September 1944, led US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau to propose the plan named after him. Had it been adopted, it would have deprived Germany of many of its territories which would have gone to its various neighbors not only in the east, as actually happened, but in the west as well. The rest would have been divided into several separate states. That accomplished, “all industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action” was to be dismantled. That even included the mines, which were to be “thoroughly wrecked.” Since both Roosevelt and Churchill at some points supported various versions of the plan, the chances of its being turned into reality looked pretty good.

In the event, Germany was dismembered and lost large tracts of land that had been part of it for centuries past. It was also partitioned, though not along the lines Morgenthau had proposed. Both the Soviets and the West, but the former in particular, dismantled parts of the German industrial plant that fell into their hands. However, Germany never came close to being a “primarily agricultural and pastoral country.” For example, by the end of 1945 Volkswagen, thanks to a British order for 20,000 vehicles, was back in business. In 1950 the firm celebrated the production of the 100,000th Beetle; the rest is history.

Furthermore, the reconstruction of German industry did not lead to the much-feared revival of Prussian-German militarism. Let alone of National Socialism and “revanchism.” Instead, Germany was turned into a federal democracy with human-rights guarantees as strong as those of any other democratic country. With the slogan “nie wieder krieg” (no more war) on almost everyone’s lips, by the time of the 1976 election-campaign, which I happened to witness, the country was being touted as “the most successful society in Europe.”

The Wiedervereinigung (re-unification) of 1989-90 gave rise to some renewed fears among Germany’s neighbors. It was to counter those fears that Prof. Michael Wolfson, a German-Israeli teaching at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, penned his best-seller, Keine Angst vor Deutschland (No Fear of Germany). He turned out to be right. Not only has there been no revival of National Socialism and militarism, but at no time since 1945 has Germany posed the slightest danger to any of its neighbors. By now, with Putin doing what he is doing in the Ukraine, some people would argue that its unwillingness and inability to do so are precisely the problem.

* Above all, there has been no World War III. The objective of World War I, at least according to President Wilson, had been to put an end to war. In 1945, its miserable failure to do so had long become a matter of record. Everybody and his neighbor expected another world war—this time, one waged between the US and the Soviet Union and fought, if that is the word, with the aid of nuclear weapons. As a friend of mine, a retired Bundeswehr colonel whose grandfather and father were killed in 1914-18 and 1939-45 respectively, put it to me: “When I joined the Bundeswehr I did not expect to live.”

Only during the 1960s did fear of another “total” war, as the phrase went, slowly begin to wane away. As late as 1968, American planners claimed to be preparing for “two and a half wars;” a major one in Europe, another major one in the Pacific, and a smaller one somewhere else. Since then they have gradually lowered their sights. So much so that, by now, the most they can hope for is the ability to wage two small wars, such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, simultaneously. Even that is becoming a little doubtful. Rather than go through world wars III and IV, as all historical precedents seemed to suggest would happen, humanity has entered into the so-called “long peace.” As a result, and in spite of the terrible things that are going on in quite some places, the chances of the average person of dying in war are now the lowest they have ever been.

The factors that have brought along the long peace have been hotly debated. Personally I believe that ninety percent or more or the credit belongs to nuclear weapons and the fear they inspire. To be sure, the weapons in question could not prevent all forms of war. There have been plenty of those, and quite a few are ongoing even at this moment. They did, however, prevent its most important and most deadly forms, namely those waged by important states against each other.

Other factors that contributed to the largely peaceful, and by all previous standards unbelievably prosperous, nature of the post-1945 decades have been the relatively benign nature of the American Empire; the rise, side by side with that empire, of numerous international institutions that are daily entwining more states in their coils; and the restraint and sagacity shown by at least some governments—as, for example, when Mikhail Gorbachev ensured that the USSR would the only empire in history to fall apart without major bloodshed. Most important still, success was grounded the hard work of billions of ordinary people who tried to do the best for themselves and their families; and who often succeeded in doing just that.

Have a happy anniversary, Europe. Have a happy anniversary, world.