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City States

They're apparently the new black. Roger Cohen explains:


"The best position today is to be a small country within a large economic entity and trading area," Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister told me. "That's why we want an independent Scotland within the E.U."

Flanders? Scotland? Brussels as Singapore-like city state? Wallonia? Kosovo? The map of Europe is not fixed. But I suspect its overall stability is. I am attached to Belgium -- two of my children were born here -- and I'd favor its preservation, but I can't say it's necessary within an overarching E.U.

As for a Belgian government, it would be nice to have one, but not essential. There's no Belgian franc to go wobbly. There's no monetary policy to set. There's scarcely a country to govern, given how far European integration on the one hand and national devolution on the other have gone.

This is the 21st-century world the United States will face: a mysterious Europe with a more identifiable phone number living its postmodern version of paradise as its nation states get less meaningful or dissolve; and a rising Russia and China hurtling the other way, toward 19th-century-style nationalism, militarism and assertiveness.

Such dissonance will require American flexibility and imagination, enough to understand that the essence of the Belgian crisis is: this is not a crisis.

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