The American president scrambles now with trusty Valerie Jarrett by his side, to unscramble another "mistake of historic proportions." This one in Ukraine, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel — after less-than-satisfactory discussions with Russia, France and Ukraine — like a lost child, returns again to America. Nevertheless, Europe appears to be formulating again, no longer as "the EU" or "the West," but really, "Europe." That Europe which William Butler Yeats would have considered "Christendom." The one of which he wrote prophetically in 1919, "the centre cannot hold," today sits together at the table. Surely Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate MORE (R-S.C.), like the lions that greet you on each side of the doors in a Chinese restaurant, will be there to frame her visit, calling for more aid to Ukraine, calling for war with Russia.


But Ukraine is not a real place to McCain and Lindsey; it is part of the placeless American abstraction of "the West" which can mostly be blamed on George Kennan. The ghost of Kennan, author of the famous "policy planning papers" which formulated American policy toward Europe post-war, was everywhere in the news this week. But not the Kennan who later called the expansion of NATO in Europe "a mistake of historic proportions." President Eisenhower, first commander of NATO, could also be heard echoing through the ages, but not the Eisenhower who said in 1951, "If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed."

It is all water under the bridge over the Elbe River. What comes away from this today is that Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine have met together in a peace conference and America was not invited. Like that prophecy from the Sixties that you would see at peace marches and on college campuses: "Suppose they had a war and nobody came?" Well, suppose they had a war and McCain and Graham were not invited?

Indeed, we will go anyway. War with Russia is our raison d'etre. It was even suggested in that early vision of America's fate, Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 classic Democracy in America.

But what could be more important here is that Europe (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany for starters) is beginning again to remember its past together; remember its own past with American overview only as a hovering, unpleasant afterthought like that of a court-assigned legal guardian to its unfortunate ward. Thus Merkel's sudden visit to America.

More important to what happens this week in Washington is what will happen in France in 2017. Will Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front, who today leads in the polls, come to power in France? Will the ghost of the Divine Mother (Notre Dame) rise again from 100 years of chaos, nihilism, sleep and ashes? Will France turn to Russia, its ally between 1892 and 1917? Because all turns today for Europe; ancient memory, war and peace, time past and time future.

And where do we go from there? Would we then return to our past?

What past? Without a vision of war with Russia, do we have a past? When we turn to "returning and rest" to be saved, as the old, contraband Book of Common Prayer admonishes us to do, to where do we return?

Or do we wander like Scarlett O'Hara, asking the wind, "Where shall I go? What shall I do?"

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at