The shipwreck off the Italian coast, Bret Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal, is an apt metaphor for the entire continent. Stephens recounts an old Berlitz ad featuring a German coast guard trainee who receives an SOS call from an English ship: “May day, May day. We are sinking! We are sinking!” “What” replies the nervous trainee: “are you sinking about?” That’s the question that should be asked of Europe’s political as well as maritime captains, Stephens notes: What on earth are they thinking?
A perhaps yet-more apropos joke was told to me many years ago by my then-colleague Radek Sikorski (now Poland’s Foreign Minister, whose gutsy talk on the EU a month ago in Berlin received well-deserved attention):
A Lufthansa jet loaded with passengers from across Europe leaves Frankfurt and, en route to New York, develops engine trouble. The pilot announces through the intercom:
“Ladies and gentlemen, vee vill have to land on the water. But there is no reason for concern. Passengers who can swim, please sit on the left side of the plane. Passengers who cannot swim, please sit on the right.”
The passengers sort themselves; the plane lands on the water; and the pilot comes back on:
“Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately vee do not have life vests. Passengers on the left, please find the nearest exit. Passengers on the right, thank you for flying Lufthansa.”
A year or so hence, Mrs. Merkel’s parting words?