The US defence secretary Robert Gates has delivered himself of a blistering and long overdue broadside against Germany and the other sleeping member of NATO. (It's mostly Germany since the UK, Canada, France and Italy are generally onside at the moment when it comes to actual fighting, if sometimes variously deficient in the contributions they make. But we all fall short in some way or other.)
In a blinding instant of shock-and-awe clarity we can see how the cosy western world comes to an end. There will come a moment - who knows when, but China plays a long game - when some ghastly, Europe-threatening crisis arises (Iran ? Turkey ? or another financial meltdown ?) and Europe is confronted squarely with its own flabby uselessness. Couldn't face down Libya unaided, as Gates has gently pointed out: & certainly can't face this putative future challenge, without contemplating some seriously bloody bayonet-work (and/or precipitous standard-of-living reduction). No stomach for that - and the US has decided it's had enough.
And then ... and then China or India has a quiet word in Brussels. Leave it to us, they say: and all we want in return is ... look, we've written it on a piece of paper for you. Territory. Technology. Resources. Disarmament. Debt. 'Environmental' transfer payments. Work permits. Migration rights ...
You think not ? Consider how patiently the US pursued its anti British Empire strategy. But they saw us off in the end - and we were friends !
Germany's extra-EU foreign policy today consists in one simple imperative: keep Russia onside because that's where the gas comes from. In itself, that's not entirely wrong: but it is pathetically limited in its vision. For the rest, they are just looking to achieve some intra-EU deckchair re-arrangements.
Not good enough. Every one of Europe's Big 5 needs to step up to the plate. The world ain't getting any more tranquil or civilisation-friendly that I can see.