European history consists of century after century of horrible wars. These wars involved virtually every European nation. No century passed without wars, and some wars lasted decades. Nobody really wins a war because the loser recovers and much later goes to war against its former conquerer. The mightiest empires eventually fell.
But this ended with the post-World War II era.
The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe and restored the basis for peaceful life. But Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War prevented a broader peace until its collapse in 1989. For many of us, it was only then that we fully appreciated how badly the USSR had failed, when we saw that cities destroyed by WWII were still rubble. In all that time the USSR had failed to help with recovery, and most citizens were poor.
But following the war, many European leaders realized that if the nations of Europe were linked by common economic interests the chances for peace and prosperity would be greatly enhanced. Warring against your trading partner is warring against yourself. The European Union was born, followed later by adoption of a common currency, the Euro.
No one would suggest that this process has been smooth, particularly following the global economic crash of 2008. Nor is there agreement on how to solve problems, some of which result from the failure to establish a central bank with sufficient authority.
But in general it worked. There has been no significant military violence in Europe since WWII. All the current violence emanates from the Middle East.
In the Middle East, the Turks commit violence against the Kurds. Iran and Iraq have waged horrible wars against each other. Yemen is an ongoing disaster. Arabs everywhere hate Israel. Endless war has plagued Afghanistan. Syria is ruled by a murderous tyrant. Tribal terrorists and religious zealots murder at random. And so on.
Overlying it all is the violent animosity between the various brands of Islam, and between militant Islam and practically everyone else, including peaceful citizens all over the Western world.
This would seem to be an unlikely setting in which an entity emulating the EU could arise, and yet, it may be the world’s best hope for Middle East peace in the longer term. With the violent animosities that have kept all these places at a fever pitch for so long, it would probably take much longer for them to be linked in such ways that would make violence too costly.
If such an organization should arise, it would be different from the EU. But suppose three of the more peaceful nations saw the advantages an agreement would have for just the three of them. If they were successful, and no longer had to waste money on unwinnable wars, in time other nations would recognize their advantages and want to join them. If that happened, time would make a regional economic union advantageous.
The biggest roadblock for such a union would doubtless be religious. Not that Europe was without religious conflict. Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, as well as minor religions all caused violent wars and upheavals—which even today have not vanished completely.
But the senseless violence between Sunni and Shia Islam has been going on for over a thousand years, and it will take a monumental effort to end it. All is not lost, however, because all such violence reduces the wealth, wellbeing, and safety of both parties, so there are advantages to peace here too.
Despite the flaws inherent in the European Union, particularly in the weak design of the banking system, which for example didn’t allow the EU to assist Greece by relieving its unpayable debt in spite of a common currency, the EU has provided tremendous strength for nations that were previously at constant war for many centuries.
The nations of the Middle East are markedly different from those of Europe, mostly because of religion, but there is reason to suppose that a long-term effort to build an economic union would make the Middle East less bellicose and more focussed on the quality of life for its citizens.