March 28, 2007
I recently read the provocative book by Mark Steyn, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is prone to occasional doubts about the "War on Terror." (Those quotes reflect my belief that it would be more apt to call it the "War on Islamo-fascism," not any doubt about the reality of the conflict itself.) To say that Steyn is an alarmist would be an understatement: he boldly and unapologetically proclaims that The End (of Western Civilization) Is Near. Some complacent folks (tenured university professors?) will no doubt chuckle at such a notion. To deny that his book contains a substantial amount of truth, however -- an "inconvenient" truth, you might say -- would be a grievous error. Steyn makes no pretense of being a scholar (the book has no footnotes or bibliography), but he is keenly aware of the global situation and the nature of the enemy. Steyn grew up in Canada and has a military background, and now lives in the United States. He blogs at Steyn Online.
The basic premise of American Alone is that Europe's welfare state mentality has paved the way for a massive influx of immigrants who are implacable enemies of everything Europe stands for, and that before long, most if not all of those countries will have been taken over by the jihadists. It is a breathtaking and frightening futuristic scenario to contemplate, but it is hardly a novel forecast of global trends. Indeed, for many decades, the fear of being taken over by fast-breeding dark-skinned barbarians has been a staple theme of nativist political activists in Europe as well as the U.S.A. In order to properly evaluate Steyn's book, therefore, we need to keep in mind that historical background.
Steyn begins by laying out the current demographic trends in Europe and North America, both of which (especially the former) are plagued by a low birth rate -- thanks to abortion, birth control, and changes in social roles. I was pleased to note that he quoted Allen Lynch (a very bright and decent professor I used to know at U.Va.) in observing that Russian women who viewed the anti-abortion movie The Silent Scream were too morally numb to be shaken by the images of aborted fetuses. Since Russia stands at the forefront (?!) of Europe's regression into socialist stagnation, that reaction is probably indicative of the attitude trends in the rest of Europe, i.e., moral bankruptcy. Check out the appalling statistics on abortion in this country at NRLC.org.
The author does a great job in drawing the connection between the welfare state and the steady disintegration of a family-based social structure in Europe, and to a lesser extent, here. So how do the Europeans keep their economies going without enough native-born labor? By "outsourcing breeding," as Steyn puts it, otherwise known as unrestricted immigration. (During my trip to Europe as a college student in the 1970s, I was dumbfounded by the hopeless attitude shown by many businessmen that there was nothing they could do about high labor costs, and they had no choice but to rely upon immigrant labor. Cognitive dissonance!) Sadly, that's the condition of stagnation and reality-denial toward which we are headed, too, but we are not quite as "advanced" as the Europeans are.
Steyn then takes a hard look at the practice of religion by the (mostly) Muslim immigrants. He argues that "Islam is not just a religion," but is, rather, a political project in which resorting to violence is a central, defining feature. From suicide bombers to political conspirators to feuding sheiks to mobs of unemployed young men in the streets, the common element is settling differences by violent means. He sometimes over-generalizes about the Arab-Islamic culture, but anyone who follows the news closely* knows that the phenomenon he depicts is very widespread. The "moderate Muslims" upon which Westerners pin our hopes are genuine, but in terms of leadership roles in the Muslim community at large, they have been effectively marginalized by the extremists, who use them as a cloak while they plot against us in our very midst. Those moderates insist that they have nothing to do with the terrorists who have "hijacked" their faith, but by remaining silent they allow the continued recruitment of innocent young dupes to carry out jihad. The dignified-appearing imams, diplomats, and lobbyists from the Middle East (including some countries that are supposedly our allies) constitute the "insulating circles of gray" that cloak the hard-core jihadists, thereby sustaining the diabolical cult of martyrdom.
So what are we to do? Steyn outlines three broad options: submit to Islam, destroy Islam, or try to reform Islam. The first two are not conceivable, however, and the third option is largely beyond the capacity of Westerners to bring about. So Steyn suggests a wide variety of small-scale measures to undermine the legitimacy of jihadist regimes. His prognosis is quite grim, envisioning a new Dark Ages in which what is left of Western Civilization will take refuge in North America. In much of the rest of the world, he expects, chaos will prevail because there will be no superpowers willing or able to police international trade. Ecotourism or saving the Amazon rain forest? Dream on.
Is our future really that bleak? The threat of Islamo-fascism is a very real one, but it is very stealthy and gradual in nature, which is why many people pretend it doesn't exist. This is where the old fable of the "boy who cried wolf" is very appropriate. It offered two contrary lessons: 1) Don't ignore a warning just because you've heard the same thing over and over, and 2) Don't put your credibility at risk by frightening people unless you're sure that the potential threat is real. Nevertheless, most people have only taken to heart one lesson or the other. Some people are prone to hysterical alarm, which invariably backfires; Rep. Virgil Goode is a good example. Other people take advantage of people's desire not to be subject to fear and pretend quite cynically that no threat exists; Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean would be good examples of that. Their attitude of head-in-the-sand complacency is validated by a number of Europhilic scholars such as Charles Kupchan or Timothy Garton Ash, who assure us that Europe will thrive with a pluralistic society. I think Mark Steyn has much clearer idea of where Europe is headed than they do.
(Speaking of which, Baron Bodissey reported on a new movement earlier this month, Stop the Islamification of Denmark, which in turn has a link to a new blog, Stop the Islamification Europe. Thankfully, people in the Netherlands and Denmark are more conscious of the threat of extinction they face than their bigger neighbors.)
In our debates about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about immigration policy, we need to keep in mind the global context. The reason for Europe's reluctance to help us fight extremist movements in the Middle East has more to do with their own domestic social situation than with the merits of our current anti-terrorist strategy. What's more, we need to be aware that there are jihadists in our midst, even right here in the Old Dominion. Americans need to wake up to this threat and face it calmly and resolutely before it gets to the point where anti-Islamic vigilantes begin to take matters into their own hands. The prospect of anti-immigrant mob violence in cities and towns across America in another ten years or so is a very real one. That would be the end of America as we know it.
* Coincidentally there was another senseless riot by those "youths" in Paris yesterday; via Drudge. Before long, these incidents will become a daily occurrence, part of the "background noise" in the news cycle, and we will hardly notice as Paris begins to look more and more like Beirut.