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Book Review - "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It"


Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Just when I think that the future can't be much darker for us in our war on Islamic Jihadism, Mark Steyn comes along to ruin things for me.

Consider our current situation: Iraq is in the throws of massive sectarian violence and may slide into Rwandan-style slaughter, Afghanistan is not-at-all secure, Musharraf has virtually ceded large parts of his country to the Taliban and their allies, most of Somalia, including it's capital Mogadishu, is controlled by the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, an Islamist militia, and Iran appears to be well on the way towards obtaining nuclear weapons. Did I miss anything?

Actually, as Steyn points out in America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, what I missed was the fact that the United States is now virtually alone in the world. Europe, he explains, is well on the road to being completely lost to the Jihadists.

On the surface, of course, it doesn't seem that way. Their leaders still mouth the traditional pieties, lamenting that "with only proper US leadership" and "less arrogance", why, we would all be together against the terrorists. Traditional institutions such as NATO and a European-dominated Security Council still prevail.

Further, it's tempting to think that of course we can't really lose to the likes of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Isn't Europe the rock of Western Civilization? Surely a continent that survived the Nazis, Communists, and other assorted fascists can take on a bunch of backward Islamic fanatics, right? I mean, maybe they'll get lucky with some terrorist acts, maybe even sneak a nuke into a city, but lose, as in foreign occupation? No way.

"Yes way" is Steyn's response.

Here is Steyn's argument in a nutshell; the populations of native Europeans are headed into steep decline. Not only that, but the radio of young to old people is rapidly declining. Over the past several decades they've set up an enormous welfare state which depends on lots of young people for old-age payments. European leaders, seeing that the young people simply won't be around when needed, have been encouraging massive immigration into their countries. These immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim, and most have no desire to assimilate into European culture. Not only that, but, most or many of them plan on making Europe a Muslim continent, complete with Sharia law. Native Europeans, infected with leftist multiculturalism and a complete lack of a sense of nationhood, have no will to resist.

America, he says, will be alone in the world before we know it. In many ways we already are.

Combine a powerful argument with his world-famous Mark Steyn wit, and you've got a great book. It is at once deeply sobering and laugh-out-loud funny. Put it on your must-read list.

The Inexorable Power of Demography

In order for a population to maintain it's existing numbers, there must be 2.1 live births per woman. More and it's numbers increase, less and they decline. The United States is at almost exactly 2.1. That our numbers are slightly increasing is due, of course, to immigration.

Europe as a whole is 1.38, Western Europe, 1.5 or less. A few country numbers: Germany and Austria 1.3, Italy 1.2, Sweden 1.64, Ireland 1.9, Spain and Greece 1.15. Russia has the lowest at 1.15, and France the highest at 1.89. On the other side of the globe, Japan is at 1.32, and while they'll have a benefits crisis, they don't have to contend with immigrants who want to change the very nature of their society.

All this leads to rapidly declining populations. The populations of Spain, Greece and Russia will start to halve every 35 or 40 years starting sometime mid-century. The population of Yemen will exceed that of Russia.

Besides the fact that the welfare-state will simply come crashing to the ground (it's a mathmatical certainty), no one knows what will happen economically when there are lots and lots of retired people relative to younger workers.

On the other hand, here are the birthrates in Islamic countries: Pakistan 5.03, Saudi Arabia 4.53, Iran 2.33 (though Ahmadinejad is trying to get it up), Afghanistan 6.69 and Yemen at 6.58

Calculators Don't Lie

Into all this come Muslim immigrants. Europeans want(ed?) them because of their labor and ability to fund their welfare states, and Muslims wanted to come because Europe is obviously a better place than, oh, say, Pakistan or Algeria.

Exactly how many Muslims are in Europe now is open to question, and the numbers are probably higher than advertised. However, most sources I checked conclude that about 5% of Western Europe is Muslim, with the total number being at around 23 million.

The Muslim birthrate in Europe is somewhere around 3.5 live births per woman.

The bottom line: Sometime towards the end of this century Europe will be majority Muslim. Get the picture?

Islam is Not Just a Religion

This is not the place for a full discussion of Islam, the law, and the nature of society. Suffice it to say that you just haven't been paying attention if you think that the difference between Westerners (whether Christian or not) and Muslims is trivial. We're not talking like the differences between Presbyterians and Mormons, or Jews and Hindus, for that matter.

The reality is that all Westerners, and Hindus too for that matter, live in countries that have been through or deeply influenced by the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. This is why I'm not worried about the impact of Hispanics on American culture or society; fundamentally they're just like us.

Islam is another matter. There has never been an Islamic Martin Luther, much less a St Augustine or St Aquinas. I'd say Islam was stuck in the Middle Ages, but that would be an insult to Medieval Europe. I believe that Islam is reformable, it's just not on that path right now.

Radical Islam has exported itself to Europe. Melanie Phillips documented how bad the situation in the UK, who's capital was been dubbed "Londonistan" by French police officials. Islamism is an imperial project, says Steyn, and it's coming to a town near you.

It's not just the vast potential for terrorism that is the problem. Surveys show that up to 60% of these Muslims what Sharia law implimented in the European countries where they reside. Many or most of them have no wish to conform to Western standards, they want us to conform to them. Steyn, like any number of authors writing on this subject, provides example after example of demands that radical Muslims are making on their new countries; and time after time native Europe surrenders.

The problem is that the Muslim immigrants see the customs and law of Europe, and reject it. They see women who are free, and it offends them. They see that gays are allowed to live without being stoned to death, and it enrages them. They examine our legal system and believe it unjust because it is not based on Islam. They look at our democracy and seek ways to exploit it. They use our tradion of tolerance against us.

All Muslims? No. But enough Muslims? Yes. If there is a large group of "moderate Muslims" in Europe, it is a well-kept secret.

It's the Identity, Stupid

Population decline in and of itself would only be a economic problem; how to pay for all these benefits? A threat from radical Muslims would not be a problem in a culture and country that firmly believed in itself.

Add the two together, however, and you're got a disaster on your hands.

How Europe lost it's way is no great secret; two world wars, coupled with the threat of complete annihilation during the Cold War, prompted many to distrust or hate nationalism and put their faith in integration and international institutions. And it has, in this respect, worked; the idea of two major European countries going to war with each other is more remote than ever.

Sure, if the Islamists somehow cobbled together a traditional army and hit the beaches in Spain or Italy, Europe would rally to their defense. The problem, as Steyn points out, is that "the dragons are no longer on the edge of the map."

The reasons why Europe is not resisting are several. There is the lack of national identity that I mentioned earlier. There is also it's post-Christian state. Most Americans believe in God whether they go to church or synagogue or not. Most Europeans don't even believe in God.

On top of that you've got leftist muliculturalism, which seeks to deny that any one culture or society is superior to any other.

All of this has led to a lack of identity. Islam is not only growing in Europe though immigration, but by conversion. Again, numbers are hard to come by, but there are all too-many news articles about the subject.

What Christian churches are left outside of Catholicism are in full-scale retreat. Most are desperate to retain whatever members they can, and believe that the best way to do so is to become like the society around them. This has led to a milquetoast version of their religion that is utterly unable to resist the threat that is all around them.

The funny part about it all is that if you had to invent an ideology that would be complete anathema to the liberal or leftist mindset, you couldn't do better than radical Islam. It's mysogenic, anti-gay, and theocratic. Yet to most leftists and indeed many liberals, the threat's simply not there. They'll tell you that the Islamists are just upset because we haven't solved the Palestinian-Israeli problem.

In the End

"Jihad can win", is Steyn's message. Although it may seem incredible to us to imagine the sort of changes that would forever change Europe, it is stability that is the illusion. Looking at the broad sweep of history, one realizes that not only do countries come and go, but peoples do to. Meet any Visigoths or Byzantines recently?

So yes, Europe as we know it can disappear. Before it does it will likely catch on as to what is happening, and we'll see mass riots or outright warfare, coupled with a rise of fascist parties on the right. We'll also see a mass exodus to the United States, which in my opinion would be a good thing. But in the end the tyranny of demography will prevail unless action is taken now.

What Can Be Done

Steyn doesn't spend much time here, prefering to spend most of the book simply laying out the problem. He does, however have some ideas, most of which are good ones.

First, he lays out our options

1. Submit to Islam
2. Destroy Islam
3. Reform Islam

As Steyn puts it, "because most of us don't take number one as a serious possibility, we're equally unserious about being forced to choose between two and three. But submission to Islam is very possible...."

Because "destroying Islam" is both impractical and immoral, our only option is number three. Ultimately, he says, we can't do this; only Muslims can. However, we can create the conditions for reform.

Some of the things he proposes are supporting women's rights in Islamic countries, rolling back Wahhabi "exports", ie Saudi-funded Mosques. In general, supporting liberty and democracy in Muslim countries is necessary, too. We must think more comprehensively about a ideological strategy as well as a military one. Forget the UN and NATO, they're worse than useless. Changing the government in Tehran must be a priority. Military action when necessary is required, though in general this war will not be won with bombs and bullets.

All of this stuff except ending the military parts are the types of things we don't do very well, but it's quite necessary that we learn.

Trends do not necessarily hold. It is possible that native Europeans will see in increase in birthrates, or will suddenly come to their senses and enact measures to stop or seriously slow down immigration from Muslim countries. They might rediscover a sense of identity, and maybe even their Christianity. But it seems less than likely to me. Steyn's vision is, if anything, more frightening than even the prospects for defeat in Afghanistan or Iraq. The lights may be going out in Europe once more, and this time I'm not sure we can get them back on.



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