Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Only Bush can save Europe
Posted on 04/22/2004 6:16:57 AM PDT by Pokey78
Last July, speaking to the United States Congress, the only assembly on the planet in which hes still assured of a warm reception, Tony Blair remarked: As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: What do you leave behind?
Excellent question. Britannia will never again wield the unrivalled power she enjoyed at her imperial apogee, but the Britannic inheritance endures, to one degree or another, in many of the key regional players in the world today Australia, India, South Africa and in dozens of island statelets from the Caribbean to the Pacific. If China ever takes its place as an advanced nation, it will be because the Peoples Republic learns more from British Hong Kong than Hong Kong learns from the Little Red Book. And of course the dominant power of our time derives its political character from 18th-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go.
A decade after victory in the Cold War and end-of-history triumphalism, the what do you leave behind? question is more urgent than you might think. The West, as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a matter of demographic fact, is dying. On the first half of the question, whoever makes the late Osama bin Ladens audio cassettes these days showed a shrewd understanding of the situation in offering a truce to any European nation that distances itself from America. Hard to see how some of em could distance themselves from America any more short of relocating to Mars, but thats the point. Though many commentators see the offer as a sign of al-Qaedas weakness, the jihad boys are being rather cunning. Just because theyre insane death cultists doesnt mean they dont enjoy winding up Old Europe as much as Rumsfeld does.
Look at it as a simple question of how big a bang for the buck:
September 11th: Within two months of attacking New York and Washington, the Americans have overthrown your pal Mullah Omar, your Afghan training camps are all closed down, and General Musharrafs hitherto lethargic armed forces are harassing whats left of your leadership all over Waziristan.
March 11th: Within one month of attacking Madrid, the Spaniards obligingly overthrow George Bushs pal, European bigwigs start saying this terrorism business is really more about law enforcement than a war, and Mo Mowlam calls on Tony Blair to sit down to face-to-face negotiations with al-Qaeda preferably in London rather than Waziristan, so hell at least have a sporting chance of coming back alive.
And, as a bonus prize, it turns out (as Bruce Anderson noted last week) that a handful of timely Islamist bombs have done what all the Gallic hauteur of Giscard dEstaing failed to do: eliminated the fiercest opposition to the absurd European constitution and thus made it a near certainty, which means that next time the hated Bush is looking for allies to attack a Muslim country hell have to pitch it to the European Foreign Minister rather to than Tony Blair.
If that isnt a productive ten minutes carnage, I dont know what is. Given the dramatically different reactions to the Islamists transatlantic provocations, even the most doctrinaire jihadist can see theres something to be said for muffling the death-to-all-infidels line in a bit of old-fashioned divide-and-conquer. As Mr Blair observed in that speech to Congress, The political culture of Europe is inevitably rightly based on compromise. Al-Qaedas PR department is learning how to talk to continentals in a language they can understand.
Most European politicians see Islamist terrorism as a managerial problem. After September 11th, George W. Bush opted to approach it transformationally. Around the world Islam is expanding, and around the Islamic world a radicalised form of Islam is expanding. Bush determined to tackle the problem at source: he decided as I heard Condi Rice say last week at the US Naval Academy to turn the map of the Middle East upside down. He would bring liberty to a region that had never known it. The Spectator thinks this is a mugs game, and its editorial had some sport with the forthcoming Iraqi election: Men and women with large rosettes and wide grins will be walking the streets, kissing babies and expounding on their plans for schools and hospitals. Thereafter, the members for Baghdad South and Basra Central will engage in raucous but civilised debate over the sale of council allotments and the merits of congestion charging.
First, the Honourable Members for Baghdad South and Basra Central evidently sound pretty funny to my colleagues, but why are they inherently more hilarious than, say, the Honourable Members for Kandep (Mr Jimson Sauk, CMG, former minister for police) and Kairuku-Hiri (Sir Moi Avei, minister for petroleum and energy) in the Papua New Guinea parliament? All over the world people manage to practise Westminster democracy despite a shocking dearth of Old Etonians to put up for the nominating committees.
Which brings me to my second point: those who mock Bushs ambitions for Iraq and beyond seem to imply that theres something about Arab Islam that makes it uniquely inimical to freedom. They may be right. But, if so, that makes it a pressing problem not for Iraq but, giving current demographic trends, for Western Europe right now.
The editor of this magazine recently described an encounter hed had with a ten-year-old girl who was distraught because Tony Blair was going around telling anyone who still listens that we were all in mortal peril. I think we can all agree that theres no point going around scaring schoolgirls, except on Halloween when I like to dress up as Justin Timberlake. Nevertheless, as Bill Clinton used to say, its about the future of all our children. Admittedly the former president was a little bit indiscriminate with this expression, applying it to the Highway Appropriations Bill and the mohair subsidy and the necessity for him to be able to have non-sexual relations with various parties without folks impeaching him for it. But for once it really is about the future of all our children. Picture that ten-year-old schoolgirl when shes the age Boris is now sometime in the 2030s, say.
What will London or Paris, or Amsterdam (for she is after all a citizen of the European Union) be like in the mid-Thirties? On present demographic projections, it will be far more Muslim how far depends on whether European politicians make any serious attempt this decade to wean the populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, etc. If they make no attempt at all, then to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?
A few weeks back I was strolling along the Boulevard de Maisonneuve in Montreal when I saw a Muslim woman across the street, all in black, covered head to toe, the full hejab. She was passing a condom boutique, its window filled with various revolting novelty prophylactics, cum rags, etc. It was a perfect snapshot of the internal contradictions of multicultural diversity. In 30 years time, either the Arab lady will still be there, or the condom store, but not both. Which would you bet on?
This is where, I regret to say, the recent Spectator leader We are not at war (3 April), managed to go hopelessly awry. It stated confidently: Osama bin Laden is no more likely to march triumphantly down the Mall than is a little green man from Mars. Al-Qaeda has means but no end. Well, no, Osama wont be going down the Mall, unless its his surviving granules of DNA on a gun carriage. But al-Qaedas end the Islamification of the West is shared by millions of law-abiding Muslims. Only a tiny minority are prepared to go out and blow up trains to that end, but they move among communities that are broadly supportive of the goal.
The other day, Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad told Lisbons Publica magazine that a group of London Islamists are ready to launch a big operation on British soil. We dont make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents, he said, clarifying the ground rules. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. The cleric added he expected to see the banner of Islam flying in Downing Street. I believe one day that is going to happen. Because this is my country, I like living here, he said. If they believe in democracy, who are they afraid of? Let Omar Bakri benefit from democracy!
This is becoming a common line. The other day, who should show up at the airport in Toronto but the son and widow of Ahmed Said Khadr, known as al-Kanadi because he was the highest-ranking Canuck in al-Qaeda. One of Pop Khadrs sons was captured in Afghanistan after killing a US Special Forces medic. Another has just been released from Guantanamo. Another blew himself up while killing a Canadian soldier in Kabul. Pop Khadr died in an al-Qaeda shoot-out with Pakistani forces a few weeks back, in the course of which his youngest son was paralysed. So Mrs Khadr and her boy have now returned to Canada so he can enjoy the benefits of Ontario healthcare. Im Canadian, and Im not begging for my rights, she declared. Im demanding my rights.
Treasons hard to prove in court, but given the circumstances of Mr Khadrs death it seems clear that he had taken up with what we used quaintly to call the Queens enemies. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister of Canada thought this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his deep personal commitment to diversity. Asked about the Khadrs return to Toronto, he said, I believe that once you are a Canadian citizen, you have the right to your own views and to disagree. Thats the wonderful thing about multiculturalism: you can choose what side of the war you want to fight on. Just tick home team or enemy when the draft card arrives. Like many enlightened Western leaders, the Canadian Prime Minister will be congratulating himself on his boundless tolerance even as the forces of intolerance consume him.
Even Mr Bush is somewhat constrained. National Reviews John Derbyshire wrote last week about a 1945 solution for Iraq. This is shorthand for the bombing of Dresden, the nuking of Hiroshima, etc. the sort of stern measures that let an enemy know hes well and truly whipped. But, as Mr Derbyshire points out, war abroad is determined by culture at home, and if we were fighting the second world war today, we wouldnt nuke Hiroshima or even intern Japanese-Americans: the culture will not permit it. Nor will it permit old-school imperialism. Culturally sensitive nation-building is as aggressive as you can get these days. So Bush has gone for the only big-picture scenario available.
The Bush transformational approach to terrorism may fail. The EU managerial approach certainly will. Its fine for small, contained, stable populations like Ulster, Corsica or the Basque country. But not for the primal demographic forces sweeping the Continent.
Last week Niall Ferguson called me the Pangloss of Republican humourists. I wish I was. But Im not at all Panglossian these days, and I was interested to see that Ferguson, in a recent speech, has become a somewhat belated convert to the Eurabian scenario Ive been peddling in these pages for a couple of years now. Perhaps hell have better luck with it than Ive had. Meanwhile, in the current issue of Fortune, Philip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle, is even more apocalyptic: So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world, he writes. Such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an antimarket culture dominated by fundamentalism a new Dark Ages. That ten-year-old girl could have a lot more to worry about than gloomy Blair speeches.
What do you leave behind? asked the Prime Minister. There will only be very few and very old ethnic Germans and French and Italians by the mid-point of this century. What will they leave behind? Territories that happen to bear their names and keep up some of the old buildings, in the way that the great cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople is now a museum run by the Turkish government? Or will the dying European races understand that the only legacy that matters is whether the peoples who will live in those lands after them are reconciled to pluralist, liberal democracy? The Bush vision is the best shot.
Love thst tag line, and so true!
... but why bother ...
While it's obvious that Europe is embracing its own fall, and is therefore getting no more than it deserves, by the point that happens, the Islamofascists will be the dominant power in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Not even the Americas will be compeltely safe, with Canada falling down the same decline.
I'd say that is a threat that needs to be countered before it comes to fruition.
A thought-provoking and graphic metaphor, but I think an unfortunate one. Hopefully, we in the west are fighting for a lot more than condom stores. If not, we are destined to fail.
Up to a certain point, I agree with you ... however, you cannot save someone (especially a "someone" that's as big as Europe) from themselves or the consequences of their actions.
Besides which, by the time that it does come to fruition, carpet-bombing might again be a viable option.
Thanks for beating quidnunc.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.