Thursday, January 18, 2007


The Daily Goose linked this speech by Mark Steyn at the Heritage Foundation (about 45 minutes)--a condensed version of his book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Steyn's argument has many angles, but the one he focuses on most, in this talk anyway, is that all of the foreign policy questions--surge or no surge, deal or no deal war or no war with Iran-Syria, Palestinian-Israeli peace process all leaves out a key element, demography.

Steyn takes the current demographic trends in Europe (and somewhat more broadly Canada, Australia, New Zealand) showing that Western countries are dying out and in Europe (including Russia) will be outbred by Muslims and therefore Islam will simply take over Europe through breeding and European pacifistic multiculturalism in a way it is was unable to do so back during the conquering reign of Sulemain the Magnificient, Ottoman Emperor who reached the Gates of Vienna in 16th century--the farthest tip of Islamic Turkic infiltration to the West.

A couple of thoughts.

1. He could be right. Europe could go Eurabia and descend into a neo-tribalistic mess (another Middle East in other words). I don't want to throw that off like it's no big thing, but if it does happen, then the US, China, India will just work around it economically and culturally as it does not with the Middle East. [Only 3% of trade goes through the ME].

2. Another dark option I think just as--if not in a way more so--possible is a far-right ethno-fascist takeover of Europe--a la V for Vendetta or Children of Men. Steyn (not surprisingly I guess) doesn't think that possible--and disses ChildMen here. This would involve explusion, imprisonment of foreigners, or worse. Far right parties have done well again in recent elections in different parts of Europe. Not on a mass scale of course but it is there as a potential--though again one I don't think the most likely.

Steyn's main flaw, as I see it, rests on the simple assumption of monolithic what he calls pan-Islamist groups. All Muslims across Europe are basically for him the same. And will be as he projects demographics numbers for 50 years. His arguments about percentages of populations in the years 2040, 2050, etc. assume these Samuel Huntington, horizontal-only, civilizational blocks that are "islands" "continents" onto themselves.

Let's get a few things out of the way.

Islam, as it is currently being practiced by the majority of the Muslim world and even the majority of Europe today (I'll give Steyn that point) is tribal-imperial. Pan-Islamism as it were is an attempt, so its proponents say, to re-create the Islamic caliphate. In other words the classical Islamic empires: Fatimid, Abbasid, Ottoman, Ghaznavid, Moghul, Mameluk, etc. There were many, of course I wouldn't really expect Steyn to recognize that fact. But oh well.

AND those empires were destroyed by European colonialism but not replaced with secular modernity--hence there was breakdown and not breakthrough. Human societies develop from tribal to imperial to modern-industrial-classical liberal (of some variety). When the imperial was destroyed, tribal was left. Hence Iraq.

Just as in the medieval periods where there was warring between different Islamic empires, the Islamists of today are nowhere near united--even if all are trying to build some sort of Islamic empire or state. Even within different parts of Europe.


That system of human relations--tribal, patriarchal, and imperial--was at that point in history a good thing though very flawed. But its flaw were only revealed relative to the higher organization of modern nation-states and liberal democracies. Technologically, scientifically, etc.

So by that standard--in relation to history, not "Islam is the problem" in abstraction--Islam as practiced through a tribal-imperial lens is deficient. The dark sides of patriarchy are everywhere across the European landscape--particularly oppression of women, spousal abuse, lack of scientists, etc.

Islam in its tribal-imperial varieties both European and more so Middle Eastern is not able to handle the onslaught of globalization. Steyn only focuses on flow of Muslims to the West and should pay attention to the movement in the other direction. Islamism in that sense is a rear guard action, a sign of desperation by the mullahs, who know they are losing the minds and hearts of some (many?).

I keep stressing Islam through tribal and imperial modes because it leaves very open the notion that Islam through modern economic-political-social and yes theological lens is equally possible and these problems will disappear as they have disappeared with the other religions--to the degree that individuals are really modern. [Of course since developmental patterns up to a point are set, there will always be Muslim fundamentalists, just as anywhere else but the majority momentum will have shifted...]

NO group has ever entered modern political social and religious consciousness until they have reached sufficient economic standing. Open markets, wealth accumulation, middle classes. NONE---EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE. Roman Catholicism did not reach Vatican II until Southern Europe (Spain, Italy) had received post WWII booms. Northern European Protestantism had gone modern (liberal Prot.) earlier because generally Northern Europe did better economically than Southern during the 19th century.

So a Third Possibility, the one I favor (as hope if nothing else) is a post-racial European future. Post racial/ethnic not in the sense that people won't still tend to congregate to their own--still do in the States--there will still be racism but no meme in society to overthrow the European order. And Muslims will be large participants in society. With increased wealth will come a general conservative (in the good sense) settling into society.

One thing Mark Steyn of course doesn't pick up on is that the Islamic baby boom is actually already peaked in the Middle East. Large youth bulges historically align with revolutionary periods--French Revolution, 1832/1848 European Revolutions, Chinese, Boomers 1968, etc. That in part explains the uptick in violence throughout the Muslim world. But those periods are always followed by conservative backlashes: Deng in China, the rise of Reagan and Social Conservatism in US, Prince Metternich's re-entrechment of aristorcracy/monarchy in Europe, Napoleon crowned Emperor and the White Terror phase of the French Revolution.

In other words, these revolutionaries today will be middle age "moderates." Best to lock as many now as possible.

But for that to happen Europe would have to open up economically in a way it seems unprepared to do. It would have to let go of a great deal of the Welfare State and the Gov't as substitute god/God. In that regard Steyn and I agree on many of the symptoms/diseases just not the cures.

But I argue for this opening precisely in order that Muslims come to partake in the European way of life. Something Steyn does not want bc for him Muslim=evil so far as I can tell. He has no vision of Islam other than violent overthrow and installation of sharia.

I'm not a Marxist so I should say that this economic beginning bringing about social-religious change is not automatic and not without major pain. The groups most opposed to such radical change come from educated (but not assimilated/accepted) backgrounds.

The multicult and more closed economic systems (protectionism, welfare states, higher unemployment than US) serve both to keep Europe from re-establishing their honorable dignified tradition AND to help create opportunity for others so there can be growth on both sides.


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