Saturday, January 07, 2006

Don't cry for me, Europa!

Cry the Beloved Continent. Victor Davis Hanson pleads with a senescent Europe to re-awaken to its once and future glory:

Despite the bitter recrimination and growing rift between you and us, most Americans have not forgotten that a strong, confident Europe is still critical to the material and spiritual well being of the United States.

It is not just that as Westerners you have withstood — often later at our side — all prior challenges to the shared liberal civilization you created, whether the specter of an Ottoman global suzerainty, Bonapartism, Prussian militarism, Nazism, fascism, Japanese militarism, or Soviet Communism.

Nor is our allegiance a mere matter of history. Europe is the repository of the Western tradition, most manifestly in shrines like the Acropolis, the Pantheon, the Uffizi, or the Vatican. We concede that the Great Books — we as yet have not produced a Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, or Locke, much less a Da Vinci, Mozart, or Newton — and the Great Ideas of the West from democracy to capitalism to human rights originated on your continent alone. And if Americans believe our Constitution and the visions of our Founding Fathers were historic improvements on Europe of the 18th-century, then at least we acknowledge in our humility that they were also inconceivable without it.

No, there is a greater oneness between us, an unspoken familiarity even now in the age of global sameness, that makes an American feel at home in Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, or Athens in a way that is not true of Istanbul, Cairo, or Bangkok.

In the multiracial society of the United States, an American black, Asian, or Latino finds natural affinity in London and Brussels in a way not true in Lagos, Ho Chi Min City, or Lima. For millions of Americans "Eurocentric" is no slur — for it is an appellation of shared values and ideas not of race.

Even in this debased era of multiculturalism that misleads our youth into thinking no culture can be worse than the West, we all know in our hearts the truth that we live by and the lie that we profess — that the critic of the West would rather have his heart repaired in Berlin than in Guatemala or be a Muslim in Paris rather than a Christian in Riyadh, or a woman or homosexual in Amsterdam than in Iran, or run a newspaper in Stockholm rather than in Havana, or drink the water in Luxembourg rather than in Uganda, or object to his government in Italy rather than in China or North Korea. Radical Muslims damn Europe and praise Allah — but whenever possible from Europe rather than inside Libya, Syria, or Iran.

Hanson's critique of Europe's plight is earnest and heartfelt, and displays none of the shaudenfreude evident in those conservative critics that see Europe's demise as a just punishment for it's atrophied religious faith. Hanson is peerless in his ability to articulate the qualities which define the "West", especially in contrast to those critics who can see nothing of value in the Western heritage that does not directly derive from Christianity.

Alas, recently, Europeans have been taken hostage on the West Bank, Yemen, and Iraq. All have been released. There are two constants in the stories: Some sort of blackmail was no doubt involved (either cash payments or the release of terrorist killers in European jails?), and the captives often seem to praise the moderation of their captors. Is this an aberration or indicative of a deeper continental malady? Few, in either a private or public fashion, suggested that such bribery only perpetuates the kidnapping of innocents and provides cash infusions to terrorists to further their mayhem.

On the home front, a single, though bloody, attack in Madrid changed an entire Spanish election, and prompted the withdrawal of troops from Iraq — although the terrorists nevertheless continued, despite their promises to the contrary, to plant bombs and plan assassinations of Spanish judicial officials. Cry the beloved continent.

The entire legal system of the Netherlands is under review due to the gruesome murder of Theo van Gogh and politicians there who speak out about the fascistic tendencies of radical Islam often either face threats or go into hiding. Cry the beloved continent.

Unemployment, postcolonial prejudice, and de facto apartheid may have led to the fiery rioting in the French suburbs, but it was also energized by a radical Islamic culture of hate. In response followed de facto French martial law. All that remains certain is that the rioting will return either to grow or to warp liberal French society. Indeed, so far has global culture devolved in caving to Islamism that we fear that only two places in the world are now safe for a Jew to live in safety — and Europe, the graveyard of 20th-century Jewry, is tragically not among them. Cry the beloved continent.

You can only hope that this litany of shame would arouse a spark of righteous anger in the Eurpoean breast. Yet I think that Europe's long history of invasions by barbarians, Saracens, Nazis and Soviets has bred within the European psyche a sense for realpolitik that we cannot fathom, a sense that can weigh options of resistance or appeasement with a cold calculus of cost/benefit that our historic idealism cannot fathom.

We wish you well in your faith that war has become obsolete and that outlaw nations will comply with international jurisprudence that was born and is nurtured in Europe. Yet your own intelligence suggests that the Iran theocracy is both acquiring nuclear weaponry and seeking to craft missile technology to put an Islamic bomb within reach of European cities — oblivious to the reasoned appeals of European Union diplomats, who themselves operate as Greek philosophers in the agora only on the condition that Americans will once more play the role of Roman legionaries in the shadows.

Russia may no longer be the mass-murdering Soviet Union, but it remains a proud nationalist and increasingly autocratic power of the 19th-century stripe, nuclear and angry at the loss of its empire, emboldened by the ease that it can starve energy supplies to Western Europe, and tired of humanitarian lectures from Westerners who have no real military to match their condescending sermons. Old Europe has neither the will nor the power to protect the ascending democracies of Eastern Europe, much less the republics of the former Soviet Union from present Russian bullying — and perhaps worse to come.

The European strategy of selling weapons to Arab autocracies, triangulating against the United States for oil and influence, and providing cash to dubious terrorists like Hamas has backfired. Polls in the West Bank suggest Palestinians hate you, the generous and accommodating, as much as they do us, the staunch ally of Israel.

So, terrorists of the Middle East seem to have even less respect for you than for the United States, given they harbor a certain contempt for your weakness as relish to the generic hatred of our shared Western traditions.

You will, of course, answer that in your postwar wisdom you have transcended the internecine killing of the earlier 20th century when nationalism and militarism ruined your continent — and that you have lent your insight to the world at large that should follow your therapeutic creed rather than the tragic vision of the United States.

But the choices are not so starkly bipolar between either chauvinistic saber rattling or studied pacifism. There is a third way, the promise of muscular democratic government that does not apologize for 2,500 years of civilization and is willing to defend it from the enemies of liberalism, who would undo all that we wrought.

A European Union that facilitates trade, finance, and commerce can enrich and ennoble your continent, but it need not suppress the unique language, character, and customs of European nationhood itself, much less abdicate a heritage that once not merely moralized about, but took action to end, evil.

The world is becoming a more dangerous place, despite your new protocols of childlessness, pacifism, socialism, and hedonism. Islamic radicalism, an ascendant Communist China, a growing new collectivism in Latin America, perhaps a neo-czarist Russia as well, in addition to the famine and savagery in Africa, all that and more threaten the promise of the West.

So criticize us for our sins; lend us your advice; impart to America the wealth of your greater experience — but as a partner and an equal in a war, not as an inferior or envious neutral on the sidelines. History is unforgiving. None of us receives exemption simply by reason of the fumes of past glory.

Either your economy will reform, your populace multiply, and your citizenry defend itself, or not. And if not, then Europe as we have known it will pass away — to the great joy of the Islamists but to the terrible sorrow of America.

My sense is that Europe will eventually come around, but it will require a level of provocation greater than any they have experienced to date. When a generation emerges in Europe that comes to the realization that its parents generation has left it with a bankrupt patrimony and morally defenseless against the barbarians, then a psychic shift will occur. Judging by past European history, it may be a cure that is worse than the disease.


Blogger Oroborous said...

[A]s a partner and an equal in war...

I'll be gobsmacked if more than two Continental European nations spend what it would take to match the U.S. as a per-capita equal in war, at least until 2050 or so.

January 07, 2006 7:25 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Here is a related comment that I originally posted at the Great Guys Weblog, in response to this Mark Steyn piece, revised and cleaned up a little :

I'm much more optimistic than is Steyn.

The problem that he outlines really comes in two flavors: Muslim nations vs. the West, and immigrant European Muslims vs. European native non-Muslims.

With the first, there's no guarantee that Muslim populations will keep a high fertility rate, and in fact there's a lot of evidence that fertility rates are ALREADY falling rapidly in the Middle East and Northern Africa - see Spengler at the Asia Times.

Further, NO, I repeat, NO Muslim nation has a robust science/R & D community, and few have any kind of significant industrial base.
Pakistan is perhaps the most technically advanced Muslim nation, but, they got their nuclear tech from China, who wanted India to be bracketed by potentially unfriendly nuclear powers, in case China and India went to war again.
Iran is apparently capable of designing nuclear weapons, but their science research communities are advancing global knowledge in no way whatsoever.
Even further, the large earthquakes in Bam, Iran, and recently in Pakistan, show that neither Iran's nor Pakistan's societies are wealthy enough to meet even minimal Western building codes, nor are they capable of providing emergency relief for hundreds of thousands of their own citizens.
The current Presidential administration was widely and harshly criticized for what was seen as an inadequate response to Hurrican Katrina, but within two weeks, everyone had emergency housing and funds with which to buy necessities, and tens of thousands had been provided with free transportation to host cities.
Neither Iran nor Pakistan, two of the most technologically-advanced Muslim nations, are even REMOTELY capable of doing anything like that.
They have a veneer of narrow technical ability over societies which are technologically deficient.

Therefore, it's extremely likely that the West will continue to hold a very large military advantage over the potentially teeming hordes of Muslims, for generations to come, despite a potentially shrinking population in the West.
As Lou Gots likes to say over at BrosJudd, sheer numbers haven't mattered for quite some time.

Also, the West has an enormous ability to increase productivity through technological advances, whilst the Muslim nations cannot, which over time will greatly increase the already vast gulf between Western standards of living, and those of Muslim peoples.

This latter point is ESPECIALLY important, because the nations at the heart of Islam, those of the Middle East, are able to support their ever-larger populations only because of oil revenues. They have no "Plan B".
However, the oil revenues CANNOT LAST, both because they'll eventually run out of oil, and because it's likely that for environmental reasons, the West will move towards alternative ways to power private transportation during the 21st century.
If worldwide demand for oil were to decrease by 30%, due to alternatively-fueled vehicles in the U.S., Europe, and So. America, the price of oil might plummet to $ 10/bbl - a price at which the petro-nations CANNOT MAINTAIN their welfare states. Since many of the petro-nations have large populations, and the same kind of cradle-to-grave security that Steyn knocks in Europe, albeit at a lower level of support, the Muslim nations might well descend into infighting and political turmoil.

While that outcome also has some negative implications for the West, it's certainly preferable to the "global Muslim takeover" scenario.

As for Muslims vs. "everyone else" in the European theatre, it wouldn't surprise me to see a few nations become Muslim-majority, but it would surprise me if many did.

I rather expect to see massive bloodshed, similar to that which occurred in Kosovo, but ten times worse, as many European societies reach a breaking point of native tolerance for those who persist in staying "the Other".

January 07, 2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

In part, the Europeans and Canadians are acting as freeloaders.

They don't have to spend on their military establishments, because we do, and they know we entertain no territorial ambitions.

They don't have to take any meaningful role combating Islamofascists, because they know we will, and they assume that maintaining a low profile will minimize the threat to them until we have dealt with it.

It is a seductive role to play, and, from their point of view, difficult to argue against.

As for demographics, that is a tougher problem. My guess is that the Europeans are further down the same path all societies are travelling.

When women have a choice as to how many children they will bear, they seem to, in general, prefer one or two, and probably just as many have none as three.

Even in the US, Mormon family sizes have gone from 5.5 to 2.7 in a generation.

Oroborous has noted the same trend in Muslim societies.

January 08, 2006 2:51 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

It's possible that, at least in America, the downward trend in fertility will prove to be a dip.

The current fertility level is a measurement of how many children per woman that the BOOMER femmes ended up having, and that generation was smack dab in the middle of four* great social and/or medical transitions.

Now that things have settled down a bit, it's possible that GenX and Millenial femmes will end up having a fraction more children per capita, and increase the future fertility rate.

I'm not sure how likely that is in other cultures, since their low fertility rates seem to be partially driven by lack of economic opportunity, and/or lack of private housing, neither of which is a general problem in the booming, sprawling U.S. of A.
Nor Australia, or so I've heard.

* The pill, legal abortion, no-fault divorce, and the women's movement/equal opportunity paradigm/breakthrough

January 08, 2006 6:49 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Too bad Hanson doesn't know as much history as he thinks he does. Even better, he should know as much as I do, and then he wouldn't say silly things about paying bribes in Palestine.

How is that different from the bribes the European nations, at the acme of their power and reach, paid to silence the Barbary pirates? And earlier, when Spain was the greatest power, it paid bribes to the same.

And earlier, France made league with Stamboul against Italy.

The 'West,' however construed, still controls about 99% of the world's military force, and God still favors the big battalions.

It's true that European nations do not maintain large standing forces any more: where would they use them?

But even Italy has an enormous, sophisticated military industrial base.

Given enough provocation and just a little time -- 3,4 years, maybe -- almost any western European country can, indeed, turn the Islamic sands to glass.

Since the Muslims seem hellbent to provide enough provocation, the only real question is, how long, O Lord, how long?

Not, I think, very long.

I read Steyn's long piece in the New Criterion, too, and like Hanson, he doesn't know nearly as much as he likes to think.

(It ain't the St. Sophia, it isn't a cathedral and in 1919 the then-archbishop of Canterbury proposed reconsecrating it; it was secular politicians who thought better of that. Besides, they'd had their tails whupped by the Turks.)

Back in the early '70s, a wildlife biologist named Paul Colinvaux wrote one of the few sensible books about modern politics, called 'Why Big, Fierce Animals Are Rare.'

He predicted Africa in 2006 right on the money.

Steyn, on the other hand, thinks that the future is with Somalia, because it's birthrate is 6.something.

I disagree that Europeans have shown any rational assessment of when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, otherwise called appeasement.

Churchill wrote that there was a time when Hitler could have been stopped with the stroke of a pen.

That was a lesson nobody has learned.

January 08, 2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Golly, Mr. Eagar, you rarely fail to amaze.

However, what about the concept that some Continental European nations will allow unassimilated Muslim populations within their borders to gain some political power, and change their societies in fundamentalist-Muslim-friendly ways, in order to ensure enough economic production to support their rapidly-aging native populations ?

Germany and Italy, for instance, are going to be in a no-kidding pickle in twenty years, with no attractive options.

The temptation to, in effect, sell off parts of their countries might be seen as the lesser evil.

January 08, 2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's just it, a concept. Should economies continue to expand as they have in Europe for the past 200 years, they will be able to support their elders on the increased margin of a smaller population of young workers.

Not at a level equal to the expansion of the economy (which is where the foofaraw about the U.S. Social Security system breaks down), but at, say, 2006 levels.

And as the native European labor becomes ever more valuable, per unit time, the inefficient labor of illiterate and disaffected Muslims will be of less and less value to them. At the end of a long enough period of time, the Victorian idea that one Englishman is worth 100 wogs will, in fact, be true, at least economically.

Hell, it's true now. The metric is heading for 1000:1.

Besides, if European women ever joined the workforce in proportions that American women do, they could send all the Muslims back and never miss 'em.

Japan went to war in 1931 (actually, in 1894) because, among other things, its government considered it hopelessly overpopulated. Now it is supposed to be hopelessly underpopulated.

There is no such thing as an ideal population. Societies adjust.

European societies are far more flexible in this regard than Islamic ones, because they have more tools in their tool kits.

Should the Muslim masses ever start to acquire modern ideas, their societies will collapse as fast as the Polynesian ones did. And if they don't acquire modern ideas, they will be overwhelmed.

This is Europe's golden age. It has never had so few problems.

January 08, 2006 9:09 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Heh heh - Harry truly is the MOC (Master of Contrarianism).

Have to admit that while I'm as anti-EU and as critical of the French socialist model as the next rational being (and no more), when visiting Europe, I just don't get this sense of terminal decline and doldrum-dwelling that certain timezone-bound bloggers insist is is the case on that curious continent.

There are problems, certainly. But there are problems everywhere. And in a historical context...

January 09, 2006 1:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

There are problems, certainly. But there are problems everywhere...

Gripping theme for a blog, Brit.

January 09, 2006 10:11 AM  
Blogger Brit said...


I'm trying to gradually work my way round to the absolute Judd antithesis:

'Darwinism is cool' (check)
'Soccer is cool' (check)
Add 'Europe is doing fine' and I just need to prove that girls can throw....

January 10, 2006 1:10 AM  

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