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