Mark Steyn's Slightly Weird Case for War 

Mark Steyn's Slightly Weird Case for War

Steyn says early on in this piece that there is not really a "war on terror" underway.

Speaking of which, if we are at war--and half the American people and significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don't accept that proposition--then what exactly is the war about?

We know it's not really a "war on terror."

So much for Bush's bloviations on the subject. Perhaps Bush is trying to be polite and avoid saying "War on Islam". That is practically what Steyn says.

Nor is it, at heart, a war against Islam, or even "radical Islam." The Muslim faith, whatever its merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us. There are many trouble spots around the world, but as a general rule, it's easy to make an educated guess at one of the participants: Muslims vs. Jews in "Palestine," Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Christians in Africa, Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Russians in the Caucasus, Muslims vs. backpacking tourists in Bali. Like the environmentalists, these guys think globally but act locally.

Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off. When the jihadists engage with the U.S. military, they lose--as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this were like World War I with those fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

This is a bit hard to follow, but I think Steyn tries to say, like Bush, that he has nothing against true, loving Islam--it is only some deviant kind he is worried about; yet we have to be vigilant against all Moslems, everywhere, or they will take over.

The article claims to be about demographics. Many European countries are de-populating--adults are too selfish to have children. They are already, it seems, being taken over by Moslems. This will probably turn out to be a bad thing.

And yet the world is utterly altered. Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.

And by 2020?

So the world's people are a lot more Islamic than they were back then and a lot less "Western." Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)--or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West: In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.

Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.

What will Europe be like at the end of this process? Who knows? On the one hand, there's something to be said for the notion that America will find an Islamified Europe more straightforward to deal with than M. Chirac, Herr Schroeder & Co. On the other hand, given Europe's track record, getting there could be very bloody. But either way this is the real battlefield. The al Qaeda nutters can never find enough suicidal pilots to fly enough planes into enough skyscrapers to topple America. But unlike us, the Islamists think long-term, and, given their demographic advantage in Europe and the tone of the emerging Muslim lobby groups there, much of what they're flying planes into buildings for they're likely to wind up with just by waiting a few more years. The skyscrapers will be theirs; why knock 'em over?


Best-case scenario? The Continent winds up as Vienna with Swedish tax rates.

Worst-case scenario: Sharia, circa 2040; semi-Sharia, a lot sooner--and we're already seeing a drift in that direction.

There is actually at least one serious concern in here. As Moslems become a more significant population of Western countries, will they become more or less Westernized, or not? Will they insist on Sharia? After all, Bush has demonstrated, despite himself, how difficult it is to carry out regime change in an Arab country without seeing Sharia take effect. Steyn says he doesn't know what will happen; then he says if the Moslems are smart, they will avoid destroying buildings so that they can take them over; then he says the worst case is Sharia.

Since the president unveiled the so-called Bush Doctrine--the plan to promote liberty throughout the Arab world--innumerable "progressives" have routinely asserted that there's no evidence Muslims want liberty and, indeed, that Islam is incompatible with democracy. If that's true, it's a problem not for the Middle East today but for Europe the day after tomorrow. According to a poll taken in 2004, over 60% of British Muslims want to live under Shariah--in the United Kingdom. If a population "at odds with the modern world" is the fastest-breeding group on the planet--if there are more Muslim nations, more fundamentalist Muslims within those nations, more and more Muslims within non-Muslim nations, and more and more Muslims represented in more and more transnational institutions--how safe a bet is the survival of the "modern world"?

Not good.

Somehow this whole piece ends up being a vindication of Bush's war in Iraq. At least Bush is fighting Moslems, showing "we" in the West (really red-state Americans, not decadents) have some fight in us?

That, by the way, is the one point of similarity between the jihad and conventional terrorist movements like the IRA or ETA. Terror groups persist because of a lack of confidence on the part of their targets: The IRA, for example, calculated correctly that the British had the capability to smash them totally but not the will. So they knew that while they could never win militarily, they also could never be defeated. The Islamists have figured similarly. The only difference is that most terrorist wars are highly localized. We now have the first truly global terrorist insurgency because the Islamists view the whole world the way the IRA view the bogs of Fermanagh: They want it, and they've calculated that our entire civilization lacks the will to see them off.

Here he seems fairly confident that using force on one group of Moslems will impress all Moslems. "They" think globally. Most of the wars involving Moslems that Steyn mentions seem small, even contemptible (Kashmir? Chechnya?)--but they become impressive if you think they are all battlefields in one big war.

He's not sure the Moslems of Europe will actually want Sharia or not--although some say today that they do. He's not sure the Islamicization of Europe will be bad or not. I live near Toronto, and go to work there. There seem to be plenty of people of Asian ancestry around, but Moslems don't seem to predominate. One group of do-gooders in Ontario wanted to allow some issues to be resolved outside the courts, according to Sharia (in something like the way Jews have been able to use Jewish law), but this proposal was shot down. Steyn not only admits, he emphasizes that the U.S. is largely free from the demographic nightmare he fears. Isn't it possible he is a bit too Euro-centric?

Yet he seems confident that attacking some Arabs (who have oil), or Moslems (who mostly don't), somewhere, is a good thing. How about, say, Iraq--which had nothing to do with any of the local "Moslem" wars Steyn mentions (although Saddam did offer pensions to survivors of Palestinian bombers), had nothing to do with 9/11 or other al Qaeda attacks, and has not been providing immigrants in significant numbers to Western European countries. Yes, that's it. Let's attack them as a proxy for all the others--or in the hopes that making war will teach all the others a damn good lesson.

Shorter Steyn: We have always been at war with Oceania (whether we knew it or not).

The most serious question here: can Islam become modern and rational in somewhat like the same way Christianity did? It's certainly not inevitable, but aren't there a great many tendencies in that direction--including the pop culture Steyn decries insofar as it makes us soft?

Isn't the world as a whole becoming more peaceful--even as the proportion of the world's population that is Moslem increases? (See here and here).

With some of the Bushies (I don't know about Steyn) there is a kind of desperate, third-rate appeal to Nietzsche: we don't want to become the Last Man; anything is better than that; let's make war on somebody. (Timothy Noah, in links above on the world becoming peaceful, favorably cites Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man).

Return to Main Page


Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting