his book is not so much an analysis of the situation in Europe as a cataloging of the self-destructiveness that Western Europeans have engaged in over the past decade, mixed with a little Euro-bashing. Such books are easy to write, and Claire Berlinski, an American author who has spent most of her adult life in Europe, does an excellent job at placing the current problems in Europe in a historical context. But it falls short of being an example of Kaganesque (or even Fukuyamaesque) analysis.
On the other hand, anyone who gets their news from the mainstream media (the BBC, American, British and European newspapers, and CNN, all of which have become so inaccurate they are only marginally useful as sources of information), may be unaware of many of the events described in this book. For these people, this book is essential reading.
Claire Berlinski is a rarity: a left-liberal (or at least a closet liberal) who has nice things to say about America and the free market system, and not only hates terrorism but thinks something should be done about it, including fighting it if necessary. Some other commentators have insisted that if only America would turn the other cheek, the Europeans would "like" us as they supposedly did after 9/11. No doubt many Europeans would enjoy once again seeing America as a victim; but just as our sympathy with New Orleans morphed into a mixture of pity and contempt after their leaders complained bitterly about not getting handouts from the Federal government fast enough, so too would Europe's "sympathy" for America after the inevitable second hit. There is none of this nonsense from Claire Berlinski.
The struggle for Europe looks to be one of the major themes of the 21st century. Anyone with an Internet connection can learn of the problems afflicting Europe--the endless riots by Muslims in France, the countless acts of appeasement, and the pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American sentiment. Claire Berlinski makes a convincing case that Continental Europe, under the surface, is a termite-riddled house ready to collapse. Yet as Europe continues to decline, its inhabitants profess unconcern more and more loudly.
But what about our closest ally, Britain? Claire Berlinski's advice to the British is simple and insightful: "If al Qaeda is disturbed by the presence of British troops in Iraq, this is a sign that the troops are where they should be."
Claire Berlinski's analysis can be broken down into five main points:
Because this tendency to low birthrates is strongest in former Axis countries Italy, Germany, Japan, and the de facto Axis ally Spain, Claire Berlinski concludes that the low birthrates are Europeans' way of punishing themselves for World War II, when Fascists encouraged population growth. I think Claire is quite wrong here. Although Claire Berlinski doesn't discuss Russia much, the situation in Russia is even worse than in Western Europe. The low birthrate in Russia cannot be explained by guilt. Guilt in any case is more often than not an illusion held by outsiders miffed about some supposed injustice. The capability of people to lie to themselves is boundless. If European women wanted to reproduce, they could easily find an ideology that would accommodate them and allow them to assuage their guilt. And, as Mark Steyn pointed out in America Alone , it looks likely that they will: more and more European women are starting to convert to Islam.
Poverty (which seems to be the Cause of Everything in some circles) also cannot explain the low birthrates, even in Russia. Russia is resource-rich, and many countries far poorer than Russia have expanding growth rates. For whatever reason, all these countries have lost the will to grow and survive.
In Russia, about two thirds of all pregnancies end in abortion. Without abortion, Russia would not be declining in population, but expanding, despite their shorter life expectancy. The huge abortion rates cannot be the result of poverty, but represent a type of self-hatred on a massive scale. It is the continuing legacy of communism, which crushed the spirit of the Russian people for over seventy years.
Claire Berlinski ignores the elephant standing in the corner: what social change has taken place in the West, as well as in Russia and Japan, that most directly affects birth rates? Feminism. It may not be politically correct to say so, but by making women think that having babies is just another lifestyle choice and that having a career and personal fulfillment are the most important goals in life, feminists may have set Europe, and all of Western civilization, on an unstoppable course for calamity.
Another theory that is overlooked the role of sex education in causing low birth rates. What better way to make young people think that something is boring than to teach it in school?
Claire Berlinski's analysis has the causes of Europe's troubles exactly backwards. Although there are many things to criticize about those disaster-prone Europeans and their culture, the problems facing Europe today are not caused by the Europeans, but by their invaders. On this point, Oriana Fallaci (whom Claire Berlinski mentions) was much closer to the truth. The fact that the Europeans wanted to try Oriana Fallaci for (literally) the crime of blasphemy proves that Oriana Fallaci had indeed struck a nerve. Claire Berlinski's book, in contrast, is far more polite and accommodating; unfortunately, this means that it will be more easily ignored by most Europeans.