book review

America Alone:
The End of the World as We Know It
Mark Steyn
Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2006, 224 pages
Reviewed By

F or the West, the 9/11 attacks produced a giant blinding flash of clarity. The party was over. History had not ended when the Soviet Union fell. Our old alliance with Europe had frayed perhaps beyond the point of repair. Large blocks of nations were full of people who believe that slaughtering innocent civilians is worth publicly cheering about, and their leaders believed in conspiracy theories as loony as the stuff that comes out of wacko bins like the linguistics department of MIT. And still, many cling to multicultural pieties and parrot the old Soviet myths that whatever the problem, the West is to blame, and appeasement, surrender, and withdrawal are the only answer.

To these appeasers, all conflict arises from injustice. So they're forced to concoct ever more implausible excuses for the ever more outrageous acts of mass murder committed by Islamic terrorists. Hence the bizarre moral equivalence among the Left between the "cultural imperialism" of America selling hamburgers to people in other countries and buying their oil, and the "retaliation" by Islamic terrorists of blowing up airliners and slaughtering stockbrokers.

Yet even now, says ex-Canadian political columnist Mark Steyn, we are too mired in cultural relativism to realize what is really at stake: the very survival of Western civilization. Europe, says Mark Steyn, is in an irreversible demographic death spiral. Much of the blame for this goes to the weakening of the individual by the welfare state. As government takes over the basic responsibilities of adulthood, the people become infantilized, and come to care only about their own personal comfort. Mark Steyn writes:

The state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood -- health care, child care, care of the elderly -- to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct...[big government programs] erode the citizen's sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree.

As proof, just look at Russia, where the spirit of the people was so crushed by socialism that the people lost the very instinct to survive. Even today, over 70% of Russian pregnancies end with the parent intentionally ending the life of their own unborn baby. Socialism has had the same effect in continental Europe. "The long term cost of welfare is the infantilization of the population," says Mark Steyn. Since they have no responsibilities, no religious beliefs, and no chance to change things on their own, they have nothing to believe in. Hence there is no reason for free Europeans to care that the current generation may well be the last.

Anti-reproduction cultural phenomena like abortion and gay marriage are only a symptom of the West's slow-motion demographic suicide. "Demography," (that is, demographic decline), says Mark Steyn, "is the most obvious symptom of civilizational exhaustion." By which he means the declining birth rates that have already condemned Europe's grandchildren to life under the slavery of sharia. The only question for Europe, says Mark Steyn, is how bloody the transfer of real estate will be.

Europeans themselves realize that their continent is beyond saving, which is why few of them are willing to struggle. The near-instantaneous surrender to terrorism by Spain, which not coincidentally has the lowest birthrate in western Europe, is just the most outrageous example. As Mark Steyn puts it: "A barren society has no future, and so what's to fight for?" The real question is, will the West, i.e., America (and maybe Britain and Australia), find the will to survive in the 21st century? Doing so would require abandoning not only the comforts of perpetual childhood and irresponsibility that arise from the welfare state, but abandoning politically correct pretense and facing the cold reality: that the West is well worth fighting for and preserving, and that America will probably have to fight the coming battle for cultural survival alone.

As for Europe, their only chance is if the Muslim immigrants suddenly decide that being a decadent gay soirée-attending fin-de-siècle latté drinker wearing a black-and-white horizontal striped T-shirt and a black beret is more fashionable than being a Citroen-burning kill-all-the-sons-of-pigs-and-polytheistic-kafir-infidels psycho wearing the less fashionable but more utilitarian Semtex-and-ball-bearing burqa. (Or, for casual wear, the ever-popular TATP-lined burqa with matching stainless steel ball bearings.) On the other hand, the idea of Europe's Muslims inheriting their predecessors' nukes along with the Europeans' snobbishness is even more chilling. With Europe's elites never missing an opportunity to bash America, it may be tempting not to care.

Europeans don't realize that their vicious anti-American rhetoric has had a profound effect on American attitudes towards Europe. As anti-European sentiment takes hold, books such as this one expressing concern about Europe's future will undoubtedly decrease in number. People write books like this only because they care about the future of Europe. As they should. To many Americans, however, Europe is already a lost cause, blindly stumbling once again into catastrophe. Indeed, the subtext of this book is that Western Europe is already no longer a part of what used to be called "the West."

Readers of Mark Steyn's newspaper columns will find that many of the ideas here have already appeared in his columns. Unlike his first book, however, this one is more than just a collection of Mark Steyn's trademark smart-ass neocon op-eds. Steyn has tried to hammer these columns into a single coherent argument. Although nominally a neocon, his pessimism about the West also reveals a deep strain of paleoconservatism. Some will argue that Mark Steyn is overly pessimistic about the West's ability to adapt. But Mark Steyn proposes an ambitious ten-point program that America can undertake, which includes supporting women's rights in the Middle East, eliminating the UN, and ending the Iranian regime. Finding the will to take these steps hinges on one factor: recognizing that we are at war with radical Islam. Sadly, even in America, half the population still refuses to believe even this basic fact. What right, they ask, does America have to export democracy? Mark Steyn would probably argue that America has the obligation to do whatever it takes to ensure its own survival and the survival of democracy--even fight if necessary. If not, in fifty years the only thing Americans will be able to do is look at those few European refugees that still survive and say, "We told you so."