Jewish World Review March 18, 2003/ 14 Adar II, 5763
'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
The line caught on. 'The 19th century was the century of the United States,' James Longley, attorney-general of Nova Scotia, informed a Boston audience in 1902. 'The 20th century is Canada's century.'
'The day is coming,' predicted another prime minister, Sir Charles Tupper, 'when Canada, which has become the right arm of the British empire, will dominate the American continent.'
Now, if you'll quit laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes, I'll get to the point. Tupper was talking to the historian John Boyd, who fleshed out the soundbite: 'Canada,' he explained, 'shall dominate the American continent, not in aggression or materialism, but in the arts of peace, in the greatness of its institutions, in the broadness of its culture, and in the lofty moral character of its people.'
Does that sound familiar? It's the European argument today: just as the 20th century belonged to America, so the 21st will belong to Europe, a Europe that cannot - and, indeed, disdains to - compete with the Yanks in 'aggression' (military capability) or 'materialism' (capitalism red in tooth and claw), and so has devised a better way. We've all had a grand old time these last few weeks watching M. Chirac demonstrate his mastery of 'the arts of peace' and his 'lofty moral character', but it would perhaps be fairer to choose a more representative Euro-grandee to articulate the EUtopian vision. Step forward, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who said in London last year that 'the EU must not develop into a military superpower but must become a great power that will not take up arms at any occasion in order to defend its own interests.'
No doubt it sounds better in Finnish. Nonetheless, like the Canadians a century ago, the Europeans are claiming that the old rules no longer apply, that they've been supplanted by new measures of power, not least the 'greatness of institutions' (EU, UN, ICC, etc.). And, like the Canadians, the Europeans are doomed to disappointment. Just for the record, if you're reading this in an obscure corner of the jungle, not only did the 20th century not belong to Canada; the decayed Dominion will be very lucky to make it through the 21st at all: I doubt it'll get past 2025 with its present borders intact.
But that's by the by. What the world - or, at any rate, 'old Europe' - wants to know is: what will it take to nobble the Yanks? Or, to be more accurate, what will it take for the Yanks to nobble themselves? The corollary to the Euro-Canadian redefinition of 'great power' is that a lone cowboy who sticks to tired concepts like guns'n'ammo is bound to come a cropper. As Matthew Parris put it last week, 'We should ask whether America does have the armies, the weaponry, the funds, the economic clout and the democratic staying power to carry all before her in the century ahead. How many wars on how many fronts could she sustain at once? How much fighting can she fund? How much does she need to export? Is she really unchallenged by any other economic bloc?'
My colleague is falling prey to theories of 'imperial overstretch'. But, if you're not imperial, it's quite difficult to get overstretched. By comparison with 19th-century empires, the Americans travel light. More to the point, their most obvious 'overstretch' is in their historically unprecedented generosity to putative rivals: unlike traditional imperialists, they garrison not remote ramshackle colonies but their wealthiest allies. The US picks up the defence tab for Europe, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, among others. As Americans have learned in the last 18 months, absolving wealthy nations of the need to maintain their own armies does not pay off in the long run. This overstretch is over. If Bush wins a second term, the boys will be coming home from South Korea and Germany, and maybe Japan, too. So the EU will begin the second decade of the century with an excellent opportunity to test Mr Lipponen's theory: it can either will the means to maintain a credible defence, or it can try to live as the first 'superpower' with no means of defence. In other words, the first victim of American overstretch will not be America but Europe.
I doubt the Continentals of a decade hence will be in any mood to increase defence spending. For all M. de Villepin's dreams of Napoleonic glory, his generation of French politicians will spend the rest of their lives managing decline. By 2050, there will be 100 million more Americans, 100 million fewer Europeans. The US fertility rate is 2.1 children per couple; in Europe it's 1.4. Demography is not necessarily destiny, and certainly not inevitable disaster. But it will be for Europe, because the 20th-century Continental welfare state was built on a careless model that requires a constantly growing population to sustain it. In hard-hearted New Hampshire, we don't have that problem.
According to a UN report from last year, for the EU to keep its working population stable till 2050 it would need another 1.58 million immigrants every year. To keep the ratio of workers to retirees at the present level, you'd need 13.5 million immigrants per year. Personally, I've never seen what's so liberal and enlightened about denuding the developing world of their best and brightest. But, even if you can live with it, it won't be an option much longer. The UN's most recent population report has revised the global fertility rate down from 2.1 - i.e., replacement rate - to 1.85 - i.e., eventual population decline. It will peak in about 2050, and then fall off in a geometric progression. What this means for the Continent is that the fall-back position - use the Third World as your nursery - is also dead. The developing world's fertility rate is 2.9 and falling. The Third Worlders being born now in all but the most psychotic jurisdictions will reach adulthood with a range of options, of which Europe will be the least attractive. If that ratio of workers to retirees keeps heading in the same direction, the EU will have the highest taxes not just in the Western world, but in most of the rest. A middle-class Indian or Singaporean or Chilean already has little incentive to come to the Continent. If the insane Bush-Steyn plan to remake the Middle East comes off, even your wacky Arabs may stay home. If it doesn't, the transformation of Europe into 'Eurabia', as the droller Western Muslims already call their new colony, will continue.
So for Europe this is the perfect storm, with Jacques Chirac in the George Clooney role. Best case scenario: you wind up as Vienna with Swedish tax rates. Don't get me wrong, I love Vienna. I especially like the way you can stroll down their streets and never hear any ghastly rockers and rappers caterwauling. When you go into a record store, the pop category's a couple of bins at the back and there are two floors of operetta. All very pleasant, though not if you're into surfing the cutting edge of the zeitgeist. I quite like Stockholm, too. Well, I like the babes, but they're gonna be a lot wrinklier by 2050. And Sweden's already got a lower standard of living than Mississippi. Its 60 per cent overall tax rate is likely to be the base in the Europe of 2020 and fondly recalled as the good old days by mid-century.
Worst case scenario: Sharia, circa 2070.
For the Americans, it doesn't make much difference whether the Austro-Swedish or Eurabian option prevails. This is nothing to do with disagreements over Iraq: you can't 'mend bridges' when the opposite bank is sinking into the river. The death of Europe in its present form is a given. The phase we've just begun is an interim one: America's gone to the store, and is trying various outfits on for size. There is Bush's wooing of Putin, who has not been so insane as to follow Jacques on his diplomatic suicide-bomber mission. There is the suggestion, floated more and more frequently vis-à-vis the Korean peninsula, that now may be the time for Japan to go nuclear. There are the Atlanticist states of Eastern Europe who declined to be shut up by Chirac. There are the President's Latino inclinations, soon to be given expression in the Free Trade Area of the Americas. From the American point of view, the FTAA brings their principal foreign energy suppliers - Alberta and Venezuela - in-house and, in the broader sense, Catholic Latin America is more culturally compatible with the US than post-Christian Europe is.
And then there's the conservatives' favorite: National Review's current cover shows Bush, Blair and John Howard above the headline 'Three Amigos'. Five years ago, when Bill Clinton launched his non-Chirac-sanctioned mini-war on Baghdad with the assistance of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, I noted that what those countries had in common was a perverse determination to recoil from the notion that they had anything in common. For a generation, these countries' elites have worked tirelessly to deny the reality of language, culture and history. Much of the territory Anglospherists claim is already lost - Canada and New Zealand, for starters - and anyone who wants to make it a going concern had better step on it, because it will be a lot harder to do in another generation. Where Britain will lie depends on how serious Mr Blair is about going down with the Franco-Belgo-German ship.
All these arrangements in embryo, however, have one thing in common: the intention is that America's partners should be both economically and militarily credible - or, in that Canadian historian's terms, they're being evaluated in terms of 'aggression and materialism'. Australia will never be as powerful as America, but it doesn't, as Mr Lipponen does, trumpet its arthritic defects as a virtue and demand that these should be accepted as the new global norm. Indeed, once you stick a black void in the centre of the map where Western Europe is, it's amazing how the global outlook improves.
I should add that by 'Europe' I'm using the Chiraquist shorthand for a European Union run on sclerotic Franco-German lines. What we've seen in the last few weeks is that for Europeans the real clash of civilisations is not between Islam and the West but between what the French call 'Anglo-Saxon' capitalism and Eurostatism. I was amused by the sheer snobbery of Martin Amis's analysis in the Guardian last week: the condescension to Bush's faith, the parallels between Texas and Saudi Arabia, both mired in a dusty religiosity. America's religiosity, now unique in the Western world, is at least part of the reason it reproduces at replacement rate, also uniquely in the Western world. Besides, for all Amis's cracks, Texas doesn't seem as fundamentalist as the radical secularism of post-Christian Europe. Why would anyone think a disinclination to breed or to defend oneself is the recipe for success? Just because there'll always be an England? As Bernard Shaw wrote almost 90 years ago in Heartbreak House, of a Europe too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming, 'Do you think the laws of G-d will be suspended in favour of England because you were born in it?'
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
02/27/03: Death wish