Mark Steyn rang the bell, and there have been some interesting reactions. Lileks is one, and I think he hits his high note in criticizing what we used to call the counterculture, but which has become so important that we now call it by many other names: multiculturalism, trans-nationalism, and the like. Lileks joins Steyn in being astonished that these folks won't see, or talk about, the danger of radical Islam to the things they care most about:
If the Islamists were Christians, they’d be motivated. That threat they understand, because that threat sounds like Mom and Dad...Doc Russia responded too, wondering if religion is an evolutionary requirement for long-term cultural survival. He posits that the demography will work out so that the American "Red States" overwhelm the "Blue States" by virtue of breeding -- which only may be true, depending on immigration policy. The problem Europe has is that it has been maintaining its population levels by importing people who, two and three generations in, remain alien and hostile to the base culture. Our immigration policy is wiser, which is not to say that it is wise; it just fares well by comparision. Still, it could be improved.
What I don't forsee is the giant culture clash that Steyn and Doc both wonder about. I don't think we'll ever have a single religion that overwhelms the world; even in the height of European colonization, for example, India remained mostly Hindu and Muslim rather than Christian. I do think, though, that Steyn is right to suggest that Europe is going to become far more Muslim in its outlook and law:
This ought to be the left's issue. I'm a conservative--I'm not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I'm with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the West's collapsed birthrates? Even if one were to take the optimistic view that Europe will be able to resist the creeping imposition of Sharia currently engulfing Nigeria, it remains the case that the Muslim world is not notable for setting much store by "a woman's right to choose," in any sense.At Doc's place, I commented along a similar line. This stuff is a problem for somebody, but I don't see why it should be a problem for Red State America.
Actually, in a lot of the world, I think we have more in common with Muslims than we do with anyone else. The Muslims of Xinjiang province, China, for example -- they're about as happy with Communist China as we are. I read Malaysian and Philippine newspapers regularly as part of my job (and so can you, if you want; Bernama, the state news wire, is on Google News, as is the Star of Malaysia and several others). I can't help but recognize a lot of North Georgia in the whole attitude expressed by a lot of Muslim provinces: "We're who we are, and we don't want your meddling in the way we do things, so leave us alone if you know what's good for you."Anyone who grew up in the South can probably see what I mean. There is always the church down the road whose members think they're more moral than everyone else -- even the members of the other church down the road, which two years ago was the same church until they split up in a heated dispute over the interpretation of a line from one of the letters of St. Paul. These guys get hot over their particular understanding of the faith, and they will try to enact parts of it into law as the occasion arises. They have every right to do so; it's their country too.
As far as I can tell, that applies to al Qaeda as much as to the US or their own central governments. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for example, is happy to help hunt down bandits and Qaeda-linked groups in Mindanao province, Philippines, but will also fight the government army if it comes meddling. The rebels in Aceh, Indonesia, don't have any use for the Indonesian government or the US -- but they also don't like Qaeda-style meddlers, who want to shut down Achenese traditional culture and replace it with Taliban-style non-culture. Southern Thailand is about the same.
There's not a lot that a fellow raised in the American South is surprised to see. They're religious, and they have funny ideas about their religion, but they mostly just want to be left alone. They don't like meddlers, and mostly nobody suffers from their violence but them and people who stick their noses in their business.
It seems to me we could make allies out of people like that, under the right circumstances. After all, we don't give a damn what goes on in Aceh or Mindanao, as long as it doesn't involve people practicing to blow up US skyscrapers or Naval ships. While the rest of the world plots how to better meddle everywhere else -- China, Europe, our own leftists, NGOs, central governments everywhere -- we could get a long way on down the road we want to be on just by supporting these locals.
If you can give them some room to do their thing -- say, a town council, or sometimes even just the church's managing board -- they'll confine themselves to that, and generally leave you alone. They don't really like you or approve of you, but they also don't really care about you. As long as you're not trying to change their town or their church, you can do what you like in your town over the hill. In fact, they kind of like that you do things differently -- it gives them something else to feel superior about.
River Tam was right. It's meddling that gets you in trouble. The best thing, if you're going to be a global leader, is to find a way to support people in doing what they want to do anyway. This is true whether you're trying to be a global leader in law and military power, or a global leader in the selling of computers or fashion products.
The great bulk of humanity, which would prefer to avoid politics anyway, will be entirely satisfied by this arrangement. That simplifies the problem: all that remains is to deal with that fraction of humanity that isn't happy unless they're telling everyone, everywhere what to do. That impulse lies behind not only al Qaeda's push for a universal Caliphate but also the United Nations' hand-waving about "unilateralism" and the various NGOs' constant attempts to bully nations into adopting vegetarianism, or banning guns, or whatever.
Anyone who comes selling a universal answer to a human problem is a danger. Not all of them will be terrorists, nor even violent at all, but all of them are selling something you'd be foolish to buy.
What does that mean for Europe? Nothing. Steyn is right; they're done. It does mean something for America, though, which is that we are likely to remain the leading global power for the forseeable future. We are the natural enemy of the "tell everyone what to do" crowd, whether they are Qaeda terrorists or NGO scolds who want to criminalize "hate speech" or fox hunting. But we're the natural ally of anyone, anywhere, who wants to do his own thing.
Indeed, it's the answer to Steyn and Lilek's question: people of the "tell everyone what to do" type see the US as the principle enemy of their natural impulses. With al Qaeda they differ only on the goals, and hopefully the acceptable methods. With the US, they differ on first principles. Al Qaeda's a competitor. We're the enemy.