01 Mar America Alone by Mark Steyn
Based on the variety of habits I have either taken on or rid myself of over the years, I am convinced that my most enjoyed vice remaining in my arsenal is reading books, or at least buying lots of them. My collection includes many books that I feel sentimentally connected to, and it includes many pieces I have plead with people to read over the years. Some of my most treasured pieces represent the largest influence I have had in my life ideologically, outside of the actual relationships I have enjoyed with key mentors. But, it is very rare, even in my library, that a book exist which I actually wish could be turned into a tract, and distributed to the masses. Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is such a book, and certainly there are dozens that I at least think a large body of people ought to read. However, Mark Steyn’s latest work, America Alone, not only deserves the rave review I am about to give it, but I truly wish that it could be re-embodied as a miniature treatise, and force fed to every single person floating around in the United States of America during this current age.
For those unfamiliar with Mark Steyn, he is the Canadian-born, New Hampshire-residing columnist who is likely the most popular editorial writer of any newspaper that syndicates him, yet the most ignored mainstream writer in today’s press. As the MSM (mainstream media) attempted to do for years before the sheer extremeness of the numbers rendered it impossible with the radio popularity of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn is a hit (deservedly so) in any paper that publishes him, yet he is mysteriously absent from the CNN panels and Tim Russert forums that such irrelevant personas as Maureen Dowd and E.J. Dionne Jr. often fill (as an aside, the God-send, Larry Kudlow, frequently features Mark on his afternoon show on CNBC). Mark’s popularity is understandable for two main reasons: (a) As opposed to Maureen Dowd, he is an extremely gifted writer, and (b) As opposed to E.J. Dionne Jr., he is a very intelligent person. Indeed, as far as polemical skills go, Mark is unmatched even by other brilliant writers in the conservative movement. He lacks the flowery elegance of a George Will, falls short of the intellectual prowess of a Thomas Sowell (who doesn’t), and yet surpasses even them in his ability to captivate readers, and render absurd the error du jour of the far left (particularly as it pertains to the topic this book was about). Beyond the fervent praise for the book I am about to review, I would strongly recommend you begin reading Mark’s columns online (http://www.steynonline.com), or subscribe to a newspaper that wisely syndicates him. It will enhance the quality of your life.
Speaking of “quality of life”, the book I now review, “America Alone”, is the best apologetic I have read for a vigilant war on terror and jihadism, and yet it really does not even purport to be so. The explicit intent of Steyn’s work is to demonstrate the utter disaster our European friends have created for themselves, and to lay out the case that only America can save the planet from Global Islamic Fascism (a last hope that Steyn is only holding onto by a thin thread). In the course of persuasively proving said assertions (that Europe is doomed is nearly irrefutable, and that America is on her way to joining them short of some massive changes in thinking, is comparably demonstrable), Steyn drafts what I believe is as clear of a defense as one could write for a militarily aggressive response to the Islamic threat. But even more than the traditional neo-conservative rhetoric that is so confusingly controversial in this day and age, Steyn reinforces that what is even more urgently needed is an immediate and emphatic change of heart/mind, culturally, from the American people. Indeed, we have a military power unlike any that has ever existed; what we lack is a will and conviction to defeat those who would kill us.
Many writers, myself included, have repeated ad nauseum the case for a successful posture in the face of Islamic terrorists who long ago declared war on us. For a better understanding of the contemporary history of Jihadism, see Lawrence Wright’s, “The Looming Tower”, which also carries with it a shocking expose of the failures of the American espionage and military community to protect us from 9/11. It is a powerful book, and provides far more depth and history than Steyn is attempting to at understanding the nature of our Islamic enemy. But, what Steyn has done in “America Alone”, is go far beyond the base reality that jihadists want to kill us, say they want to kill us, have killed us, and still work passionately to kill us each and every day. He actually dares to delve into the real cultural phenomena of what is happening globally, beginning with the unavoidable subject of demography.
Without blowing the entire thesis of the book, which you will remember I have actually posited that I want to turn into a tract, the numerical facts of the day and age we live in are these: Europe with its pathetic birth rate is a self-extincting waste in the generational battles we face ahead, while the Islamicists are procreating at rates that would make the Mormons jealous. The United States of America, to its credit, continues to experience net population increase year-over-year, even apart from immigration considerations, though it is teetering on breakeven numbers as of late (sans immigration). However, Spain, Italy, France, and many others, are simply put: goners. They have long ago traded a vibrant culture of family and community for an apathetic socialism that has poisoned it into a dependent state of nanny-welfarism. They have forfeited the will to survive, evidenced not just in their capitulation to terrorists, but in their inability to reproduce themselves. I not only was flabbergasted to read what trends and forecasts and reasonable expectations exist in this data, but frankly was speechless at the current numbers, as they stand right now, today. I doubt that 1% of the American people are aware that Mohammed is the 5th most popular name in the United Kingdom (now), and the single most popular name in Belgium (right now). That 40% of Rotterdam is currently Moslem, or that 30% of those in France under the age of 20 are, or that 45% of those in urban areas in France are, do not necessarily represent statistics that should scare us (though they do me), but they certainly ought to shock us. That a continent of near exclusive Anglo-Christian influences for centuries has been replaced by rank secularism, with the most ardent demographic influence and growth coming entirely from the Islamic religion, is a historical fact that has to be understood and lamented. Steyn’s analysis of this is profound, and commanding material.
Beyond the demography that Westerners presently face (the Islamic community reproduces at a rate of 5-8 new births per household, vs. a 1-2 rate for Europeans, and a barely 2 rate for Americans), Steyn’s work masterfully mocks the apathy and political correctness that is rampant in American pop culture (and across the pond as well, of course). I hesitate to steal his thunder in terms of the voluminous illustrations of this, but I dare say that after you stop laughing at the sharp humor Steyn uses to make his various points, you will likely find yourself with a peculiar sense of discomfort and disgust at the harsh realities he highlights. We have a dangerous enemy, and they are as determined to kill us as any global threat has ever been determined to kill anyone, and yet the universal response amongst the left has been capitulation, appeasement, and inexplicable failures to deal with our problem. Political correctness has not just run amok; it has defeated the purpose of the old rhetorical device of “reductio ad absurdum” (the reductios are realities, and no one is kidding).
This is a tough book to review without making the mistake of re-stating its entire set of conclusions. It is so chalk-full of empirical data, historical happenings, and leftist quotations, I can not properly summarize what Steyn has done in a brief internet review. In that sense, I really mean that this book is a must-read for any student of culture, politics, the sanctity of life, and religious affairs. No analysis of the present immigration controversy is coherent without an appreciation of the material in this book (a controversy, by the way, that highlights some absurd advocates on the right, and left). The very word, “multi-culturalism”, will take on entirely new meaning for any reader of this book. Disdain for American exceptionalism will have to be re-interpreted by any real American next time they observe such from your typical Hollywood star (or Massachusetts senator, for that matter). I came away from reading this book with a renewed vigor for the things I care about most in my life (family, community, church, freedom, ambition, prosperity, and faith). However, I also came away with a renewed commitment that we fight the ideological (and military) enemy we face in Islamo-fascism, and that we do so as proud Americans, whose historical commitment to economic prosperity and ethical principles are the sole reasons we stand alone in the generations to come as we fight the jihadist efforts to capture the west. I am more proud to be an American now, than I was prior to reading the book, and yet simultaneously I am more concerned about the future of America than I was prior to reading it. I share Steyn’s view of the diagnosis, and I share his views on the remedy, yet I can not bring myself to a place of optimism that such a remedy will take place. These are dangerous times we live in, and I believe our response to the danger has been anything but serious.
Steyn quotes Bennett in a concluding chapter of the book: “Democracy. Immigration. Multi-culturalism. Choose any two.” It is the most profound and captivating thought in the book, and it incidentally knocks both the liberal leftist loonies and the cartoonish right-wing anti-immigrationists right on their backsides. For those who want to protect the ideals this country was based on, a serious understanding of these very nuanced subjects is in order. For those serious about protecting our democracy, reading “America Alone” is a mighty fine way to start.
Incidentally, one of the most powerful points of the book is actually that it really doesn’t matter if you are one of those pro-America, neo-con, God, guns, and gold nutballs who is anti-Jihadist, pro-American, or not. Indeed, you can be as loathing of America as Jimmy Carter and Sean Penn are, or as nasty and inflammatory about military interventionism as Lew Rockwell or John Murtha, it will not matter.
You see, in this war, the enemy is truly non-partisan.