Watching Europe Implode
Mark Steyn has a provocative column out entitled, “U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode.” After a long discussion of President Bush’s no concessions goodwill tour of Europe and the idiotically burdensome EU Constitution (511 pages vice 11 for the 216-year-old U.S. version), Steyn makes a provocative statement:
CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I’d say, as predictions of doom go, that’s a little on the cautious side. But either way the notion that it’s a superpower in the making is preposterous. Most administration officials subscribe to one of two views: a) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater; or b) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater where the whole powder keg’s about to go up.
For what it’s worth, I incline to the latter position. Europe’s problems — its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed — are all of Europe’s making. By some projections, the EU’s population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches — and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature. Some of us think an Islamic Europe will be easier for America to deal with than the present Europe of cynical, wily, duplicitous pseudo-allies. But getting there is certain to be messy, and violent.
Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there’s no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.
It’s hard for me to conceive of Europe “imploding” and the EU strikes me as a necessity for economic survival. The demographic, social, and political problems Steyn alludes to are, however, real. The absolute power of what Don Rumsfeld regretfully dubbed “Old Europe” has been on the wane since the end of World War II and its relative power has also been steadily declining, as China, India, Eastern Europe, and others rapidly modernize. There’s no indication that either trend will reverse itself any time soon.
Update: Austin Bay blogs an interesting e-mail exchange with Steyn on this topic. Bay argues, persuasively in my view, that a Muslim Europe is preventable and exhorts, “I donÃ¢€™t underestimate the French and German peoplesÃ¢€™ capacities for change, either, especially when challenged at home. . . . Giving up on people is so passeÃ¢€™ Ã¢€”okay, give up on the ex-girlfriend but donÃ¢€™t write off the Dutch or the French.”
Agreed. The French, especially, can be annoying as hell and their government has been a mess since, roughly, the Revolution. They’ve been a major power for centuries, however, and have been remarkably resilient. While I’m happy to see Chirac and company taken down a peg or three, I suspect French civilization will still be here in a century. (Of course, they’ll have British accents by the 24th Century.)