The West, which invented and maintains the political and economic institutions that underpin the modern global system, is experiencing demographic, economic, spiritual, and military contraction. The result may be a bloody 21st century.
Consider first demographics: As Mark Steyn and others have extensively documented, European birth rates have plummeted. Playgrounds and day cares are ominously empty all over the Continent. Many countries, like Italy and Spain, have entered the demographic point of no return and are now unable to replace their populations. (The United States is in much better demographic shape. It assimilates its immigrants better and generally holds a birth rate slightly above the replacement level, which is roughly 2.1 children per woman.)
But plunging birth rates are only the beginning of Europe’s troubles. Brussels, Paris, London, and cities all across the Continent teem with large, resentful, entirely unassimilated immigrant communities, some of whom occasionally riot and set fire to entire towns. Europe is in a deadly catch-22; it needs these immigrants to fund their lavish welfare states, yet refuses to assimilate them out of cultural cowardice.
As the West wastes away demographically, it also languishes spiritually, largely as a result of crushing nanny states which deliver comfort at the expense of liberty and self-reliance. The United States was once the sole hold-out against this Western trend — no more. President Barack Obama, openly and with popular support, has pledged to move America towards the welfare statism favored in Europe.
Economically, the entire West is on the precipice. Militarily, Europe is a eunuch, with only token forces meagerly and ineptly deployed. The U.S. military still strides the globe — for now. But how our armed forces will fare in the face of Obama’s multi-trillion dollar deficits is not hard to predict. Something will have to give way for the president to pay for his promised universal health care, and the Defense Department will prove an irresistible temptation for him, as it always does for Democratic presidents.
These symptoms of Western ill health, of course, intertwine and reinforce each other: welfare state economic policies drug populations into submissive languor, and drain resources from defense budgets; plummeting birth rates deepen economic woes by depriving governments of tax revenues, etc.
Our adversaries have taken note of this Western contraction and are hastening to fill the power vacuum. Russia invades Georgia with no consequence whatsoever and bullies and threatens other neighbors with equal impunity. North Korea fires ballistic missiles over Japan (a U.S. protectorate) and now, God help us, has openly tested a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and the Taliban regroup in Western Pakistan, and Iran plows forward in its nuclear ambitions and claims to have recently test-fired a long range surface to surface missile.
Given these trends, the following scenarios are not hard to imagine. Some are likely, others certain, but all are possible in the coming decades:
1) The mad mullahs of Iran gain a nuclear weapon and follow through on their threat to erase the Jewish state from the map. The Iranians see weakness in the West and foresee minimal retaliation. Perhaps they are wrong in this calculus; either way, seven million souls vanish from the planet and the West is complicit in another Holocaust.
2) Russia, seeing no push back from its invasion of Georgia and seeing the United States all but renounce its missile defenses, begins to swallow its former slave states — Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, et al — one by one. It shuts off fuel supplies to Western Europe and blackmails them into accepting this Soviet-light expansionism.
3) European society, no longer under any credible American protection and threatened from without by the encroaching Russia and from within by its increasingly violent immigrant population, crumbles. As has happened so often in the past, a dictator steps in to restore order.
4) Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, segments of the American population resist the sudden and convulsive socialization of their republic — peacefully first, then more forcefully. China refuses to buy any more of our debt, and trillion dollar deficits finally overwhelm the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen. The U.S. economy fails, dragging the entire world down into depression, sparking global violence and chaos. China moves on Taiwan and the North Koreans push south, both confident that the United States is in no position to stop them.
Do these scenarios seem far-fetched? Since the first draft of this column was written and submitted, North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the 1953 armistice which ended the Korean War and threatened to attack United States and South Korean vessels, while Iran brazenly deploys warships into international waters.
Buckle up. Bloody century ahead.