The Dead's Envy for the Living
The difference, to be sure, is that Germany’s decline was by no means inevitable in 1938, while Iran’s decline cannot be reversed. Iran’s leaders know this quite well. Its universities have competent demographers who helped frame the first studies of Iran’s fertility decline, and its leaders have inveighed for years against the failure of Iranian women to bear children. Persian-language websites warn of the tidal wave of elderly dependents who will swamp Iran’s economy. For all the public anguish the situation gets worse by the year. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute is doing the definitive work on this.
Why should Iran’s fertility decline so drastically? In my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and How Islam is Dying, Too), I observed that Muslim countries jump from infancy to senescence without passing through adulthood. Wherever Muslim countries have wrenched their people out of traditional society into the modern world, a demographic transition has ensued, compressing the slow decline of fertility of the West during the past two centuries into a couple of decades. Literacy (and female literacy in particular) is the best predictor of fertility in Muslim countries: the best educated among them, namely Tunisia, Algeria, and Turkey, also have fallen below replacement fertility. Iran’s fertility fell the fastest in part because the deposed shah set in motion a crash literacy program.
Hitler only hallucinated the exhaustion of a mythical Aryan race: Iran’s leaders live with the certainty that their civilization has barely a generation left before it collapses. Even a modest increase in fertility from present levels would do nothing to avert the coming train wreck, and the problem is getting worse by the year.
What is the “national interest” of a dying country? In the case of Hungary, for example, with a Magyar fertility rate of less than 0.9, it is to ease the transition into oblivion by selling the country to foreigners and turning its capital into a theme park for tourists. One thousand and 100 years ago the Magyars were feared conquerors who threatened the fragile recovery of newly Christianized Europe; today they are a relic. Iran is not so ready to go gently into that demographic night, however. It lashes out against enemies real and imagined, and the enemies it imagines in its worst nightmares are the Jews.
Why the Iranians, and why the Jews? Jew-hatred is rampant in the Muslim world, to be sure, but that did not prevent Egypt and Jordan from keeping the peace with Israel for 30 years. Nor does it prevent Saudi Arabia, where Arabic editions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion line bookstore shelves, from making a tactical alliance with Israel. Except for Iran no Muslim regime trumpets its intention to “annihilate the Zionist” regime in routine utterances.
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