Every German schoolroom should display a stuffed Dutchman as a horrible example to youth, wrote the poet Heinrich Heine in 1831. For Americans, the horrible example to youth at the taxidermist shop is Western Europe. Last month the US reelected a president despised by enormous European majorities. Europeans hate and fear the United States, but Americans barely can summon the energy to ignore Europe, which they have written off as a decadent and soon-to-disappear civilization.
In the major newspapers of the US east coast, to be sure, Europeans continue to read about their sad little concerns. What “red state” Americans hear, by contrast, is that Europe is dying, like the now-vanished “evil empire” of Soviet communism. I have been viewing a video titled The Siege of Western Civilization (Storm King Press, www.stormkingpress.com, US$19.95) in which a former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official, Herbert Meyer, advises Americans on what they may do to avoid Europe’s dreadful fate. Meyer’s Siege video better reflects America’s mood than the international pages of The New York Times.
When the administration of president Ronald Reagan determined that Soviet communism could be crushed, not merely contained, I observed recently, CIA director William J. Casey “routinely ignored the legions of Russian-studies PhDs, reaching out instead to irregulars who could give him the insights he required” (How America can win the intelligence war, June 15). Herbert Meyer led the irregulars who broke with the established CIA view to argue that the Soviet economy was at the edge of breakdown.
According the CIA’s official history, Meyer, a Fortune magazine editor whom Casey recruited as a senior aide, scoffed at the agency’s estimates of Soviet growth. He explained:Everything I had been able to learn about the Soviet economy, including visiting the place, told me it couldn’t be growing at the rate the CIA said it was … It simply couldn’t be true. I know what an economy looks like when it’s growing 3% a year, and that isn’t what it looks like … You cannot have food shortages growing worse, production shortages growing worse, bottlenecks – all those things we knew were going on – and still have an economy growing at the rate the agency said it was – which the US was barely doing at that point … It couldn’t be true.Meyer left the CIA more than 20 years ago, and the Clinton years restocked the CIA with the same sort of second-string academics against whom the Reagan people had rebelled. The howls of pain attendant upon the accession of Porter Goss as the new director of central intelligence suggest that a similar rebellion now may be under way. In any case, Meyer’s conclusion that Europe is beyond repair is consistent with his earlier reading of Soviet decay.
In his video, produced for “red state” audiences more attuned to the television screen than to printed text, Meyer has the following to say:Simply put, those of us who are part of Western Civilization have stopped breeding. We are not replacing ourselves with children, and the economic implications of this are staggering – so staggering, in fact, that if we don’t change course they will lead inexorably to our political collapse.
Here’s the problem: To maintain a steady population in any country, its birthrate must be 2.1 children per woman. (That provides one child to replace each parent, plus an extra fraction to replace children who die and to compensate for the slightly smaller number of female than male births.) Today the birthrate in Western Europe is an average 1.5% – 30% below replacement. In Japan it’s 1.46%. The birthrates in Italy and Spain are 1.2%, which means in these two countries the population will be nearly halved in every generation. Moreover, because we now are living longer than ever, in countries with a low birthrate the population rapidly ages.
Of course a country’s birthrate can change. But it cannot change quickly, and that’s the problem. Japan and Western Europe are already caught in the vortex … Europe has tried to solve the problem by immigration – by importing workers to fill in for the European children who weren’t born. But this is creating problems of its own. For example, most of these imported workers are Moslems, who aren’t being absorbed into the Western culture and who now pose a political threat to the European countries in which they live and work – which, by the way, helps explain why our erstwhile allies don’t support us in the war on terrorism. They are afraid of their own immigrants, who in some European countries now account for more than 10% of the total population.The last point echoes some of my own recent observations (Spain, and why radical Islam can win, March 16).
With a birthrate of 2%, Meyer adds, the United States still is in danger, but can be set to rights, presuming that it takes early action to reform public pensions and health insurance. Meyer concludes:It is time to start remembering – or perhaps to start learning for the first time – how Western civilization developed and what it really has accomplished … And we need to go beyond the schools and assure that all Americans understand what Western civilization really is, and why preserving it is so important to their own future. If we do this, political support will start to fade for those who would destroy Western civilization.I do not think the United States will find it difficult to avoid the European or Japanese form of demographic decline, presuming that they take measures to attract productive immigrants. Stricter immigration rules in the wake of September 11, 2001, had the unintended effect of discouraging Asian immigration to the United States. One must assume this is temporary; surely the US can distinguish between desirable and undesirable entrants.
Western civilization – the heritage of St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Goethe – may be harder to preserve than America’s pension system. Except for Western classical music, which Asians have embraced as their own, the cultural heritage of the West has no natural constituency (When immortality is not enough, January 5). American evangelicals have deep roots in the Bible – which is Western only at the margin – and only passing interest in subsequent doings of the West. They are more likely to listen to Christian variants of country and heavy metal than J S Bach. A story (on www.ekklesia.co.uk) from US marines outside Fallujah sums it up:
“You are the sovereign. You’re name is holy. You are the pure spotless lamb,” a female voice cried out on the loudspeakers as the marines clapped their hands and closed their eyes, reflecting on what lay ahead for them.
In times when fighting looms, many soldiers draw on their evangelical or born-again heritage to help them face the battle.
“It’s always comforting. Church attendance is always up before the big push,” said First Sergeant Miles Thatford.
“Sometimes, all you’ve got is God.”
Between the service’s electric-guitar religious tunes, marines stepped up on the chapel’s small stage and recited a verse of scripture, meant to fortify them for war.
One spoke of their Old Testament hero – David – a shepherd boy who would become Israel’s king, battling the Philistines some 3,000 years ago.
“Thus David prevailed over the Philistines,” the marine said, reading from scripture, and the marines shouted back “Hoorah, King David,” using their signature grunt of approval.Clearly the marines grunted “Hooah!”, not “Hoorah.” Among its meanings in soldiers’ patois is “Amen.” For an explanation, see The Urban Dictionary. “Hooah, King David!” Not what I anticipated when first I studied the Psalter, but in lean times one has to take what one can get.