Mark Steyn's America Alone
It will be a few weeks before I get to Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It; this review, by Jeremy Rabkin, professor of international law at Cornell University, in the Weekly Standard, is the most substantial which I've seen that is both sympathetic to Mr Steyn's project and not adulatory and uncritical.
Steyn offers little in the way of policy prescriptions. He argues that American self-confidence owes much to our tradition of keeping government in bounds and encouraging the self-reliance of individuals. So he ends up warning that proposals for emulating European welfare states--as in extending government guarantees for health care--will have momentous strategic consequences. Maybe. But I'm not sure invoking the imperatives of national defense in every debate about domestic spending or regulation is really a good way to get people to take defense concerns more seriously.
Steyn's main point remains. The collapse of existing political structures in Europe will require not just a reassessment of strategic calculations--NATO and all that. It will require a very considerable psychological adjustment. A calm and reasonable future is not, after all, guaranteed by the advance of technology, by the expansion of trade, or by the softening of old ideologies in the advanced countries.
The threat is not that a new caliphate will rule the world, but that the world will revert to medieval chaos and wretchedness. The United States certainly can't expect to restore the world as it was in the 1990s, but it also can't pretend that everything will be fine if we let history take its own path. We may find unexpected allies, including some in those Muslim countries that don't want to be dominated by jihadist visions. But whatever we do, we can't assume that old allies in Europe will be there for us.
Major upheavals, new alliances, no guarantees: I used to think that the great bloodshed of the last century was as awful as this world could be; I'm not so sure any longer, alas.