Mark Steyn on America Alone
HH: And a special hour of the Hugh Hewitt Show today, on the 19th day of October, 2006, with Mark Steyn, columnist to the world. We’re going to spend an hour, because the more we talk about the central themes of Mark’s new book, America Alone, the more likely you are to understand the importance of voting, perhaps even to buy the book and send it to someone who’s on the fence. Mark Steyn, good to talk to you.
MS: Good to talk with you, Hugh.
HH: How is the book doing, by the way?
MS: Well, an hour ago, I happened to be alerted to the fact that it was number two in Canada, which is amazing, because you can’t get it in any bookstores there. The monopoly bookstore chain only ordered three copies, because they couldn’t figure out who was interested in it. And I showed this to my little girl, who was staggered to discover that at number three was the final book in the Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events series, and she was shocked and appalled to see that Daddy’s appalling, boring, grown-up book was outselling Lemony Snickets. So I’ve seen off that loser Snickets, and he’s finished, and he’s through. He’s over.
HH: (laughing) Now you only have to get Woodward out of the way. That’s what I’m hoping for, is when you pass by Woodward.
MS: I know. Again, that’s the thing. You know these so-called independent bookstores that they have…
MS: And wherever they are…I got an e-mail from a reader in Vermont who went into a bookstore in, I think it was Montpelier, Vermont, and asked if they had the book, and they said no. And the guy recommended the Woodward book instead. And my reader said I don’t think you really understand what I’m looking for.
HH: Well, that’s a little bit of bookstore malpractice, is what that is. I notice you’re number 11 on Amazon.com, American edition, so congrats on that. It’s selling healthily, and I think it’s…I saw today where the former head of the Republican Party said that when Republicans are talking about the issues, they win elections. When they talk about process, they lose elections. America Alone is about the number one issue out there. And although you call it doom-mongering, it’s really sort of very sober, but witty analysis. Doom-mongering, yes, but necessary doom-mongering.
MS: Yes, I think it’s about…it’s not just about the big issue out there, but I think it’s also about how the big issue connects with the small issues, because I understand that if you’re someone who’s not earning a particularly huge salary, and you’re living in a part of the United States where there aren’t a lot of great jobs, and health care is pretty expensive, and you’ve got a lot of problems, and you’ve been finding the $3 dollar a gallon gas hard to come by, and all the rest of it, that it’s easy to say that a bunch of mullahs, or Kim Jong Il isn’t relevant to the problems that you’re confronting in your life. And what I try to do in the book is actually to make the case that America, compared…America’s domestic situation, compared to almost anywhere else in the world, is enviable. And so it staggers me that Democrats think they can run on the economy. You know, unemployment is 4% in the United States. 4%. It’s permanently double that in the European Union. And in France, they get all excited if it occasionally dips under double figures for three or four weeks at a time. They live with permanent high unemployment. You may get annoyed…you know, gas is down to, I don’t know what it is now, $2.40, $2.30 a gallon, and people were annoyed when it was $3 a gallon. It’s $5.80 in Germany. It’s just gone down to $6.30 a gallon in the United Kingdom. You know, compared to almost anywhere else on the planet, the U.S. has a robust economy. And so when the Democrats say that this country needs to become more like Europe, that has enfeebled Europe to the point where it can no longer resist the threat of Islamism, and in fact, the annexation of that continent by Islam. The two…the little issues that affect everybody’s daily life, and the big issue, are intimately connected.
HH: Now I want to go to the biggest issue of all. It’s demographics, and it’s fertility. And I would refer people…you don’t have your copy out, I do, to page 54, the marriage rate and the fertility rate in the United States, Denmark, Netherlands, UK, France, Germany, Italy. Mark Steyn, this is the heart of the book. It is a dire, dire future for Europe.
MS: Yes, it is. And it’s an interesting…it really is an interesting point to me, because people occasionally say oh, well, you’re just making predictions. You’re just making predictions. No, I’m not. I’m actually dealing with the reality of now. In other words, if there’s only a million Italians born in the year 2006, you can’t have two million Italian 20 year olds in 2026. The most reliable twenty year indicator is the demographic one, because you know exactly who the adults are going to be in 20 years time. They’re the people who are the children now. And Europeans simply are not having children. They’re not having children. And what happens, I think, when you get to a particularly advanced kind of welfare democracy, in which every aspect of life is guaranteed for you by the state, socialized health care, cradle to grave welfare, is that life becomes like a sort of endless, Summer school vacation. And you live in a kind of permanent present tense, in which you’re sort of severed from all the kind of primal impulses of society, including the most basic one, which is having children, and thereby ensuring the future. Because you know, the public pensions liabilities…we talk about social security going bankrupt here…in Greece, the public pensions liabilities by the year 2015 are going to be 28% of GDP. Well, that’s total societal collapse, not a mild accounting problem.
HH: Not only that, you talk about the age dependency ratio, in paces like Canada and the United States, forget Islam for a second, and militant Islam, and all the other things. No one’s going to be here to take care of us, Mark Steyn.
MS: No, that’s right. That’s right. And I think that is the…I think that’s what’s interesting when you read some of the developments in Japan that I address, because Japan hasn’t got any immigrants, Muslim or Hispanic or anything. The Japanese don’t really like immigrants. They just want to be Japanese surrounded by Japanese. And yet, they have also given up breeding. And you notice this Southern frenzy now to develop…first, they’ve developed…there’s no market for dolls in Japan, so the toy manufacturers have gone out of business, because there are no little girls who want to buy dollies and dress them up and play with dolls anymore. So they developed dolls for adults. They basically developed dolls that can make simple human conversation, to keep the old people company, and in effect, be the grandchildren that they don’t have.
MS: And in a way, this is an incredibly poignant scenario. And obviously, the next stage is they’re going to try and make more sophisticated models of these things, who can turn down the beds, and put a pot of tea on at the old folks home, because there aren’t going to be any…there aren’t going to be any people to staff the old folks home.
HH: Or they will come from the third world, and primarily from Muslim countries.
MS: Well, again, that’s true. I think the interesting question is, eventually, the birth rate will fall all over the planet. So if you’re like a successful entrepreneurial go-ahead guy from Chile or Singapore, why would you say go to a place like Europe, where you’re going to be working around the clock, and paying 60% tax rates, to support basically a geriatric native population? You’d be much better off, I mean, I would imagine that if you are that talented Chilean, or Singapore guy, you can write your ticket almost anywhere on the planet, and you’ll want to come to somewhere where there are more people your own age, which would be the United States or Australia…
MS: And where your economic opportunities aren’t crushed by the tax burden of having to support this vastly swollen geriatric population of Jacques and Pierres and Gerhardts, and so forth, who expect to be kept in luxury for the rest of their lives.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, as I was reading again America Alone, I read it when it was in galleys, and it’s sort of depressing, actually, though it’s very amusing. I had just begun listening to Jered Diamond’s…the collapse of civilization book, and it’s…the contrast strikes me. He writes about the Montana economy, and the threat from tailings from mines long closed. And it’s just…it’s silly. The collapse we’re staring at is a real deal that is demographically driven, and ideologically powered. And it’s not on the front brain of most of the left.
MS: No, I think that Jered Diamond book is…if this guy’s as clever as he’s made out to be, then that book has to be a brilliant satire, and it will be hailed as such in centuries to come, because he’s basically looking at why societies collapse, and he picks some very curious examples as well, you know, Easter Island, which isn’t what one has historically regarded as a major civililzation.
MS: But he picks these…
MS: I mean, the idea that if not for a quirk of history, Easter Island would now be on the G-8, and have a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, is a little hard to swallow. I don’t think Easter Island’s odds of being a major world power were ever very good to begin with. But he talks about, he basically picks societies, and the whole thing is this environmental…you know, deforestation is what causes everything to collapse.
MS: And it’s completely ridiculous. In fact, the one example where you could say deforestation played a role, which is in the Arabian desert, I think is the one he steers well clear of, because I think the fact of the matter is that you could make a strained argument that deforestation is a very deep root cause of jihad if you wanted to. But the reality is that it’s not about trees. I say in the book, it’s not the tree, it’s the family tree. Russia is as forested as you can get, and it’s a dying nation, because it’s running out of people.
HH: A deeply diseased and dying nation.
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HH: Mark, your colleague at National Review today, and a guest on this program, Jonah Goldberg, wrote a column saying the Iraq war was a mistake. And I shake my head, both at the profound wrongness of that, but also its timing. And it seems to me, as we come up to this election, so much is in the balance, that it’s almost hard to overstate how badly things could go with a Democratic majority.
MS: Yes, and I think it’s simply a mistake to argue about whether a war is a mistake. Once you’re in it, I think the best thing to do is to win it. And obviously, it’s not easy. Nobody said wars are easy. And that’s why I think in fairness to Jonah, who is a very agreeable person, and I’m sorry to see him join the great flock of molting hawks, because I think it’s grossly irresponsible to argue the case for a war, and then three years later, to decide oh no, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. I’m sorry, it’s…right now, what is at issue for everybody but the Iraqi people, is American credibility. And by that, I mean I think I said in the book somewhere that if you happen to be living in Fallujah, or you happen to be living in Tikrit, or you happen to be living in Basra, the Iraq war is about the Iraqis. But if you are living in any other country in the world, the interest in the Iraq war is in the credibility of the United States, and its ability to be a credible superpower in the 21st Century. And we know what happened in Vietnam. Vietnam had incredible long-term consequences, in part because people drew the conclusion that the United States was just this sort of effete sissy, pampered, corpulent, lazy kind of late-period Ottoman sultan, puffed up on his cushions. And if you gave the guy a little tiny pin prick in his toe, he’d just squeal in pain, and you wouldn’t have to bother defeating him, that in other words, the United States is not a credible superpower. And that’s where I think Jonah’s making a mistake in going through this all over again.
HH: The heart of the book, to me, America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It, and again, it’s linked at Hughhewitt.com, is this excerpt:
“So we have a global terrorist movement, insulated within a global political project, insulated within a severely self-segregating religion, whose adherents are the fastest growing demographic in the world. The jihad, thus, has a very potent brand inside a highly-compartmentalized, and very decentralized network, much, much more efficient than anything the CIA can muster.”
That’s profoundly pessimistic, though I believe accurate, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yes, it is. I mean, I think if you look at the trouble the KGB had to go to, to plant sleepers in the United States, they had to establish fake identities for these people. They had to leave them there for decades, so that they could…to establish the credibility of these identities. They had to go through an awful lot of trouble, the clichés of the spy thriller genre, the dead drops in the park, and all the rest of it. And you don’t have to do anything with this, because these mosques, these radical mosques, are on Main Street. They’re on Main Street in every town in the United States, and in Canada, and throughout Europe. That is a huge advantage to any ideological project. Can you imagine what things would be like if Hitler had had high schools all over the North American continent, if there’d been a Hirohito High in Portland, Oregon, the way there are radical mosques there, and indeed, even jihad training camps there.
HH: Now let me ask you, do you think a lot of the complacency in the West comes from a not so well concealed racist view that these Muslims simply can’t compete with us?
MS: Yes, I think it’s hard…I think it’s hard for people to take them seriously as an enemy, because after all, we’ve got guys living in caves. I mean, Osama bin Laden, who is the face of this enemy, lives in a cave in some part of the Afghan/Pakistani border, supposedly. And that’s hard for anybody to take seriously as an enemy, because we’ve got better planes, better bombs, better guns. You know, Bill Clinton was basically doing terrorist shtick in his speech the other night…
MS: …mocking the way…oh, the Republicans, they’re trying to scare you, they’re trying to tell you there’s a terrorist on every corner who’s trying to kill you. In other words, there is no enemy. There’s nothing to worry about. But the Muslims look at us, and they think you know, those tanks, those bombs, those guns, all that money, all that technology, it’s no advantage. In a long struggle, put your money on will and manpower.
HH: And they’ve got both of those.
MS: Exactly. They’ve got…they’re churning out millions of young men. And if you know, I mean, everybody knows this, that says statistically, and even in the most law-abiding community, it’s the…even if there’s someone stealing beer and cigarettes from the convenience store, and that’s the only crime there is, it’s generally committed by young men in their teens and twenties.
MS: And so that’s what Islam has millions and millions of, young men in their teens and twenties. They’ve got millions of them in Yemen, they’ve got millions of them in Pakistan, and they’ve got millions of them in Europe.
HH: And they don’t have cars, they have AK-47’s.
HH: Let me ask you, Mark Steyn, you suggest here that Benedict may well…I don’t know if you were joking with us or not, may well have picked his name, anticipating what he foresaw for Europe. Do you really think that was on his mind?
MS: I do think so.
HH: Explain then what could be the motivation behind Benedict’s choice of name.
MS: Well, you know, he named himself after the original Benedict, who was the man who basically saved dying civilization, and preserved the best of it, through the Dark Ages in Europe. He saved the best of Greek and Roman civilization, effectively fused it with Christianity, and laid the foundations for the modern age, the modern world we live in, which is the continued inheritance of our Judeo-Christian tradition, connected back through the Roman Empire, and to the Greeks. In other words, a seamless chain of civilization running back thousands of years. And the reason that he did…that we have that, is because one very brave man, as I said, the original Benedict, helped preserve the best of Greek and Roman civilization when it might have been lost to posterity. So in a sense, we owe the modern world to that man’s foresight and understanding. And I think Pope Benedict did not choose this name by accident.
HH: And do you think this Benedict is undertaking the project that…and moving with the speed he needs to?
MS: Well, I think he has thought about this, and I think he realizes that the challenge…if the challenge for his predecessor was bringing freedom to Eastern Europe, then the challenge for Pope Benedict is really to see if you can rouse Western Europe. And if you can’t rouse Western Europe, then what you have to do is try and find some alternative nesting place for Christianity, until whoever gets real again in Western Europe, decides that they’re ready again to embrace their own inheritance, and their own culture.
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HH: Mark, I was perusing your reviews at Amazon.com during the break, and my favorite one was laughing our way into the dust bin of history. And unfortunately, it’s true. It is…obviously, it’s marked by your sense of humor, but it’s so gloomy. You do, however, say at the end, say look, we can submit to Islam, destroy Islam, or reform Islam. We’re not going to do one or two, and the reform is not up to us. But you do have ten specific ideas. I like number ten, myself, strike militarily when the opportunity presents itself. Has that opportunity presented itself, vis-a-vis Iran. I don’t know if you saw Ahmadinejad’s latest.
MS: Yes, I did, and I think…the reason I say that is because obviously, the United States and a handful of serious allies, have the best militaries in the world. The trouble is, they don’t have the opportunity to use them terribly often. And when they do use them, and this is, I guess, what Jonah has in mind in Iraq, that they often wind up using them for things that they’re perhaps not intended for, such as in the case of the U.S. military in Iraq for perhaps longer than Jonah wished for, a little bit of colonial policing, that is not really what the U.S. military’s purpose is. So you have to think to yourself, well, what can they do, and what can they do well? They’re very good at actually just going in removing people who are trouble, and ending that trouble. And even if what then comes after is, as the nay-sayers would see it, a different form of trouble. That, in itself, is better than just letting a dictatorship establish itself, grow more permanent, develop nuclear weapons programs, become a bigger and bigger threat. And I think, for example, Darfur in Sudan is a classic case in which it would have been easy to do some bombing raids on the Janjaweed, and just make these guys realize that if they carry on, macheteing people to death, and raping villages, that they’re going to get bombs dropped on their encampment and killed. And I think the tragedy is that America’s enemies have figured out that it has this fantastic military, but it’s like a beautiful car. You don’t take it out of the garage very often.
HH: And the molting hawks are adding to this. I analogize Jonah’s call today to the argument that after Pearl Harbor, and after Hitler had declared war on us, that we would ignore him, that we wouldn’t respond to him, because he actually hadn’t hit us yet, and as a result, ignore Britain’s pleas to form the grand alliance. Mark Steyn, Ahmadinejad, for the benefit of our audience, said today that Israel is a counterfeit and illegitimate regime that cannot survive, and that the Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate, and cannot survive. The big powers that have created this fraud regime and allowed it to commit all kind of crimes to guarantee their interest…by the way, he said this on state television in a live broadcast. There is no…we can’t miss the significance of this, can we, Mark?
MS: Well, I think we can, in fact. I think if you read the elaborate and almost absurd contortions that people go to in the Western press to explain why this man does not mean what he says, I think that is…I think that is a very dangerous path to go down, not even necessarily just in terms of Iran, because everybody else who’s sitting around, and they’re saying well look at this, look at this. This guy is going on TV, and he’s announcing to the world that he is in favor of the nuclear annihilation of a neighboring state, and nobody does anything about it. He got on a big plane to New York, he came to New York, he stayed in New York, and he gave a big speech in New York, a man who threatens the nuclear annihilation of millions of people. He was treated as just any other head of state.
MS: And I think a lot of…there’s roughly twenty or thirty countries who would like to be in the situation that Iran and North Korea are in. In other words, they’re failed states that are nuclear states. This guy, Ahmadinejad, he was sitting next to the president of Sudan, he’s saying well, when we’re a nuclear power, obviously what we’re going to do is give it to our pals like this guy here, and he indicated the president of Sudan. Now does anyone want the Sudanese regime, that loves slaughtering millions of its own people, to also have the opportunity to slaughter millions of other people, too?
HH: Yeah, that is the question.
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HH: Mark, how important are these elections?
MS: Well, I think they’re critical, because I think to effectively repudiate the Bush administration, which is how it would be seen domestically, would be seen around the world as in fact a repudiation of the broader American will, and broader American determination. So I think that would be serious, not because there aren’t legitimate differences about the war, and about fighting this enemy, and long term strategy, but because you’d be electing a party that simply has no useful contribution to this. I don’t think it’s possible to take Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the Democratic Party of these two people, and Howard Dean seriously on this issue. They have not engaged seriously with it. And as I said on the domestic front, they’re wedded to the solutions that have in fact turned Europeans into a weak continent that’s sort of mortgaging its future to deeply hostile forces every passing month.
HH: Mark, we’re at the end of our time together. It flies by. I just want to once again tell America, America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It, by my friend and colleague, Mark Steyn, is in bookstores. It’s at Amazon.com. You can get an autographed copy if you want at www.steynonline.com. And you might be able to read his signature.
MS: It’s gotten worse since last week, when you were complaining about it.
HH: I don’t know that that’s possible.
MS: My arms are bleeding stumps now.
HH: But it is indeed a get out the vote effort beyond…without parallel. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. We’ll talk to you again soon.
MS: Thanks a lot, Hugh. See you next week.
End of interview.