Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The problem with foresight. . .

. . .is that you're frequently viewed with reverance all too late for your visions to have changed the outcome.

Hat tips: Mark Steyn, who writes brilliantly in his piece that was posted in the Opinion Journal Online yesterday; to Hugh Hewitt, who directed me to look at the aforementioned piece (and exposed me to Mary Katherine Ham, who has a "look in the mirror" moment in this post today); and to Neptunus Lex, who provided some additional food for thought.

Quick hit: Steyn fast-forwards 30 or more years into the future and takes a look at the world, particularly Europe. What he sees is not the Europe of today. It is either "very old or very Muslim"--possibly well into a movement towards Sharia law if the latter is true--and has no future as a bastion of the "liberal democracies" that grace much of that continent today. The instrument of change is nothing as dramatic or violent as terrorism (although in my opinion terrorism has already had an impact on the direction of Europe, and will likely have a not insignificant role on the political will of those countries in the future); rather, he uses simple demographics combined with the fecklessness of European "multiculturalism" as the vehicle to that bleak future.

The declining birthrates on the European continent have raised eyebrows for some time now; also of note (although I hadn't seen it in numerical form before) is the sky-high birthrates in some Muslim countries and the ever-increasing number of Muslims that are moving to Europe. Steyn takes that hard data, adds the sad realism of what "multiculturalism" has done to the virtue of nationalism and the instinct of self-preservation, and throws it into a mixing bowl with a long-term strategy that we are assured is at the heart of Al Qaeda's thinking (although their actions show a more immediate desire for effect, I think it is a given that a global caliphate at any point in the future is AQ's end goal. If that's in 5 years--great. If it's more than 5 years--that's still great for them.), and VOILA! You've got a world moving further from human-determined destiny and more towards Allahville, where things happen "because it is meant to be so".

One of several money quotes: "They (Muslims) know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default." For that to happen, two things must occur: a) Islam must continue to survive; and b) Western civilization must collapse. The numbers make a compelling case that point (a) is almost a sure-thing. Point (b) however, is not such a shoe-in. Or so you would hope. . .

Steyn's article, as I mentioned above, paints a poor picture for the future of Europe. But when you think about "Western civilization", you probably also think of these great United States. Surely we'll never "collapse" from the throne of superpower. . .right? Introduce Neptunus Lex, who prophesies a "tipping point" which will essentially see serious advocates of freedom moving to America while the rest of the European Continent is left to struggle against the Muslim soon-to-be rulers or the autocrats that are allowed to stay in power. This begs the question: if the US is forced to stand alone as a beacon of democracy against a world full of Muslim and autocratic rule, would we be able to survive?

My answer to that question is significantly less important than the fact that the question has to be raised. Look, if Europe's "democracies" are heading in the wrong direction (as Steyn argues from a demographic standpoint and many more pundits have argued from a political standpoint), and Japan is in even more of a demographic death spiral than Spain, and Hugo Chavez asserts greater influence on our hemisphere from the South, we're really a country that soon finds itself with few bedfellows. And yes, there are other major allies out there that I don't specifically highlight above--but as you tick these friends off in your mind, be sure to also count the number of countries in that region that would love to see that ally cease to exist in its current state. And while I doubt that the US would ever be successfully "invaded" by marauding bands of ill-doers, our way of life could definitely find itself in a compromising position from destructive agents acting along many lines of attack. Would we as a people have the will to fight for the survival of the American way? Even more importantly: would our actions of the last 5, 15, or 50 years put this country in a position from which we could not defend our way of life?

I want to stress that I am not using Al Qaeda or other virulent strains of Islam as an identifier for all Muslims. Our biggest threat from Islam is in the form of radical Islamofascism that puts the killing of infidels on a higher level of calling than almost any other calling (it is these same radicals who desire a worldwide Caliphate and the extinction of all non-believers). Today, that threat is not overly menacing to this country as a whole--these radicals can achieve some tactical successes, but against a resolute enemy such a threat would never find major operational wins. But over time, we have seen that as a people have risen to the crest of civilization, there has been an increase in the number of "radicals" on both ends of the political spectrum (witness today's USA). We already know the means that radical Islamic fundamentalists will employ to reach their stated goal; if their numbers increase (again, a likely conclusion if the world becomes generally more Muslim in the future), it is only logical that the threat from this menace will increase. If the potency of the threat increases while the number of targets decrease, it stands to reason that the states left standing in opposition to the goals of the violent radicals will be targeted by said radicals. This is the threat that is implied in Steyn's article, and his data points to the likelihood that this exact development is going to be reality if current demographic trends are not notably altered. It may not happen soon, but it will come.

I have a real job--you may have noticed that it keeps me from blogging on anything closely resembling a regular basis. On the side, I also take some National Security classes. One of the things I'm studying now is on military strategy and how it merges and/or mirrors the operational progress of a military action. Highlighted in my reading is the brilliance of Napoleon on a tactical and strategic level (Waterloo notwithstanding). Apparently Napoleon is known for having identified the site of a major engagement 6 WEEKS before the actual engagement. He was thus able to ensure proper positioning of his forces to capitalize on the geography of the area, he was able to ensure proper supplies for the major action ahead, and he was able to guarantee the presence of both rested troops and a sizable reserve to exploit any advantage gained during the action. In the fluid environment of a war where opposing forces are physically engaging on a daily basis in many locations and fronts, envisioning anything 6 weeks in advance is clearly a huge advantage.

Today's war finds us absent of "daily physical engagements on many fronts"--but it is no less fluid. The question is: who is properly envisioning the battlefield of the future?

I know there's a lot of "ifs" in my above writings. Of course, it took a lot of "ifs" being answered in the necessary way to guide three big planes full of passengers into national landmarks. The bad guys have proven that they can exploit the smallest of openings. . .and the openings present in Steyn's writings is not that small.

Will we be prepared when this battlefield of the future takes shape? Will we even know there's a battlefield there?


Blogger Michael said...

Oddly, I suspect that the national security team in place right now is just such a group that is thinking about "six weeks from now." The more I look in hindsight, the more it appears that Iraq was less a unique war than it is a tactical "Bunker Hill." We've succeeded in drawing a great deal of the enemy's attention, energy and resources to a strategic position of our choosing--only recently has the enemy noticed that they're depleted while they try to dislodge us from Iraq. In the meantime, we've established an island in a sea of turmoil (albeit a tectonic nightmare of an island) which may allow us to control bits and pieces of the major battlefield of World War IV.

As to Napoleon, George Will credits him with "inventing" the relief pitcher in the way he used his reserves.

2:09 AM  
Blogger John said...

I agree with you entirely. The Bush Doctrine is the ONLY way we can effect today against an outcome such as this at some point in the future. If the current democracies around the world either lack the will or the means (due to birth rate or whatever) to ensure their survival, then what the world needs now is more democracies!

Also, the continued existence of violent extremists of any ideology needs to be addressed--and Islam is no different. We need to limit the numbers of those radicals--and there's two ways to do that without attacking the ideology as a whole. One is to exterminate them (which is too heavy-handed to be a good lone-standing strategy--but if the bad guys are willing to play cat-and-mouse on far-off soil that we patrol, we'll be more than happy to take them to their maker); the other is to introduce them to different shades of the same ideology that call for less extreme action against those who champion opposing views.

So I give the Bush Doctrine two enthusiastic thumb's up here.

But what about the National Security team that might be ushered in by a changing of the guard in '08. Or '12. . .or whenever. One must see a threat in order to respond to it. . .

11:31 AM  

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