”America Alone” by Mark Steyn. Some comments thereupon.

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Mark Steyn is a Canadian commentator and broadcaster. Steyn lives in the United States where he sometimes fills in for shock jock Rush Limbaugh. 

In this book Steyn writes about how the Occident is literally dying – with too few children being born. Not to put too fine a point on it he says that worse than this – it is whites who are having too few children and Muslims are having too many. Of course whites can be Muslim but this seems lost on him. He does not actually say white but that is surely what he is driving at. 

That Steyn is against Islam is certain. Is he against Muslims? We might give him the benefif of the doubt here. He has nothing good to say about Muslims and says many bad things about them. In fairness some of his observations are valid. He points out that most terrorists are Muslims but at least he acknowledges that most Muslims are not involved in this crime. He notes that Muslim countries are mostly unfree as defined by Freedom House. 

He makes some claims that are harder to swallow – that Muslim countries lack curiosity, that they do not invent things. It is true that Muslim lands are not at the forefront of technological innovation now but Steyn suffers from a short historical memory. Look back a few centuries and the Muslim world was ahead in technology, in science and human rights.

 

Steyn was an ardent supporter of the War in Iraq and ISAF in Afghanistan. He says this was liberation and I agree. But the case for liberation is made harder by Steyn and his acolytes openly despising Islam and maybe despising Muslims. 

He uses the word Palestine in inverted commas – as though it does not exist. He seems not  to recognise that a non-Muslim has ever mistreated a Muslim.

Al Qa’eda, the Taleban and Al Shabab are all vile organisations. Their worldview is repulsive and they must be defeated. In order to do so we need to face up tp the fact that these organisations derive some of their support because of grave injustices. Many Muslims of moderate opinion are irate because of the Palestine situation, because of what Putin did in Chechnya and because of Jammu and Kashmir being part of India and the conduct of some Indian soldiers being less than exemplary to put it mildly. If these issues were satisfactorily resolved then Al Qa’eda and its imitators would not disappear but their support would be reduced substantially. Like most problems the scourge of terrorism cannot be solved totally but it can be lessened in scale. We can make this a more manageable problem by addressing some of the underlying causes. The hardcore supporters of such repulsive organisations will still be there but the less committed ones can be made ambivalent. Those who have mixed feelings about Al Qa’eda can be made to be against it and those who are already anti Al Qa’eda can be made to be more passionately do if we tackle some of these global problems.

Much of Steyn’s thesis is self contradictory. He seems to think that a high fertility rate is good news and sure evidence that economic growth will result. But the countries he cites with very low fertility rates have the best economic growth most of the time – whether they are developed economies or not. Look at Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Germany. The countries with the highest fertility rates have very poor economic growth such as Niger, Mali and Chad. His claims make no sense at all. 

He seems to argue for a fortress America. Does he want a war against most of the world?

Some people think that the US should become more like Canada. He thinks that Canada ought to emulate the USA. 

He criticises the Scandinavian model. He says the social democratic state is too expensive and unsustainable. Here he is on firmer ground. He notes that a very generous welfare state is only possible because European countries spend so little on defence. They expect Uncle Sam to come to their rescue as oft times before – and then insult Uncle Sam for being mighty. He is right of course that European countries ought to beef up their defences and that the United States comes in for a lot of unfair flak from people who ought to be grateful to her. 

Steyn castigates Europe as Eurabia. He is too negative and it is difficult not to suspect him of Islamophobia. He thinks that Islam is pure evil and it must befall that he believes that anyone who subscribes to their faith must also be wicked. He predicts a Eurabian civil war and this is not on the cards. 

There is a group of European Muslims who are fundamentalists but many are more moderate. As the Iraq conflict is over and the Afghanistan conflict simmers down we will see that radicalism among Europe’s Muslims will calm down. Steyn is a forthright advocate of sweeping security measures – more or less abolishing civil liberties. Yet he slams European countries for having public healthcare etc…. because this takes away freedom. There is a case to be made here but he ignores the consequences of America’s privatised system. Sure, there are flaws with taxpayer funded healthcare and there will always be horror stories but it is a lot better than no care at all for 40 000 000 poor Americans. These people only get care in emergency rooms by which time their conditions are life threatening and more expensive to treat – if treatment is even possible. For the richest nation on earth this is a disgrace. IN Sri Lanka even in the midst of a brutal civil war that poor country could afford to provide free healthcare to everyone.

I think in some ways the US should become more European. I am not saying that a country should copy the majority for the sake of it but just to look around and see what works. Other lands learn from the United States and so too the United States should be willing to learn from other countries. Some Americans suffer from the conceit of being top nation – becoming unwilling to acknowledge that they can benefit from the positive example of others. When the US was young she was willing to learn from other countries. She should rediscover this trait. 

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About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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