Arts & Letters links to Bruce Bawer’s “Crisis in Europe” in the Hudson Review. He begins with the autobiographical: “My learning curve was steep. When I look back, it’s as if one day the whole business wasn’t even on my radar screen, and the next day I understood that it was the most important issue of our time.” This is because he came to Amsterdam in 1997 but it took two years to realize the dramatic split between the “two radically different and almost entirely separate communities. One of them, composed mostly of ethnic Dutchmen, was secular, liberal, and (owing to a very low birthrate) dwindling steadily; the other, composed of immigrant Muslims, lived in tradition-bound, self-segregating enclaves whose autocratic leaders despised democracy and whose population (thanks to high birth and immigration rates) was climbing rapidly.” And so he comes to see this division throughout Europe.
This is essentially a bibliographic essay that may be of interest to some of our readers. I’m still back there, slogging away through the first of the suggested books on our Civil War. (And have papers to grade.) Besides, this isn’t something I know much about. So, there isn’t much value added. For those interested, follow the link above; if you want it briefly, a summary follows; and if you want to explore, he includes healthy footnotes.
We always relish discussion here.
Update April 29: An interesting discussion of Bawer.
The books discussed in the first section
gave voice to the concerns of many ordinary Europeans and broke through the wall of silence erected by Europe’s political, media, and academic elite around questions of immigration and integration. Taken together, they painted a grim picture of immigrant neighborhoods that were growing more and more insulated from their surroundings; of young European-born men who were being drawn increasingly to Islamic fundamentalism and even terrorism; and of a mainstream European society too inhibited by political correctness to face up to any of it.
The second section discusses books that analyze the role of Islam in shaping these cultures. Not surprisingly, Bernard Lewis is discussed as is Robert Spencer. He devotes more space, however, to Ibn Warraq, whose Why I Am Not a Muslim describes his move from the beliefs in which he was raised to come to treasure John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek. The book was written in response to the fatwa in 1989 on Salman Rushdie. Bawer compares him to David Horowitz, whose Radical Son describes a similar turn.
The third section is devoted to Bat Ye’or Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. Aware that the book’s theory appears to be a bit, well, paranoid, he contends that its proof is substantial. She contends, he tells us, that
the high immigration and low integration levels are the result not of European leaders’ well-intentioned naïveté but of an extensive pattern of political, economic, and academic collaboration between the left-wing European establishment and Arab governments that has been underway for decades. The long-term goal of this collaboration is to bring the two sides of the Mediterranean together into a single confederated entity. Ye’or calls it Eurabia.
He couples her “unified theory” with the more particular one of Kenneth Timmerman: “as Ye’or recounts decades of behind-the-scenes Euro-Arab collaboration through dialogue, Kenneth R. Timmerman, in The French Betrayal of America, recounts decades of secret French-Iraqi collaboration through arms deals, kickbacks, and payoffs.”
But Bawer exercises his wit in the final section, which eviscerates his last target:
To turn from all these books, which illuminate the challenges now facing Europe in a variety of ways, to Timothy Garton Ash’s Free World is to step through the looking glass from reality into fantasy. Most of the writers I’ve discussed here are scorned by the academic establishment for their politically incorrect views; Garton Ash, by contrast, is . . . at the heart of the European academic elite—and his book’s main value, it turns out, is that it is an absolutely perfect example of today’s European-elite mentality in all its arrogance, self-delusion, and folly.
Not surprisingly, this is a book that has high hopes for the EU, assuming it would be run by the big 3 and of course could intrusively & thoroughly solve all the problems of Europe – and, indeed, of Eurabia. Bawer tells us “What Garton Ash fails to see is that the ‘distinctively European forms of stupidity’—as exemplified by Brecht himself—amount to an attraction to tyrants and a failure to appreciate and defend liberty.” Indeed, Garton Ash muses that “even if it were possible for the United Nations to be composed entirely of crypto-Americas [i.e., democracies], this would be deeply undesirable, on grounds of, so to speak, the biodiversity of world politics—not to mention sheer boredom.” Bawer tartly notes,
This may well be the most offensive sentence in the book: better, apparently, to have millions living under autocrats’ heels than under democracy, because it makes the UN more interesting for the likes of Timothy Garton Ash. (This is not the only place in the book at which Ash sounds like a farcically self-absorbed star academic out of a David Lodge novel.)
We are not surprised at another sneer: “the recipe for human happiness is mysterious and cannot be purchased at Wal-Mart.” Bawer counters, noting the two assumptions such arguments are so lazily constructed on. While it may sound profound to argue that the spiritual is more imortant than the material (though coming from such secularized and materialist philosophers this is a bit much), it is offensive. First, the argument loses in the material world: “you can certainly get more happiness at Wal-Mart than you could’ve gotten at a food market in Soviet-era Moscow. One could argue, by the same token, that human happiness can’t be engineered by social-democratic nanny states.” Given that Garton Ash, in typical secular European fashion, moves between the “freedom” of material goods and “freedom” as we tend to use it in America, the unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious – that the poor live better here – is irritating. But, then there is the other level. As Bawer notes our state’s value to us is not, indeed, material: “while the U.S. doesn’t pretend to supply happiness (the founding American idea is that the state stays out of your business, giving you space to find your own happiness), the premise of European social democracy is that government, if it’s intrusive enough, can come up with a recipe that optimizes the happiness of its citizenry.” Indeed, this was part of why our founders encouraged religion – either they were strong believers themselves or they pragmatically believed that the state could not encourage real virtue – that came from ethics often best inculcated through religion.
Bawer contrasts “the thousands of American soldiers in those countries have put their lives on the line precisely because they are determined to bring freedom to the unfree” with the complaints of Garton Ash ” isn’t talking about this; he’s talking about important stuff, like going to high-level conferences and participating in dialogue.” When Garton Ash writes that “to see your daughter raped in front of your eyes by a militia gang is as soul-rending for a Muslim mother as for a Jewish mother.” Bawer responds: “Perhaps—but it wouldn’t occur to a Jewish parent that the girl should then be murdered for having dishonored the family. (Such honor killings, though now routine in Europe, aren’t a part of Garton Ash’s reality.)”
We come to see why he has prepared us for Garton Ash with his discussion by Bat Ye’or. He seems to embody the complex of beliefs she associates with the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD), with its closed meetings & unpublished proceedings. Perhaps it really does have a far reach. (Or maybe not – maybe this is just a certain hot house vision, a mixture of Romanticism’s worship of the strong man, a nostalgia for empire, a fevered fear of modernism, a suspicion of America.) For whatever reasons, Bawer quotes Garton Ash’s ideal: “Europe in 2025 at its possible best;” this best is “a ‘partnership’ with Arab countries and Russia that would extend ‘from Marrakesh, via Cairo, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Tbilisi, all the way to Vladivostok.’ He gushes: ‘That would not be nothing.’” “Nope,” Bawer retorts, “it would be Eurabia.”