Taranto is generally entertaining and often merely partisan. Tonight he concludes with a fact that radiates. It comes amidst a time that has been compared to Tet by those of different opinions about both Tet & Iraq. Whatever optimism Iraqi elections had brought, the apparent chaos & increasing death toll seem a cold front moving in. But maybe we aren’t reading the clouds well. In his “Births of a Nation”, Taranto notes:
“In the face of relentless violence, political chaos, economic uncertainty and nightly curfews, Iraq’s maternity wards are experiencing an unlikely baby boom,” the Washington Times reports from Baghdad:
Despite the obstacles, the birthrate in Iraq actually has increased since the U.S.-led invasion 43 months ago, according to the country’s Health Ministry. The rate of births in the country has jumped from 29 births per 1,000 people in 2003 to 37 per 1,000 last year, according to government figures.
In neighboring Iran, the birthrate is half that–21 per 1,000 population, while the average birthrate in the Middle East is 25, according to the World Bank.
As the 19th-century Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore observed, “Every time a child is born, it brings with it the hope that God is not yet disappointed with man.” It seems the Man upstairs isn’t yet ready to cut and run from Iraq.
As I think many of us find the failure of Europe to both reproduce and defend itself as deeply & sadly important; perhaps the Iraqis, otoh, are building a desire to defend as well as reproduce themselves.
Ironically, both Instapundit (linking to a TCS column by Robert McHenry) and A&LDaily (linking to a Frank Furedi column in Spiked) describe another way of looking at those babies.
To begin with, then, we are to assume that the rise of mind, of consciousness, the development of language, the invention of civilization – all these and their implications – are somehow not “natural,” and that their presence on the planet for these hundred thousand years or so has amounted only to “interference.” Holmes writes as though he had in mind a peculiar theory of panspermia, in which seeds of our uniquely predatory species have drifted through interstellar space for eons, infecting first one and then another planet with their deadly spawn. Earth’s bad luck was to have been in the wrong place and the wrong time.
It’s not that we aren’t familiar with this point of view; it is, as he observes in his conclusion, that of the adolescent’s cynicism.
It is not hard to guess what kind of politics lies behind an outlook such as this. It is a little more difficult to imagine the mentality that enables it. At a guess, I would liken it to that familiar adolescent fantasy in which a young person, feeling more than ordinarily put upon or ignored, imagines his own death in order to bask in the imagined sorrow of those left behind. “That’ll show ’em.” Of course it is implicit in this little mental drama that the subject, though “dead,” somehow still be around to enjoy the aftermath. Just so I suspect that Holmes’ evident satisfaction in the scenario he paints is grounded in an assumption that he would nonetheless be vouchsafed to preen in the knowledge that he was right all along and that the rest of us, the infection, the “civilization that once thought itself the pinnacle of achievement,” had been justly punished.
13 thoughts on “Small Hopes”
James T, dear Jinny, is a gifted and clever writer who often errs because of partisanship. People in Europe and elsewhere have a falling birthrate that comes with education: they realzie the cost of raising many children and educating them. On the other hand, in Iraq, we have people staying indoors because it is so dangerous to go out! And,like the blackout in NY Ci.ty some years ago, they turn on tv or turn to each other for amusement–and lo! more kids!
Your response, dear Nate, displays a gift for petty wit, but little insight.
There was a baby boom in post-war Europe, too, not just in America, even though a lot of people still were in mortal danger ans living among ruins. There also is no comparison between today’s Europe and Iraq.
I also don’t agree that Europeans don’t want to defend themselves, while Iraqis have a desire to do so. The threat to us here in Europe is rather vague – a lot of Europeans feel threatened by Islam and militant Muslims, but nobody thinks that attacking Muslim immigrants indiscriminately would make us any safer; if people thought so, quite a lot of Muslim houses would have been firebombed by now. The same goes for attacking Islamic countries – what’s the use? If we killed a lot of them, the people would reproduce faster to make up for the losses, and they’d be liable to carry a grudge.
Iraqis also aren’t so much defending themselves as going for each other’s throats.
So what can we do? We are fighting terrorism mostly using law enforcement, we can hardly sterilize Muslim women to defuse the allged ‘demographic bomb’ etc, etc. So we do what we always did: We subvert, corrupt, contaminate and so on, and so on, anybody who could be a threat. Their leaders may think they are winning, but we ahev give the Islamic world a bad case of the cultural STDs. Trade will finish them off ( remmeber the opium wars? :)
“So what can we do?”
If that’s really your belief then this seems like a strong case for cutting off all immigration by Muslims. Weak assimilation should be accompanied by no new influx.
The dwindling pro-occupation camp is truly grasping at straws with these facts about the Iraqi birthrate. First, the birthrate in 2002 or 2001 is not given–a trend based on two time points is misleading or at best inconclusive. Second, our Shock and Awe bombing in 2003 left hospitals in ruins, without lights and without water, children were born at home, and I doubt that vital statistics were kept carefully.
If you want statistics here are some:
1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country since the war started. 300,000 are displaced internally from sectarian violence. At least 65,000, and probably many more, have been killed. The great majority of Iraqis in every poll say they want us to leave.
And yet the warmongers safe here at home continue to try to pretend that the situation in Iraq is improving.
You keep mentioning warmongers. Do other countries have warmongers too, or is it just us?
Birth rates are always higher in lesser developed countries. That shouldn’t be surprising. The sharp increase in the last few years is interesting though.
Taranto is unreadable for even the rabid partisan. Absolutely the worst feature of a WSJ subscription.
I always thought the worst part of a WSJ subscription was the A-section political news, which is written by conventional j-school-type journalists with conventional liberal biases. Isn’t Taranto editor of the nonsubscription OpinionJournal.com?
Yes. I get a daily e-mail & I’m too cheap to pay for anything. Sure he’s overly partisan, but that’s okay, it seems to me, in a column that is more humor than news. For instance, while the style people on most papers are irritating, we hardly have to read them & they are, after all, just opinion writers. Jonathan is complaining about the opinion of non-opinion writers. That is more of a problem.
What’s wrong with being a partisan when you are an opinion writer? I think J.T’s funny….although I do cringe with all the Kennedy-Kopechne stuff. I don’t actually care for that recurring joke; enough, please. Anyway,
1. Saddam is removed and a sentence soon to be delivered.
2. A constitution is written.
3. Elections have been held.
4. A government is in place, albeit a messy and weak one, dependent on the US for security.
5. And now, sectarian violence/low grade civil war/more than low grade civil war/some level of jihadi activity?
So, where are we? I don’t know. I suppose, there are some things we can’t do for the Iraqis. I do find facts like increasing birth rate interesting, although I don’t know what that means either.
Oh, and educating women is troublesome, regarding birth-rates, although I do find it interesting that my teaching hospital seems just filled with pregnant female physicians…especially the younger ones. Although I have no children, I (and really, I shouldn’t have been giving advice to this poor young thing, but I think she wanted it) told one of my residents she should go ahead and have another baby if she wants one because it doesn’t get any easier: all this being a doctor stuff. So, forget having a perfect life with an absolutely perfect time to have the perfect baby. It doesn’t work that way….oh, I’m rambling, I know. Wasn’t there an article Instapundit linked recently about birth rates in France being healthy among non-immigrants because of family policies?
*More rambling: the most interesting Indian-American family I knew among my diasporan acquaintances was a group of doctors (shocking for Indians, eh?) that consisted of two brothers who were doctors. One married a doctor, who worked and the other married a woman who stayed home and took care of both sets of children while the other three ran a clinic together in a small town. Unusual, even for the limited joint families I knew growing up….
“As I think many of us find the failure of Europe to both reproduce and defend itself as deeply & sadly important . . .”
Demographic realities and the West’s lack of will to survive are two of the major themes in Mark Steyn’s best-seller, “America Alone.”
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