I am always looking for arguments from leftists (or anyone) that shows us we aren’t heading toward an Islamofascist future. This essay (by one Bryan Caplan) argues that no, the West is not fragile (so there is no reason to believe we are headed toward a bleak, Islamist future). Since none of the ways in which we are fragile is acknowledged, I am not especially convinced.
The author’s arguments are the following:
1. Every culture preserves itself in the same way, by conformity and the status quo. It is ridiculous to assume that a course in Western civilization is all that stands between us and barbarism.
2. When given a choice people choose Western civilization over others.
3. Western civilization is taking over the globe.
4. Tyrants elsewhere have to oppress people mightily in order to prevent them from becoming Westernized.
This is reminiscent of Martha Nussbaum’s insistence that women in Europe were free to wear anything they liked, a statement that exhibited complete ignorance of what was actually happening in Muslim areas of Europe. (See here.) And these arguments completely ignore what is happening in many places. Let me take each point in turn:
1´. The trouble is that the West is the land where people are allowed to be critical of the West, and the West is filled with people who attack the West relentlessly. Unfortunately, these are people at the top who control our media and schools. Yes, it is ridiculous to assume that one course in Western civilization is all that stands between us and barbarism, but then students today have been taught to hate the West from day one. There are young people who think that America invented slavery, that Muslims were never imperialists, and all sorts of other ridiculous anti-Western beliefs that mean just one thing: they have no will to defend the West against anyone who wants to destroy it.
2´. This just isn’t true. A surprisingly large number of young people chose to run off and join ISIS, while the number who ran off to help their victims could be counted on one hand. It’s true that the number of ISIS-bound people was small in absolute terms, but it was much larger than I expected. More important is that there are many young Muslims here in the West who have no use for Western culture. Instead of becoming more Western than their parents, they are becoming less so.
3´. This just isn’t true, either. In the Muslim world, the Islamists are taking over, while Western influence is being attacked and is fading. It is hard to believe that anyone could miss this, but apparently the author and many of the commentors have. It happened first in Iran, but soon spread elsewhere, if not so completely, at least heading in that direction. Everyone by now ought to know about the progression of photos showing women at a university in Cairo down through the decades and how few covered their heads in the 1960s, while nearly everyone does so now. And with the recent coup in Turkey, everyone ought to know that it is heading down the path to greater Islamification, which entails a fading Western influence.
And since so many elites in the West want to allow millions of Muslims to migrate here, the impulse to shun Western influence and make accommodations to a very conservative Islamic culture is being felt here, too. So, talk of the West’s strength is cherry-picking: it just ignores the venues where it is getting weaker.
4´. The theocratic tyranny in Iran has existed for nearly forty years and shows no signs of dying. It doesn’t help that idiots here in the West like our current president feel a need to help it, but even if we were its enemy, it is doubtful that anything other than a bloody invasion would do anything to overthrow it.
I’m not convinced that the West is strong and taking over the world. It was strong when I was young, but it is now weak, and it is weak because its elites feel guilty about attacking the West’s enemies. Notice that no such qualms exist among China’s elites, who simply go after any Islamic terrorists without mercy, helped along by the fact that all the Han Chinese support them (the elites, that is). The result? China has almost no terrorist attacks, while we have plenty. Terrorists, since they are basically fighting without an army, must attack where there is weakness, not where there is strength. And it is in the West where they find wodges of weakness.