Beginning with the prologue, and beginning here: "To Be or Not To Be."
Steyn acknowledges the resemblance of his thesis to the many end-of-the-world theses that have been promulgated since, well, the beginning of the world (as he says) - but perhaps I should start with that thesis: that Islamists pose the greatest-ever threat to (in his apt formulation) the community of liberal pluralist democracies, and that demographics alone gives them a significant advantage over the nations that belong to that fraternity. Muslim-majority nations have, across the board, way way higher birth rates than we LPDs (because I wouldn't be a military brat without occasionally introducing a new acronym) have, and most of us, save - wait for it - America alone, are not even close to replacement level. Therefore we'll simply be outpopulated, and the Islamists and their indifferent Muslim counterparts will achieve the Islamist aim of widespread, even global, caliphate without firing a shot. Or many, at any rate.
It's terribly hard to resist launching into a whole lot more on this piece of the topic right now, but I'll try to stick to the prologue, the point of which is the ever-popular "We stand at a crossroads." We do, and I (and many others) have been talking about it since 9/11, when multicultural sensitivity first clashed with the determination of the world's most committed enemies of liberalism on the front pages and the TV news ledes. Yet we continue to muddle through the bogs of fantasy:
All dominant powers are hated - Britain was, and Rome - but they're usually hated for the right reasons. America is hated for every reason. The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lap-dancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion; the anti-Semites despise America because it's controlled by Jews. Too Jewish, too Christian, too godless, America is George Orwell's Room 101: whatever your bugbear you will find it therein; whatever you're against, America is the prime example of it.
That's one reason why its disparagers have embraced environmentalism. If Washington were a conventional great power [I might say, instead, if it acted like one - ed.], the intellectual class would be arguing that the United States is a threat to France or India or Gabon or some such. But because it's so obviously not that kind of power the world has had to concoct a thesis that the hyperpower is a threat not merely to this or that rinky-dink nation state but to the entire planet, if not the entire galaxy. "We are," warns Al Gore portentously, "altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe."
Spoken like a true child of the Crazy Years. Al Gore, I mean. And my Lord, my Lord, I'm reminded of my dear friend who told me, post-9/11, that her most potent fear was that Bush would be reelected in 2004. Here we are, three years on from that dread day, and so far she and her kids continue to live normal liberal lives, probably sporting that puckish little "Oh well, I wasn't using my civil liberties anyway" button I ran across in Dallas.
I also heard a dude on the radio the other day, a caller to the Glenn Beck program, which I seldom hear but usually get a chuckle from when I do, who came across with the usual "You righties are living in fear" line. Uh-huh. No. The analogy that sprang to mind was actually a real event: a wasps' nest outside the door of my work, which happens to be a door children use a lot. I'm not afraid of stinging insects. In fact, there's a ground nest of bees in the lavender in my herb garden, and we live in perfect harmony, the swarms of bees and I. I do, however, realize that wasps can hurt people, that some people actually are in grave danger from stinging insects, and that a door opening and closing in front of the nest all the time might incite the critters to action.
So my choices were (a) to detour everybody to another door, and therefore avoid irritating the wasps, or (b) to remove the nest, at some risk to my skin. I removed the nest - of course. What are we, as a society, as a liberal and, we hope, global community, to do about the Islamist wasps who have built their nest outside our door? Do we avoid them so they don't get stirred up, or do we remove them, taking back possession of our door? Me, I'm for removing them; we built the damn door. (The analogy fails where it comes to Europe, because the nest - of unassimilated, disaffected Muslims - is in the middle of the living room.)
Standard disclaimer: I'm speaking of Islamists, not Muslims: of that minority in the Muslim world that looks forward to and works toward a renewed caliphate in which non-Muslims are dhimmis who exist on suffrance. Those who practice Islam but are committed, by birth or by conversion, so to speak, to the principals of liberal pluralist democracy, are my brothers and sisters as much as anyone else who embraces the principles of the Enlightenment.
Steyn concludes his prologue: "One day the British foreign secretary will wake up and discover that, in practice, there's very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and sharia." This statement comes after a bunch of examples of Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity's capitulation to the unreasonable demands of Islamists: the Danish cartoon "kerfuffle" that resulted in dozens of deaths, Burger King's elimination of squiggly-topped ice cream cones from British menus because they looked too much like the word "Allah," the fact that Muslim inmates at Gitmo are handed complimentary copies of the Koran by gloved soldiers (gloves not being normally part of the Uniform of the Day), such that the U.S. military has tacitly acknowledged and attempted to mitigate its ritual uncleanness to its prisoners and enemies.