Updates below: Steyn and Reynolds respond, and I reply.
Three weeks ago, Christopher Hitchens reviewed Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, for City Journal, the publication of the Manhattan Institute. The review was generally favorable, though not entirely uncritical.
Hitchens quoted Steyn to the following effect:
Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography—except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out—as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.
Hitchens let this pass in silence, except for a little bit of tut-tutting about the differences among Muslims, but let’s call it by its real name: Steyn is justifying genocide, both retrospectively in Bosnia and prospectively in the rest of Europe.
Now perhaps Hitchens is misrepresenting what Steyn said by quoting selectively or out of context, though there seems no reason for him to do so, and Steyn does not seem to have accused him of having done so.
Several important Red bloggers, including Instapundit and Real Clear Politics, have linked to Hitchens’s piece, which has, naturally, attracted a storm of criticism from Blue bloggers. I didn’t pile on at the time, hoping that Steyn’s friends on the Right would denounce him, as they did Dinesh D’Souza. But, so far, no such luck.
No Red blogger has claimed that Steyn was misquoted, or that his words don’t amount to a call for genocide. But if anyone on the Red side objects to finding a Final Solution to the Euro-Muslim Problem, they’ve all been too polite to mention it. Even Andrew Sullivan passes by the genocide question in silence. And Instapundit is still cheerfully linking to Steyn’s latest libel against anyone who doesn’t support the Beloved Leader in sending more soldiers to Iraq. Steyn still has a column in the Chicago Sun-Times, which brags about being one of the ten largest-circulation newspapers in the country, and many other mainstream media outlets. Sen. Lieberman has words of praise for America Alone.
Is there any reason Mark Steyn should not now be treated as a pariah, and confer pariah status on whoever deals with him? Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Or have we fallen so far that a call for genocide is all in a day’s work?
And where are the anti-Holocaust organizations on this? The silence is deafening.
Update Three weeks after the passage I quoted in full was printed in a favorable review in a widely-read magazine, and after its implications were widely criticized on this side of the aisle, Mark Steyn responds that of course he wasn’t advocating genocide, just predicting that it would be tried (and fail). Andrew Sullivan, who has read the book and shares Steyn’s concern about the growth of the Muslim population in Europe, finds nothing in context to contradict my reading of the passage quoted by Hitchens.
When you read the full context of the paragraph in the book (pages 4 – 6), there are no exculpatory words around it.
Now I claim no expertise in the rhetoric of the clash of civilizations, but, as Sam Ervin used to say, I speak the English language; it’s my mother tongue. In English, when you say that someone has “figured something out,” you generally mean that he has found the correct solution to some problem: “I figured out how to get the car started.” Perhaps the phrase has a different meaning in Winglish.
Sullivan points out a passage at the end of the book where Steyn seems to reject the genocidal option on … er … practical grounds:
Even if you regard Islam as essentially incompatible with free societies, the slaughter required to end it as a force in the world would change America beyond recognition. That doesn’t mean that, a few years down the line, if some kooks with nukes obliterate, say, Marseilles or Lyons that the French wouldn’t give it a go in some fairly spectacular way. But they’re unlikely to accomplish much by it, any more than the Russians have by their scorched earth strategy in Chechnya.
If the passage in the book was just poor self-expression, Steyn seems to have a chronic problem with it. In a post-book exchange with Ralph Peters on Powerline, Steyn writes:
…even if you’re hot for a new Holocaust, demography tells. There are no Hitlers to hand.
Damn! Have you noticed? There’s never a Hitler around when you need one. Frustrating, isn’t it?
If Steyn is pleased that genocide isn’t in the set of feasible options, he doesn’t say so, at least in the passages quoted. If he says so elsewhere in the book, wouldn’t you expect him to quote one or more of those passages, to put the matter to rest? Instead, he just snivels about how mean Andrew Sullivan is.
Glenn Reynolds, who simplifies his intellectual life by using the heuristic “Whatever my friends say must be true,” pronounces the charges “bogus,” without citing any evidence except Steyn’s own indignant assertion, before launching off into one of his typical fantasies about how opponents of the Bush regime’s policy in Iraq are indifferent to the possibility of genocide post-withdrawal.
Back in the Vietnam days we heard a lot of accusations of genocide hurled at war supporters — but it was when the war opponents got their wish that the mass murder began, and they were very quiet (or, in some cases, actually defensive of the Khmer Rouge) once it happened. (Read this history of those years by James Webb.) We see a similar irresponsibility today, and I can’t help but feel that these bogus charges are an effort to deflect attention from it.
Since this comes in a passage about something I had written, it’s possible that he means me. If so, his reading is, typically unencumbered by any attention to what I have actually said on the topic. If I thought that surging would prevent genocide, I’d be for it. But it’s just as likely that a successful “surge” will prepare the way for genocide, which is the correct name for the “80% option” being pushed by the Bush Administration’s “realist” faction.
The good news is that Steyn and Reynolds both regard the charge of supporting genocide as something they feel the need to defend themselves against. That’s something of a relief. The nasty-minded will consider the possibility that Steyn was deliberately playing around with the pornography of violence, under the cloak of description. But now that he says he didn’t mean what he seemed to be saying, I’m happy to take him at his word, and retract my call for him to be made a pariah, just I did in somewhat parallel case of Markos Moulitsas’s “screw ’em” comment (which, although made in a hastily-posted blog comment rather than a book, and although Markos retracted it right away, Red Blogistan will never let die).
Meanwhile, back in reality, Daniel Pipes (who ought to be Islamophobic enough to satisfy almost any taste) estimates the current Muslim population share in Europe at 5%; he says it might rise to 10% by 2020. Sound like a crisis to you?
Maybe Steyn, Lou Dobbs, and Mickey Kaus can work out a deal to send a few million undocumented Mexican immigrants to Europe. They speak a European language, and I’m sure they’d be happy to get EU passports instead of hiding from La Migra. A little easier than genocide, don’t you think?
Second update A reader reminds me of Glenn’s earlier thoughts on the genocide issue:
Civilized societies have always won against barbarians ever since the industrial revolution made making things a greater source of power than breaking them.
Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide — unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That’s what happens when two societies can’t live together, and the weaker one won’t stop fighting — especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it’s important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don’t, the military strategy we’ll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond “vigorous.”
How could I possibly have imagined that his friend Steyn might be advocating a course of action Reynolds thought might become “unavoidable,” something “we” would “have to” do?
Either Glenn doesn’t think genocide is wrong, or he thinks that sometimes doing wrong is justified. Otherwise it can’t be “unavoidable” or something you “have to” do.
I might unavoidably have the choice between killing and eating another human being and starving to death myself. But I wouldn’t “have to” become a murderer and a cannibal. That would, in fact, be the wrong thing for me to do in that circumstance. And no amount of pseudo-historical theorizing about “civilized people” and “barbarians” is going to change the fact that mass slaughter is the wrong thing to do.
Is that so hard to understand?