The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?
By Tony Blankley
Regnery Publishing Inc., Copyright 2005
Available at all major books stores (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Walden, Schuster, etc.)
Non-Fiction. Consider this a no-holds-barred book regarding the war against the jihadists and the people and politics of Western Civilization impeding victory over them. Anti-war liberals may be bruised upon reading it…weak-kneed conservatives won’t fare any better. It’s survival of the fittest, and Blankley is clear who he wants to win – the West.
About the author:
Tony Blankley is the editorial page director of the Washington Times and a nationally syndicated columnist. He regularly appears on t.v., cable news, and radio programs. He was press secretary to the Speaker Newt Gingrich and a speechwriter and senior policy analyst for President Reagan. Blankley’s biography can be found in the Wikipedia.
About the book:
The author discusses how in our lifetime, Europe could be overtaken by radical Islamic extremists and turn the continent into Eurabia. He describes how Europe is a launching pad for the jihadists, why native European birthrates are plummeting while Muslim immigrant rates are exploding, what is holding the U.S. government back from effective action to bring victory over the jihadists, why the U.S. has ignored previous lessons in history to fight this new enemy of liberal democratic society, and how liberal politics and culture have abetted our weakness in responding to the threat of radical Islam.
The first chapter of this book is interesting as the author pens what he calls, “A Nightmare Scenario” of what could happen to Europe and the U.S. in the future. The nightmare he creates is not real, but he makes clear could be so if we turn a blind eye to the problems at hand by choosing isolation or worse, denial of threat’s existence.
He creates a scenario where a Muslim cleric incites protests by fellow radical Muslim followers over semi-nude, nude, or simply erotic statues in downtown London. The goal is to get the message to hit London, then across cities across Europe, and eventually around the world that Islamic people are being forced to live under impure and immoral conditions hostile to their faith. Riots ensue at first over public statues, then move to art exhibits, well-known museums, centuries-old sculptures and paintings, and other works of art deemed offensive to Islam. What began as a small protest morphs into a worldwide protest via the instant media of cable t.v. and the internet. Protests that began quietly with banners, shouting, and blocking traffic gain greater strength and escalate into gunfire, arson, bombings, general mayhem, and death in a short amount of time. The protestors are eventually pacified, but only after the clerics were satisfied enough damage has been done.
At the same, there is a presidential campaign in the U.S. – a female Democratic candidate against a male Republican candidate. Sharia law is proposed by the Republican candidate to round up Muslim votes while the Democratic candidate proposes Muslim registration and curfew requirements, thus the severely splitting the country. The Democrat wins, the U.S. and the EU grow distance over appeasement of Muslim populations, and Americans begin going it alone in resistance to the Islamic jihad against the West. Thus, the fight goes on because the fundamental issues don’t get addressed..
This is but a small summary of a very detailed, but enjoyable chapter showing clearly how a rock thrown across the surface of a pond can ripple out to all edges of the water until it hits land. (For example, Blankley provides a clever explanation for the stances of the presidential candidates that seem counter-intuitive to the red-blue stereotypes.) Be the pond small or large – the affect is the same. The Islamic radical can leverage a little agitprop into a big reaction from supine Western societies.
Blankley makes it clear that “much of the West, and particularly in Europe, feels there is a blind denial that radical Islam is transforming the world." Too many professors, Hollywood elites, journalists, and politicians it’s business as usual. Even those who acknowledge the possible danger are still unable to formulate thoughts outside the exhausted pleas for dialogue to address the threat.
As Blankley notes, “The first discontinuity we must recognize is that the mortal threat we face comes from not merely Osama bin Laden and a few thousand terrorists. Rather, we are confronted with the Islamic world – a fifth of all mankind – in turmoil, and insurgent as it has not been in at least five hundred years, if not fifteen hundred years. The magnitude of this cultural upheaval cannot yet be measured. Efforts to count the ‘jihadist’ percentage are pointless, if not dangerously misleading. There is a dynamic process under way that may peter out before it touches one in a hundred Muslims. Or it may impassion a vastly greater number. The latter is far more likely.”
Blankley details the problems confounding Europe with its below-replacement birthrates. As the native European population shrinks, a culturally assertive immigrant Muslim population that choses not to assimilate to the norms of liberal democratic society might bring about the fall of Europe’s Western civilization within the century if changes are not made soon. Furthermore, he says, “The European experience itself may be the cause of its final extinction – overextended social welfare programs, loss of religious faith, cultural passivity, and blindness to foreign dangers, just as insurgent Islam came racing toward Europe and the West.” Although radical Islam is in its early stages, it will grow more intense and amass a greater network of assistance, support, and brotherhood around the world as progress against the infidels is made. He notes Bush refused to declare war on Islamist jihadists in order to avoid inflaming Islamic passions, but declaring war on “terror” has been too vague for the American people and the confused results show.
Blankley provides serious reflection upon past U.S. wars, including the Civil War, World War I, and World World II, as to how a true declaration of war provides the critical political support for the war powers a commander-in-chief needs to bring about victory. Bush has not sought this needed status of full war, instead requesting only authorizations for limited actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even if the president obtained a full declaration of war against the Islamic jihadists, Blankley also considers how the traditional, constitutional war powers of the president, though great, may not be enough to vanquish a non-state enemy like the jihadists. The challenge we face might require constitutional amendments to deal with existential threats of a type we have never experienced before.
Thus, Blankley notes our laws, traditions, ethical codes and concepts of friend and foe have not evolved to recognize and manage the existing threat. Blankely revisits an important quote from Lincoln so apropos for today, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
Blankley’s book is in-depth and complete with plenty of data, statistics, and historical reference to round out his case scenario. content is presented in an orderly fashion covering important themes including: The threat at hand, how Europe is reacting to the issue, the deracination of the West, saving democracy, a world in transition, and the way forward.
He ends his book with sobering words, “The United States is the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth, a condition we have attained by our historic capacity to enthusiastically solve problems and take advantage of changing circumstance….The challenge before us is simply to see the world as we usually have – with our eyes wide open and applying our good, practical common sense to the managing of it….In the past, we had had the luxury of possessing a wide margin of error. Many mistakes and misjudgments have been barely noticed…What is different now is that we have lost most of our margin for error. We have to get our plan right and execute it well. Big mistakes no longer have small cost…We must act today as if the dangers the experts expect to happen will actually happen soon.”
This is another book I have read recently regarding the rise of radical Islam and the decay of Europe and the West. In earlier reviews at L.A.W., I discussed Mark Steyn’s America Alone and Brigitte Gabriel’s Because They Hate. Tony Blankley’s book, The West’s Last Chance, is a fitting finale for this trilogy about Islamic radicalism. (As a side note, I have also read two books by military historian Victor Davis Hanson and his books are excellent resources for a historical look at the military, war and their affect on societies and shows important tangents in understanding how our past helps define our future – consider him as well for a more rounded look at the crisis at hand.)
Having read the other books about the rise of radical Islam behind me, this book laid out little new information. It supported, as did the other books I mentioned, demographic changes to Europe and the U.S., the rise of Islamic terrorism in almost every country in the world, and what’s been holding our government back from fighting the radical threat to the best of our ability. So while the information here was not new to me, it did bring me understanding of the jihadist threat to a new depth..
This book was not witty and sassy and sharp-edged as Mark Steyn’s book was.
This book was not emotionally draining and heartbreaking, yet uplifting and motivational as Brigitte Gabriel’s book was.
Rather, Blankley’s book got to the heart of the matter, stayed true to its course, and laid for me a solid foundation for understanding what is happening to the world. He spent a bit more time drawing parallels to previous wars versus our current war and how differently they were handled by politicians, the generals, the media, and ordinary citizens. The differences in many areas were glaring to see (such as properly declaring war, taking on full war powers, propaganda, news/media censorship, searching out subversion, travel restrictions, free speech limitations, etc). These intrusions and restrictions were ways of life during previous wars. During World War II there was unity in enduring these burdens because the citizens of the Allied countries understood they were necessary to victory. Today there is so little unity in responding to the jihadist declaration of war against us that many of us cannot even take these killers at their word that they want to slaughter us. In fact, an understandably hostile reaction to the vile rhetoric of Islamic radicals is frequently condemned by the “enlightened” among us as bigoted, racists, and xenophobic.
This book was a timely for me. While I was reading it, Senator Barbara Boxer of California was grilling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the war effort at a televised Senate hearing. Boxer lectured Rice that she wouldn’t pay a price for this war because her kids were too old and her grandchildren too young for military service. She then noted Rice wasn’t married (meaning she had no children), so she wouldn’t pay a price either. Boxer’s implication was that no one who wouldn’t suffer personally shouldn’t advocate war. Blankley’s book exposes Boxer’s nonsense. Let me cite a fitting statement: “The struggle against Islamist terrorism is a good and just war just as WWII was. We have just as a great a responsibility to win our struggle against insurgent Islamist aggression as our parents and grandparents had to win WWII. There is no other cause right now so urgent. If we do not pay with our sacrifices now, we (and our children) will pay in greater losses later. We must be prepared to be just as ruthless and rational as the Greatest Generation was in defeating fascism.”
Of course, the problem is that we lack a political leadership who will make this case to us.
I like that Blankley ends his book with concrete solutions to the problem at hand. He doesn’t just say here is the problem, you figure out what to do. His steps to winning the war are:  Declare war on Islamist jihadists (take on full war powers),  use profiling in domestic security,  secure our borders,  adopt national I.D. cards,  chart our progress regularly on an objective basis,  perform fact-based analysis and constantly communicate the situation to the public,  take advantage of globalization,  strengthen our alliance with Europe,  win the European culture war, and  create a common defense.
I feel out of the three books I read so far, his was the most optimistic. He believes strongly that if the U.S. and Europe toughen up and pull together, the situation at hand can not only be halted, but even reversed. Although I enjoyed reading his book and supported most of his research and conclusions, there were a few areas that I depart from his sunny optimism that things would work out – for example, Old Europe’s relevance in the next century, sustaining our long-term friend with that part of the world, national ID cards, and so on). I feel Victor Davis Hanson has a much sounder view of our relationship with “Old Europe” (as opposed to the reviving nations of Eastern Europe) than do most other authors I have read. “Old Europe” is part of the coalition of the UNWILLING, and that just won’t do today. We must strengthen ties with our true friends (Eastern Europe, India, Australia). Just as war shows our differences with our enemies, so it does with our past friends. The landscape changes for all, and we must recognize that.
The West’s Last Chance was just going to press as the London bombings happened so, many events have transpired since it was penned. Regardless, it is still a solid read for everyone regardless of which political party you prefer. I would recommend you add it to your library on important current events dealing with radical Islam and our lackluster response to the threat it poses us. I give it four out of five stars.
Signed, Bridget Dupont-Tingley, Editor L.A.W.