Prof. James Kurth, American Conservative, September 11, 2007
Lower birth rates will alter both society and strategy.
In Western countries, the combination of a sharp decline in the birth rates of the European or European-descended population, on the one hand, and the sharp increase in the non-European immigrant population, on the other, is causing a great transformation in social structure and national identity, which is bringing about a major transformation in military strategy. The process has only begun, but in the years ahead, history will teach us once again that demography is destiny.
In order for a particular population to sustain its numbers, it should have an average reproduction rate of 2.1 births per woman. But the birth rate for almost every Western nation has fallen below 1.5 during the last couple of decades. In Italy and Spain, formerly the European nations with the highest birth rates, it is now under 1.3. Although the United States has a rising population, that growth is entirely due to immigration and to the higher reproduction rates of peoples of non-European origin. With the exception of devout religious communities—especially the Mormons—among most European-American groups, reproduction rates are below the level of sustainability.
When one projects these demographic statistics forward, it appears inevitable that in half a century most European-descended peoples will have only two-thirds or less of the population that they have today.
America itself will be less likely to undertake foreign wars and military adventures, not only because of the short-term consequences of its debacle in Iraq but also because of the long-term effects of its low birth rate and the low-casualty imperative. From a traditional conservative perspective, with its emphasis on the prudent, sensible, and realistic use of military force, the era of low birth rates among the major powers might seem to be a good thing.
Unfortunately, when we turn our attention from the international arena to the domestic one, and from military strategy to internal security, a very different picture emerges. Particularly in the West, radical demographic change means that the prospect for greater peace and tranquility abroad is dialectically and diabolically connected to the prospect for greater conflict and violence at home.
Current social attitudes and demographic trends in the West suggest that there will be a continuation of low reproduction rates among Western peoples and therefore a severe decline in their populations. Conversely, there will be a continuation of high immigration of non-Western peoples into the Western nations and of higher reproduction rates among the non-Western communities in the West than among the Western peoples themselves. This will have major consequences not only for the military strategies of the Western nations but for their national security—and even identity.
The most dramatic consequences are likely to occur in Europe, where most of the non-Western populations will be Muslim. These communities already perform functions essential to the economic system, and within the next decade, they are poised to become an important part of the political system. Many European countries will become two nations, and Europe as a whole will become two civilizations. The first will be a Western civilization or, more accurately, given Europeans’ rejection of many Western traditions, a post-Western civilization comprised of people of European descent. It will be secular, even pagan, rich, old, and feeble. The second will be the non-Western civilization, descended from non-European peoples. It will be religious, even Islamic, poor, young, and vigorous. It will be a kind of overseas colony of a foreign civilization, a familiar occurrence in European history, but this time the foreign civilization will be the umma of Islam and the colonized country will be Europe itself. The two civilizations will regard each other with mutual contempt. In the new civilization, there will be a growing rage, and in the old civilization, there will be a growing fear. These will be the perfect conditions for endemic Islamic terrorism, urban riots, and mob violence: an Islamist insurgency within Europe itself.
Analogous, but less dramatic, developments are likely to occur in the United States. Here the most numerous of the non-Western communities will be Latin American in their origin. Latino immigrants already perform functions essential to the American economic system and are steadily acquiring political power, including a kind of veto on many issues. It is possible that the United States might also become two nations or even two civilizations, although this is not as likely as in Europe. It is probably too much to predict that in the Anglo nation there will be a widespread fear of some kind of Latino terrorism, although young Latinos in the United States may learn from their Islamic counterparts in Europe. It is quite plausible, however, that there will be Latino urban riots and mob violence. And it is very likely that there will be a widespread fear of Latino crime. Gated communities, which are already widespread in the southwestern United States, could become an even more central part of the Anglo way of life, the distinctive architectural style and urban design of the Anglo nation.
Is there any kind of strategy that can deal effectively with the kind of internal violence and insecurity that many Western nations will face in the future?
On the one hand, this challenge is obviously not one of traditional war against a foreign military, so conventional military strategies will not be applicable. Neither is it defined by sporadic attacks by small, separated terrorist groups, so standard counterterrorist strategies are also inapplicable. What we face instead are episodic and perhaps endemic terrorist attacks and violence perpetrated by a minority supported by a much larger community hostile toward the majority society. Such a condition is normally called insurgency or, if it reaches a large enough scale, civil war.
When a militant, violent minority community confronts a militant, violent majority community, the outcome will be clear—so clear that the minority is usually sensible enough not to become militant and violent in the first place. The outcome is less certain when a minority community confronts a majority that is only one in the numerical sense—just a conglomeration of little groups and isolated individuals who define themselves by ideologies like multiculturalism, diversity, or expressive individualism.
For the nations of the West, which have arrived at this historically unprecedented state, a viable strategy for the nation is no longer really possible because they are no longer really nations at all.