Mark Steyn on the Suicide of the West

Dean Esmay hooked us up to this fine column. As I commented on Dean’s blog, it reminds me of reading James Burnham’s masterpiece, Suicide of the West, in 1980. In the prologue, Burnham writes about looking over political maps of the world from ancient Egypt to the 20th century. He paints stark images of the West’s advances, eventually engulfing more than half the world. (Please don’t lecture me on the math.)

In the 20th century, though, he sees something change. Non-western -isms begin to spread, recede, advance. In leaving communism to become a capitalist, Burnham fears that he is “leaving the winning side for the losing side,” in part because he believes, like Buckley, that liberalism (in the late 20th century) advances collective communism as certainly as the years advance wrinkles.

Steyn looks, now, at the West and sees a void. The abyss Burnham feared has come, not in the form of communism, but in the form of its absence. In the most salient exchange, Steyn recounts a conversation with a senior diplomat some years ago.

A few months before 9/11, I happened to find myself sitting next to an eminent older statesman. “What is Nato for?” he wondered. “Well, you should know,” I said. “You were secretary-general. You went into the office every day.” With hindsight, he was asking the right question. On the other hand, if Nato is useless to America, it looks like being a goldmine for the Chinese, to whom the Europeans are bent on selling their military technology. Jacques Chirac is pitching this outreach to the politburo in lofty terms, modifying Harold Macmillan and casting Europe as Athens to China’s Rome. I can’t see it working, but the very attempt presumes that the transatlantic relationship is now bereft of meaning.


This leaves the United States in a unique historical position. We find ourselves at once responsible for security throughout the world and without a true ally. And to the left’s chagrin, it had nothing to do with Iraq.

UPDATE: The discussion on Dean’s World is excellent, and Instapundit offers some contrarian links.

UPDATE: Thorough analysis by Mark Noonan

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