Several recent books see the end coming. John Birmingham’s “After
America”: Fighter bombers rushing at us on the cover. You get the
picture. Paul Starobin’s “After America: Narratives for the Next Global
Age”: Planet of the Apes with nerds instead of apes. Be afraid. But not
that afraid. Mark Steyn’s “After America: Get Ready for Armageddon”:
Self-explanatory. Andrew Breitbart said, “May puke I’m so happy.”
Meaning he liked it.
These books see America as an idea rather than a place because the authors don’t understand place and have probably never been to an American place they were inclined to stay in. They would get a rash in real places like Tobaccoville, N.C., Haverhill, N.H. or Luckenbach, Texas, where Waylon, Willie and the boys hang.
But The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens this morning makes a masterful case for the decline of Europe in his essay “What Comes after ‘Europe’?” Possibly nothing. Possibly nothing — Sartre’s La Nausée comes to mind — has long settled there.
Stephens well makes the case that there is no Europe; that is, there has been no such thing in the post-war world. It was a figment of the “Western” imagination. (But there is no “West” either.) Quoting Bismarck, he says, “Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong. Europe is a geographical expression.”
Folkloric history like the great movie “Phantom of the Opera” (the Joel Schumacher version) makes the case that Europe, as it was known in Christendom, died in 1914-1917, or thereabouts. Its fate was sealed not by war but by electricity. I don’t see that it has ever recovered, except as a pale rider in the shadow of America.
“What comes next is the explosion of the European project,” writes Stephens, and it's not an altogether bad thing. “But it will come at a massive cost. The riots of Athens will become those of Milan, Madrid and Marseilles. Parties of the fringe will gain greater sway. Border checkpoints will return. Currencies will be resurrected, then devalued. Countries will choose decay over reform. It's a long, likely parade of horribles.”
America will survive because America is a state, he says. Exactly! It is a place! It is a lot of places! This is the essence of Jefferson’s heroic vision, yet untried.
And America will be better off without the burden of European history on it back. But how will the U.N. fare in this climate? NATO, SEATO and all of the other post-war abstractions? Not good. Irrelevant.
The big question is what will England do? The EU has always been her problem. Because England is not a European country. The subtle since 1914 and before asked, where do we belong, with Europe or with America? The answer came on June 6, 1944, when America and England together invaded Nazi-occupied Europe. Gene Kelly may have done the victory dance in Paris and Ernest Hemingway may have liberated the Ritz, but this joint venture reawakened the Anglosphere.
It changed everything. England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, America and England became a unified culture, one that spoke the same language and hailed from the same traditions. Anglosphere became the package of like places. If my kids today visit Australia or London they feel kinship and common ground. When they travel to China or Ukraine, they feel they are going “someplace else.”
It will always be like that and it is how we Americans should begin to think of ourselves, as the utopian, totalitarian delusions of post-war globalism crash to the ground now like dead satellites.