It took less than a fortnight of rioting in France, and now in several other countries of what Donald Rumsfeld has called Old Europe, to lay bare the preposterousness of this prospect. Even before Islamists first took to the streets of Parisian suburbs, the EU was a house of cards waiting to be toppled, or burned down.
As usual, underlying conditions are clearer with hindsight. It is now unmistakable that Europe faces a perfect storm of socio-economic, demographic, military and Islamist challenges. As a result, the European Union is poised in the coming decades to become, at best, a strife-ridden, second-rate power, unwilling or unable to help defend the free world. Alternatively, it may simply cease to exist as an entity, or perhaps cease even to be part of the free world.
On the socio-economic front, Europeans of all political persuasions have long shared a belief in the virtues of the social market economy. By this they meant a modified capitalist system, characterized by considerable state intervention and the fabled social safety net. It was an arrangement intended to guarantee economic growth and prosperity, on the basis of harmonious labor relations, social cohesion, and economic solidarity among the classes.
Today, however, the European project is in a shambles. Somewhere along the way, its social market model lost steam and became counterproductive to economic growth. Current statistics indicate that by the mid-1990s, Europe had already begun falling behind the United States, as measured both by GDP and productivity growth.
The future looks even more bleak. Structural problems are likely to limit EU growth to a maximum of 1.5 percent by 2015 and even less than that thereafter. All this points to a sobering conclusion that few in Europe are willing to admit: the vaunted social market has come to the end of the line, in the age of information and globalization.
More importantly, Europe is just entering a demographic maelstrom that will severely limit its chances for reform. It is expected to produce a contraction of the native European population of between 100 and 150 million a loss of one-third by 2050.
There are only two possible solutions that could theoretically prevent the projected demographic crisis from becoming a reality: (1) increasing the birth rate or (2) increasing immigration. Because the first is virtually impossible in the short- to medium-term and unlikely in the longer term, immigration would appear to be the solution of choice.
In fact, although virtually all EU governments try to discourage it, significant legal and illegal immigration, estimated at more than 2 million yearly, does take place. This, indeed, is the main reason Europe’s population has not yet started declining.
Unfortunately, as events in France are demonstrating, the sort of immigration that has been taking place actually makes things worse. For one thing, it places additional burdens on the social welfare system rather than contributing to its solvency.
For another, such immigration has created an even greater political challenge: the extensive and ongoing radicalization of the burgeoning Muslim population throughout Europe. In the past half-century, the Muslim population in Western Europe has exploded from less than 250,000 to between 15 and 20 million. Although this still represents only a small percentage of the EU's total inhabitants, the Muslim subset is not only rapidly growing. It has also become progressively radicalized.
Today, an intolerant and violent extremist political ideology known as Islamofacism has taken hold throughout Muslim communities not just in France but in much of Western Europe. Moreover, this fast-spreading strain is already on its way to becoming the dominant face of Islam in the EU. It is profoundly anti-Western, supported directly or indirectly by Saudi sources, and marked by a wholesale rejection of such fundamental European values as democracy, secularism, separation of church and state, human rights, and modernity.
It is high time for European officials and the rest of us to understand that Islamism is about sedition, not religion, and that it needs to be treated as such. Extremists preaching violence and jihad against their fellow citizens should be thrown in jail, and radical organizations, subversive charities, and hate-preaching mosques should be closed down.
For its part, the United States must contemplate a future in which Europe is no longer the reliable ally, philosophical soulmate, and fellow pillar of Western civilization that it has been for the past two centuries. In the worst case, some regions or countries of an Islamicized Europe could conceivably become an adversary in the longer term.
The United States should continue to offer friendship and assistance to those Europeans that share our vision of freedom, individual responsibility, and opportunity. In particular, a closer relationship with the United Kingdom and the Eastern European countries (for example) would include political, economic, and military ties, as well as policy coordination. From such initiatives may come a new transatlantic alliance of surpassing importance in the conflict now breaking out in Europe itself: the war for the free world.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. and Alex Alexiev are, respectively, the President and Vice President for Research of the Center for Security Policy. They are among the authors of the forthcoming War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World (Naval Institute Press, November 2005) from which this is excerpted.