I've admired some of Gerard Baker's columns, but today he has one in which there's a rather strange turn. It's almost as if someone who's just been advising you in an eminently practical way how to get from Leicester Square to Oxford Circus were to add as a final point, 'And watch out for vampires - and grizzly bears.'
Baker starts by lamenting the fact that German and other European units in Afghanistan are operating under 'ludicrous restrictions' (like they can't fly at night):
[T]heir governments are desperately fearful of the public reaction should their soldiers suffer significant casualties. They don't think that their voters will stomach it. And the tragedy is, they are probably right.Then he comments on the reluctance of these European countries to send further troops:
Last week we had the tragicomic spectacle of European Nato countries lining up to decline politely the request to beef up their forces in Afghanistan, many of whom are now fighting in perilously under-resourced conditions against a resurgent enemy.So far so normal. The same goes for this, whatever differences you might have with one or another element of it:
Opposing the war in Iraq was one thing, defensible in the light of events. But opting out of a serious fight against the Taleban, sabotaging efforts to get Iran off its path towards nuclear status, pre-emptively cringing to Muslim intolerance of free speech and criticism, all suggest something quite different.But then the thing generalizes into a reflection on continent-wide civilizational decline. It's 'moral collapse', 'collapse of the European will' and loss of the 'will to thrive'; it's a 'disease' that has taken hold; and most bizarrely of all, it's this...
the startling decline of birth rates across the continent that represent a sort of self-inflicted genocide...Declining birth rates are nothing whatsoever like genocide of any sort, and in my book not even a matter for mild concern; the world isn't short of people. Apart from that, this plunging of matters of practical political disagreement - even where these are disagreements with potentially critical consequences - into a discourse of the end-of-days sounds a bit... well, excessive.