The White House reading list

Reading a new apocalyptic book by the former Irish Times neoconservative columnist, Mark Steyn, would be a smart career move for staff at the White House, it appears. President Bush has urged his staff to read Steyn's analysis of the “war on terror”.


Steyn sees Europe's demographic trends and its multicultural, “post-nationalist” secularism as leading inevitably to a “Eupocalypse”, to the “recolonization of Europe by Islam”, to the emergence of a “Eurabia” and to the onset of “new Dark Ages” in which the United States will find it difficult to survive as the “lonely candle of liberty”.


Steyn, who admits that he would have to drive three hours from his home in “undiverse” New Hampshire to find a Muslim, sees Islam – and not just “Islamist radicals” or “jihadis” such as al-Qaeda – as a unique threat that cannot be reconciled with “free societies”. His book, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It,

made the New York Times bestseller list.


A report on the International Relations Center's website by Jim Lobe says: “Recent efforts to initiate dialogue with Iran and North Korea may give the impression that the Bush administration is gradually easing away from the hardline policies of the past several years, but reports of the president's evolving reading tastes – until now a remarkably good predictor of his policy views – point in the opposite direction.”


A “literary luncheon” at the White House in late February suggests that Bush's apparent reading material is moving ever rightward, even apocalyptic, says Lobe. The luncheon, attended by Vice President Dick Cheney and a dozen hardline neoconservatives, was held in honour of visiting British historian Andrew Roberts, whose latest work, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Bush reportedly read and later sent to Tony Blair. Cheney took the book with him on a recent trip to Pakistan.


Roberts, an avowed Thatcherite who proudly declared himself “extremely right-wing” in a recent Financial Times interview, repeatedly advised the president, according to Irwin Stelzer, a fellow at the neoconservative-aligned Hudson Institute, to ignore rising anti-US sentiment abroad and opposition at home in pursuing his war on terrorism – or what the historian has called “the Manichean world-historical struggle” against fascism, of which “Totalitarian Islamic Terrorist Fascism” is only the latest.


A major lesson of history, Roberts told Bush, is that “will trumps wealth”, according to Stelzer's account of the meeting in the Weekly Standard. He warned that “the steady drumbeat of media pessimism and television coverage are sapping the West's will” to fight and defeat the enemy which, in his view includes Iran, as well as Sunni radicals, such as al-Qaeda.


History also warned, Roberts reportedly said, against withdrawing US troops from Iraq according to a set deadline, such as that recently debated in the US Congress. He compared the risks of doing so to the slaughter of 700,000 to one million people that followed India's independence from British rule in 1947.


It was Stelzer, a columnist for the Sunday Times who is close to right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who disclosed that Bush recommended that his staff and friends read Steyn's book.


The Toronto-born writer says that it is not merely that there is a global jihad lurking within Islam “but that the religion itself is a political project – and, in fact, an imperial project – in a way that modern Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are not”.


“Furthermore, this particular religion is historically a somewhat bloodthirsty faith in which whatever's your bag violence-wise can almost certainly be justified.” To deal with the threat, he calls for a familiar recipe of favorite neoconservative policies, from waging ideological war to ending the Iranian regime and “striking militarily when the opportunity presents itself”.


Lobe, Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web, writes: “The two books, whose worldview and policy prescriptions are remarkably convergent, are the latest in a series read by Bush (not otherwise known as a bibliophile) and lavishly promoted by neoconservatives and their major media outlets.


“These include the Wall Street Journal's editorial page and various publications owned by Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black (before his current legal troubles), and Canada's Asper family, all of which share a deep affinity for Israel's right-wing Likud Party, a strong belief in the moral superiority of the so-called ‘Anglosphere' – Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (although Steyn thinks Britain and Canada may already be lost to the forces of darkness) – and an undeniable nostalgia for the British Empire, particularly Winston Churchill.”