Sunday, January 14, 2007

Do Demographics Determine Destiny?

Here's a demographic perspective on what is fueling the current surge in Muslim fundamentalism.

It's worth considering because the model it uses accounts for a great deal, including Europe's current antipathy to fighting. And probably also accounts for why America is a mixed country - as opposed to predominantly pro or anti-war, given that our figures are slightly above replacement.

Gangland slayings in the Palestinian territories this week have pitted the Islamist gunmen of Hamas against the secular forces of Fatah. The killings defy civilised norms: in December even children were targeted for murder. But the killings also defy political common sense. Ariel Sharon's wall cuts terrorists off from Israeli targets and what happens? The violence - previously justified with the cause of a Palestinian homeland - continues as if nothing had changed, merely finding its outlet in a new set of targets. This makes it appear that Palestinian violence has never really been about a "cause" at all. The violence is, in a strange way, about itself...

Since 1967, the population of the West Bank and Gaza has grown from 450,000 to 3.3m, 47 per cent of which is under 15. If Mr. Heinsohn is right, then Palestinian violence of recent months and years is not explained by Israeli occupation (which, after all, existed 30 years ago) or poverty (the most violent parts of the Muslim world are not the poorest) or humiliation. It is just violence...

If you follow this argument to its logical end point, then the religion of Islam, the focus of so much contemporary strategic discussion, is a great red herring. Islamic countries are certainly growing in importance. They will make up a quarter of the world a decade from now. Of the 27 biggest youth-bulge nations, 13 are Muslim. But if there is a clash between civilisations, it is not a civilisational clash. Religion can be a convenient rationalisation for violent people who do not want to think of themselves as conventional criminals, but this problem is not unique to Islam.
I'm not saying that this is the only factor in the current war, but it is hard to argue against the fact that demographic trends do have a big role, if at times one that is largely unconscious in the populace that it is driving, in determining the outlook of individual nations. Fascinating and scary the way this works on us.

It makes me wonder what German population growth was like between the two wars. Must have been astronomical, if this model is correct.

Hat Tip: Random Jottings

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