President Obama judged the Islamic State the "JV team," boasted that he'd set al Qaeda "on its heels" and implemented successful counterterrorism policies in Yemen. He insists that both the nuclear deal and the hostages-for-felons swap he concluded with Iran's rulers are triumphs of diplomacy. In his State of the Union address last week, he reassured us that our enemies do not "threaten our national existence." Why am I not filled with optimism?
"Existential threat" is a term that has been most commonly used in recent years about Israel, a nation-state that Islamists aim to exterminate. As Iran's rulers have noted, the detonation of just one nuclear weapon on Israeli soil could be the quickest means to achieve that goal.
The United States, being bigger and stronger, is obviously more resilient. But a nuclear attack, an electromagnetic pulse attack, a biological attack or even a series of attacks of the sort that took place in San Bernardino would profoundly transform America — even if "our national existence" did not come to an end. My grandchildren would inherit a country very different from the one my parents' generation — the "Greatest Generation," whose members fought and defeated the tyrants of the 20th century — bequeathed to us.
In Europe a profound transformation may already be underway. Most recently, on New Year's Eve in Cologne and several other German cities, there were hundreds of acts of violence and sexual assault against non-Muslim women by men of Middle Eastern and North African origin. Local politicians at first tried to cover up what happened. Most media adopted a don't-ask-don't-tell attitude. Little by little, however, details have been emerging.
According to an internal police report obtained by The Wall Street Journal, there were scenes of "crying women fleeing sexual molestation from crowds of men, passers-by trying to rescue young girls from being raped, and groups of intoxicated men throwing bottles and fireworks at a police force no longer in control of the situation."
What lessons should be learned? According to The New York Times, the police are largely to blame because "officers failed to anticipate the new realities of a Germany that is now host to up to a million asylum seekers, most from war-torn Muslim countries unfamiliar with its culture."
Let's unpack that: There are "new realities." Maybe German authorities can work harder to "familiarize" new arrivals with local culture — a culture that traditionally frowns on robbing, groping and raping women. If not, German culture must adjust. Cologne Mayor Henriette Reke has suggested that women should perhaps begin to dress more modestly in public spaces.
In an opinion piece in the United Kingdom's Independent newspaper, commentator Edward Siddons noted that the crimes under discussion were all committed by men. (How perceptive of him.) He then instructs: "We should look to the gender of the Cologne attackers — not their race."
First: I'm not aware that anyone has been looking toward race — a concept based on physical and genetic traits. What the sexual predators have in common is religion. They also all come from parts of the world where beliefs, values and attitudes — not least regarding the rights of women — are unlike those that have evolved in Europe. Second: Mr. Siddons' emphasis on gender is curious. Does he really mean to suggest that Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist and Jewish men are just as likely to participate in orgies of sexual molestation?
Inadvertently, however, he raises this interesting question: If Europe is going to take in millions of new immigrants, shouldn't at least 50 percent of them be women?
Up until now, those streaming into Europe from the south have been disproportionately male. Is anyone asking why these mainly military-age men are abandoning their most vulnerable kith and kin? If they could defend the women and children of their homelands, would they? Might it be better for European leaders to assist them — rather than teach them to conjugate German verbs, and apply for jobs in Volkswagen factories?
Writing in the European edition of Politico, Valerie Hudson, professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, noted that the large disparity between male and female immigrants means there are likely to be unbalanced sex ratios within immigrant communities and within European societies as a whole for decades to come. "Numerous empirical studies" she writes, correlate such imbalances "with violence and property crime — the higher the sex ratio, the worse the crime rate."
She adds that "societies with extremely skewed sex ratios are more unstable even without jihadi ideologues in their midst."
And, of course, such ideologues are already entrenched throughout Europe. They will be adept at identifying young men who are not succeeding. They will do their best to radicalize and recruit them. Even among those who are adjusting, some may be persuaded that working for a salary, raising a family and paying a mortgage hold less appeal than fighting for a caliphate with all the rewards that can bring in this life and the next.
Such changes may not threaten Europe's existence. But European civilization will never be the same. Should Americans also prepare to accommodate "new realities"? Or is it possible for us to adopt different policies, to choose not to follow Europe's example? This is a discussion Americans need to have. President Obama will not be the one to lead it.