Despite the temptation to think the US Right is illiterate, they occasionally crack the spine of a book. A ‘literary luncheon’ at the White House in late February suggests that President George W Bush’s reading material is moving ever rightward, even apocalyptic. 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 late last year and subsequently sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cheney took the book with him on his 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 Terror – or what the historian calls ‘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 Washington-based neocon 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 extremists such as al-Qaeda.
In his article, Stelzer also disclosed that Bush recommended that his staff and friends read another, even more apocalyptic, analysis of the current War on Terror, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, by Toronto-born neoconservative columnist Mark Steyn. Steyn’s book, which, unlike Roberts’, made the New York Times bestseller list, sees Europe’s demographic trends and its multicultural ‘post-nationalist’ secularism as leading inevitably to the ‘Eupocalypse,’ to the ‘recolonization of Europe by Islam’, to the emergence of a ‘Eurabia’, and to the onset of a ‘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’.
To deal with the threat, he calls for a familiar recipe of favourite neoconservative policies, from waging ideological war to ending the Iranian regime and ‘strik[ing] militarily when the opportunity presents itself’.
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 these share a deep affinity for Israel’s right wing Likud Party and a strong belief in the moral superiority of the so-called ‘Anglosphere’ – Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – although Steyn worries Britain and Canada may already be lost to the forces of darkness.