This is one of the main drawbacks to blogging, as I've noted before. It's extremely contemporary, which means, it's of the most fleeting importance. No one reads blogposts from two months ago, and why would they? No-one remembers that Bill Clinton and Yitzchak Rabin got off to a cold and stony start, as did Bush II and Sharon, not to mention Reagan and Begin, or Carter and Begin; Bush I contributed significantly to the downfall of Yitzchak Shamir in 2002: Nu, so what? Did it make any real and lasting difference, the kind that anyone will remember in 50 years? (Shamir who? Or, let's see who can arrange the following presidents in correct chronological order: Taft, Roosevelt, Hoover, Wilson, and the other Roosevelt).
Barry Meislin has uncovered an article in the Asia Times (of Hong Kong) that takes a very long look. So long, as a matter of fact, that none of us will be alive to test his full thesis, which deals with the year 2100. Yet the demographic trends he discusses will be felt - or not, if he's wrong - well before the end of the century, demographic developments being what they are.
Like the vanishing point in a perspective painting, long-term projections help us order our perceptions of what we see in front of us today. Here's one to think about, fresh from the just-released update of the United Nations' population forecasts: At constant fertility, Israel will have more young people by the end of this century than either Turkey or Iran, and more than German, Italy or Spain.The key part of the article is this:
With a total fertility rate of three children per woman, Israel's total population will rise to 24 million by the end of the present century. Iran's fertility is around 1.7 and falling, while the fertility for ethnic Turks is only 1.5 (the Kurdish minority has a fertility rate of around 4.5).
Not that the size of land armies matters much in an era of high-tech warfare, but if present trends continue, Israel will be able to field the largest land army in the Middle East. That startling data point, though, should alert analysts to a more relevant problem: among the military powers in the Middle East, Israel will be the only one with a viable population structure by the middle of this century.
That is why it is in America's interest to keep Israel as an ally. Israel is not only the strongest power in the region; in a generation or two it will be the only power in the region, the last man standing among ruined neighbors. The demographic time bomb in the region is not the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank, as the Israeli peace party wrongly believed, but rather Israel itself.
The right way to read this projection is backwards: Israelis love children and have lots of them because they are happy, optimistic and prosperous. Most of Israel's population increase comes from so-called "secular" Israelis, who have 2.6 children on average, more than any other people in the industrial world. The ultra-Orthodox have seven or eight, bringing total fertility to three children.And then this:
Europeans, Turks and Iranians, by contrast, have very few children because they are grumpy, alienated and pessimistic. It's not so much the projection of the demographic future cranked out by the United Nations computers that counts, but rather the implicit vision of the future in the minds of today's prospective parents.
This, I believe, explains the implacable hostility of Israel's neighbors, as well as the Europeans. It is the unquenchable envy of the dying towards the living. Having failed at Christianity, and afterward failed at neo-pagan nationalism, Europe has reconciled itself to a quiet passage into oblivion.From there on it gets better. Read the whole thing, if only to raise your spirits. By the time he gets disproved we won't be here to notice anyway.
Israel's success is a horrible reminder of European failure; its bumptious nationalism grates against Europe's determination to forget its own ugly embrace of nationalism; and its implicitly religious raison d'etre provokes post-Christian rage. Above all, it offends Europe that Israel brims with life. Some of Europe's great nations may not survive the present century. At constant fertility, Israel will have more citizens than any of the Eastern European countries where large numbers of Jews resided prior to the Holocaust.