The scene above is Moscow at Eid al-Fitr, as Muslims protest the lack of additional mosques with street prayers. But it could just as easily be London, Paris, New York or dozens of other cities. While the two empires were stacking up ICBM's, the Muslim world was stacking up babies. The empires suffer from low birth rates, and are experiencing an invasion that they have no defense against.
Islam is demographically set to dominate Russia and Europe, reversing five centuries of history, and seizing control of the heartland for which the old empires fought. West Berlin, East Berlin, it makes no difference when Turkey's birth rate is double that of Germany. To the east, in Moscow and to the west in London, the overall picture is the same.
The Soviet Union and the Pax Americana both attempted to win the allegiance of the Muslim world with money, weapons and technology. And they are still at it today internationally and domestically. America, Russia and Europe all keep dividing 'good' Muslims who are loyal citizens or allies from 'bad' Muslims who set off bombs in schools and buses.
Russia's 'good' state controlled mosques preach Jihad against the West, just as our 'good' Muslims were the ones who killed Russians. But we're not the ones playing divide and conquer, they are.
Russian leaders, like their European counterparts, act as if the rising Muslim population is nothing to worry about. So long as they remain loyal citizens of Mother Russia, it will make no difference if Moscow ends up with more mosques than churches. But what exactly is Russia, if it is not the land of the Russian people.
Ask the workers on Russky Island, where a ban on Vodka during Eid al-Fitr resulted in violent riots between Muslims and Russians. Or the residents of Volga Street who managed to keep a mosque out of their neighborhood. Or Daniil Sysoyev, a Russian priest who criticized Islam and was shot in his own church. Just don't ask Putin or Medvedev, who like their Czarist and Communist predecessors, are still thinking in terms of empire.
But what is it an empire of-- besides oil and gas, trade monopolies and secret police? If the USSR embraced a larger revolutionary socialist identity, a Russia without Russians is absolutely nothing at all. What exactly are Russian Muslims to give their allegiance to besides the broken symbols of the Czarist and Soviet eras that have become kitsch in a vulgar oligarchy? The same question can easily be asked of the United Kingdom or America who have discarded their heritage and culture for political correctness and cheap consumer goods.
Can there be a Russia without Russians, or an England without the English or France without the French? In the same way that there can be a Constantinople without the Greeks. The buildings can remain, but without the people, there is no nation. National cultures are elastic, but not infinitely so. Immigrants can be absorbed or accommodated, but it is a two way street, and when the majority is too different from the people who defined the nation, then Constantinople becomes Istanbul.
The Cold War showdown was not really about economic systems, it was a continuation of the old power struggles in Europe. Communism and Capitalism were frosting on the cake, but the cake was nationalistic. The conflict continues today even now that Communism and Capitalism are dead, as a Russian oligarchy faces off against a European oligarchy. At stake are the same old prizes, but they're not really theirs to win anymore.
Holding Europe no longer comes down to ideologies or armies. No amount of American tanks in Berlin will outweigh a thousand Turkish women in the hospital wards. And no amount of debates over class and revolution will drown out the cry of the Muezzin. There are no more new ideas anymore. Only two oligarchies wrestling over the crumbs of a continent and populaces taught to run up their credit cards for tomorrow they will die.
The ideologies have all been worn through. The leftist domination of the West is a faint shadow of the vicious energy of the early 20th century Reds. Its political correctness is an academic repression, the sound of a librarian shushing noisy patrons. But the great empty libraries of the West face the same fate as the Library of Alexandria, torched by Muslims because it contents contradicted the Koran. The librarians are acting as caretakers for the last generation of a culture, and overseeing an orderly transition of power to the arsonists of the stacks.
Short term wars come down to skill and industry. Long term wars come down to staying power and to the question of who wants it more. The West could win a short term war against any combination of Muslim enemies-- but it cannot win the long term war unless it learns to want to win more. Not in Iraq or Afghanistan or London or Los Angeles-- or anywhere else.
In Afghanistan and Londonistan, the enemy has made up for its deficits with determination. Theirs is the long term struggle, and they are winning it, not because they are any better in any way, but because in our majorities we don't want it nearly as bad as they do.
Short term wars are games of skill, long term wars are games of chicken. The first party to sue for peace loses. And we sued for peace a long time ago, and have never stopped suing for it. We make a point of announcing how badly we want peace at every occasion. And we lose over and over again.
Forget all the humanistic twaddle you ever heard. Suing for people does not mean you are nobler-- it means you are weaker. The more eager you are for peace, the weaker you really are. Backing down when important things are at stake does not make you the better man, it makes you the worse man. The more important the things at stake are, the worse of a man you are.
There is nothing wrong with being a pacifist, so long as you are also willing to be a slave. And there is nothing wrong with being a slave, so long as you are also a pacifist. The slave who is not a pacifist may one day be a free man-- but the pacifist who does not understand that he is a slave is in denial about the consequences of his moral cowardice.
But few people in the falling West and East are pacifists, nor are their leaders. They are quite willing to send planes to bomb one country or another for one reason or another. What they are unwilling to do is assert national interests. This isn't pacifism, it's the moral laziness of people who have come to believe in Stability Über Alles because it is convenient.
The vision of a global state administered by bureaucrats in Brussels, advanced degrees for everyone and cradle to grave social services, the end of any harsh or unsightly beliefs and a one world society is the cultural equivalent of a child imagining a giant cake covered in chocolate frosting and cherries. There's nothing moral about it, it's sugar plum gluttony with no consequences. Worse it's lazy. Its big vision is a world where no one has to do much of anything except tinker with abstract sculpture and learn how to love themselves.
And that's the worst part of it-- we've given up. The ambition and drive that took us this far has failed and we sit on the beach, toss petals and wonder when the tide will come in. Our stories are so often about apocalypse because we're waiting to die.
If the Cold War tested our determination to exhaustion, then the exhaustion has left us too weak to stand up for ourselves anymore. One empire has fallen and the other is falling swiftly into the ocean. And when it's gone there will be nothing but the ragged edge of civilization, fallen skyscrapers, burning books and mosques on every corner.
We haven't lost yet, but that's only because of the weight of resources on our side lends us an inertia that will not last forever. But the real problem isn't that we're losing, it's that we have forgotten how to fight. Worse, we have forgotten what fighting even means.
A war that doesn't involve us rebuilding the enemy and trying to turn them into allies has become as alien to us as the notion that wars aren't fought to bring peace, but to protect ourselves by savaging or destroying an enemy badly enough that he is no longer a threat. Our war hawks talk of soft power and we listen and nod along.
The thing to remember above all else is to remember that we are here because we came from men and women who wanted it badly enough. Who did what they had to do to survive. That staying power is inside us-- it's a matter of wanting it badly enough.
Forget nations and empires, flags and seals, all these things are names, ways to channel the strength of a people. It is the staying power of the people, its determination to hold on to its land, to have children and imbue them with their culture that matters. A people that refuses to be moved can hold while politicians come and go murmuring about peace. All conflicts are ultimately personal. They come down to each and every person using whatever strength they have in the best way they can to stand firm and hold on to the land. Empires come and go, but the people remain.