The standard narrative by most commentators looking at Western vs. non-Western conflicts is either Steyn-ian demographic doom or Sailer-esque insouciance. Sailer wrote on the 20th Anniversary of the "Highway of Death" and the Western air dominance over Libya, asserting that the West can always dominate adversaries as long as it does not occupy them. Mark Steyn notes that differential birth-rates among non-Europeans both inside and outside Western nations promises to transform the West into basically, variants of non-Western nations peopled almost exclusively by non-Western people. That the demographic freight train is unstoppable. The future for America being Mexico, for Europe, Islam. In reality, things are not so simple.
It is not that simple because the West has advantages the non-West lacks. Which is, basically an open-ness to change, including fairly radical social change, driven by technology. At least in part, this has historically been driven by the West being relatively depopulated compared to rival civilizations, and therefore having fewer institutional and mass population centers of resistance to technological change. The compass, gunpowder, paper money, were all invented in China but took hold in the West. Being constantly improved in the West while they languished in China. The fate of the Zheng He's fleet (burned to the waterline by the Court Eunuchs) contrasts with the voyages of Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and others in the West. Where constant improvements in navigation or firearms or money meant increased wealth all around, particularly those who could provide better tools. If nothing else, Western society was small enough so that it did not have massive centers of resistance to social change.
The Western medieval knights, were rapidly abandoned even before the gunpowder advent, with the superiority of the pike square. A bunch of peasants using pikes (and archers in the center) were certainly cheaper than mounted, armored knights, who would require an entire estate to maintain. Later, harquebus and musketeers were even cheaper. And far more deadly. While Europe was radically transforming its military to ever deadlier, ever cheaper versions, Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, used muskets to beat its rivals, and then outlawed firearms. Fearful of the social changes making peasants more deadly than the samurai would bring. This led to the domination of the Black Fleet under US Commodore Perry. And the wrenching modernization undertaken, as the shock of Western superiority led to hurried efforts to catch up to Western superiority. The Japanese found they had nothing in their arsenal that could even touch the ships of Perry's fleet in Tokyo Bay.
Two recent maps, from a paper recently published, hat tip Slashdot, shows the top science cities in physics and chemistry. One can see the physics maps here and the Chemistry maps here. The more green a circle is, the more top quality research (as measured by the paper, including originality and new understanding) is done. The more red the circle, the more second-rate, low quality (basically merely copying other research) the city has produced. Larger circles denote more research, and smaller circles less volume of research.
The visualization tool from Google maps is stunning. It shows the dominance, of the East Coast of America, a few institutions on the US West Coast (Stanford, then Berkeley, then UCLA/USC), and then secondarily Western Europe, in the UK, Northern Europe from Northern France, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Germany, Sweden, and Norway, in both Chemistry and Physics research. The highest quality of research is done in these locations (with the US leading) and the most volume. [The map above right is of the top Physics locations]
Almost no research of any kind, is done in Latin America or Africa, and that which is done is mostly red (low quality). Russia puts out high volume, but low quality research, and the same is true for China. Japan and Singapore are the only non-European/American nations that puts out high quality and high volume of research in chemistry and physics. [The map above right is of the world chemistry research.]
While there is much to criticize about the US higher educational system, and recent efforts as noted by Steve Sailer to push women into dominance in science at places like MIT put US dominance in science at risk, the US lead is overwhelming. But it is also vulnerable. Just a few locations in the US, MIT, Columbia/NYU, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Sandia Labs, Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA/USC, account for most of the high quality research done in the US. Destroy those cities with nukes, and you kill the entire research advantage of the West. The ability of the West to come up with new, and more deadly technology: better, autonomous UAVs that cannot be jammed, micro UAVs that can observe jihadis without being seen, even small ones with weapons able to kill individual jihadis when opportunities arise. Or the ability to sniff out explosives, with tiny portable devices, or drugs, or other contraband (smuggling of which helps fund jihadi networks). [The map above is of US Physics research output by city]
Just as importantly, advances in chemistry and physics allow Western nations to generate material advantages. The holy grail of electric cars is a self-charging (via powerful solar arrays) system that can store massive amounts of electricity. Both depend on significant advances of chemistry (battery and solar array technology) and physics. Other advances could include networked UAV-based anti-ICBM systems using powerful lasers (which would require advances in chemistry and physics), negating the advantage of nations like North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan, which possess or will soon, considerable amounts of ICBM nuclear missiles. The play of these failed nation-states has been to use WWII technology (the V2 and nuclear warheads) together to act as a shield against US or other Western nation reprisals, with the threat of nuclear annihilation of those nations (say, Denmark) that don't fall in line with Islamist domination, and lack significant nuclear forces or protection of their own. Even Denmark could put together an array of satellites orbiting around with lasers powerful enough to blast ICBMs out of the sky during launch phase. The way the Holy League defeated the Ottoman Turks at Lepanto, despite the Papal States, Genoa, Tuscany, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, and Venice being by European standards, second raters (only Spain was a major power).
The decisive hinge therefore of Western and non-Western fate will be, the ability of Western nations to respond to the obvious targeting of major cities, and the ability of ancillary research universities to replace those lost to nuclear or biological or chemical weapon terrorism. It is pretty unlikely that the jihadi networks will target research universities, the lure of major population centers being irresistible. But many major research universities sit in major population centers. MIT is located in Cambridge, near Boston. Stanford sits in the Bay Area, as does Berkeley. Columbia and NYU are in New York City. London is the site of many of the UK's leading universities. Germany, France, and Switzerland have more dispersed universities, and the US's key research institutions of Urbana-Champaign (University of Illinois), Sandia National Laboratories, and Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh) are located in second, third, or lower tier cities and towns.
The non-Western world has nothing like the US/European/Japanese university research system, government supported, doing basic research in physics, chemistry, and other areas that supply potential Western advantage. Muslim, Mexican, and African societies have failed, almost entirely, in even establishing research universities. Those in Russia and China do mostly derivative, low quality work though they do have a lot of volume. But as in WWII, technological advances in things like RADAR, computers, bombsights, aircraft design, and crucially, primitive ground proximity fuses (the key American artillery advantage) can make up for disastrous early defeats, poor generalship, and bad tank designs. The American ability to explode artillery shells directly overhead tanks, or advancing infantry, was the great killer of German troops in the West, along with fighter-bombers like the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. And on the other side, the German advances in jet engine technology and small arms (the assault rifle prototypes) came too late and in insufficient numbers to beat back the US tide in the West, despite better tanks and artillery.
What in particular, Muslim societies have bet on, against the West and China, is jihad backed by massive amounts of manpower and fanaticism. This has been the traditional way of Muslim warfare, and the uprisings all around the Muslim nations, provoked by food shortages and crisis, are at least in part aimed at restoring Muslim dominance by traditional mass jihad.
This has been tried before. It was quite successful against the Byzantines, the Eastern Roman Empire, taking away Christian North Africa, Spain, the Middle East, Sicily, Southern Italy, and Southern France with ease. Requiring a slow, centuries long effort in Spain, and several hundred years effort in Sicily and Southern Italy, and France, coupled with constant vigilance and escape from Muslim raids. Muslim jihadis were raiding Rome and the Vatican as a matter of course, until the 1400's.
Against the main force of the West, it has been mostly failure. The siege of Vienna failed twice, as massive amounts of Muslim manpower ran up against European fortifications in the gunpowder age, and better quality of gunners. Against more modern forces, particularly the Second Barbary War against the US, Muslim forces failed. Muslim forces cannot put up modern air combat planes into the sky. They do poorly with tanks, and artillery. Muslim forces do best with irregulars, aiming to dominate by numbers. Against forces with superior technology, and a will to use that technology to slaughter them in great numbers, they fail. Kemal Ataturk's famous epiphany came at the slaughter of Ottoman forces at Meggido, as Allenby's combined arms of aircraft, mechanized vehicles, and artillery slaughtered the ill trained, and substantially larger Ottoman forces.
Achieving military dominance, as Victor Davis Hanson points out in "Culture and Carnage," is not something that is the mere matter of copying Western technology. Because Western nations are willing to upend their own social systems in the pursuit, generally speaking, of material commercial and military advantage, by adopting ever more efficient technology. Technology that makes each man, either in the workforce (machine tools, computerized machine tools, and new materials) or on the battlefield, more efficient. It is the civilizational response of a people facing strategic threats all around them, who are few in number.
The most likely outcome, therefore, is a collision of cultural strategies between Europeans and Muslims (to a lesser extent European descended peoples in the Americas and those of mestizo origin). The Muslim strategy is to conquer by birth rates and mass jihad, in various forms. The European strategy is to dominate by technology that is ever more efficient at both creating wealth and battlefield dominance. The key is the shortage of much of everything, driven by China's emergence on the world stage, and insatiable demand for raw materials.
The easiest way for Europeans to keep their welfare states, which they like, is to kick out all non-Europeans. Which, one way or another, the will do. Perhaps not all, and some European states might fall under Muslim domination, leaving European neighbors to conquer them in the name of eliminating threats. No one thought much of Germans prior to Bismarck -- the Germans were the dis-united, kicked around afterthoughts of Europe. But the ability to leverage advances in chemistry and physics, and combine that with a small but disciplined fighting force, made them formidable by the time of the Franco-Prussian War.
Conflict, therefore, is inevitable. For their part, an impoverished Muslim mass of people in North Africa and the Middle East (including Turkey) see their only way out of poverty through what amounts in one way or another, mass jihad. An exodus in one way or another, into Europe, which is rich and poorly defended. For their part, Europeans (Sarkozy is instructive here, demanding and acting on the demand that Khadaffi go, because he fears Khadaffi sending millions of his people, all Muslims, to France eventually) do not want an influx of Muslims. Their PC/Diversity leaders to the contrary, they want the Muslims and non-Europeans they do have to leave. For nothing else, the preservation of the Welfare state. Which is fundable if they continue to make technological advances and do not have to support a massive Muslim population unsuited to a technology dominated society.
For their part, Muslim jihadis are likely to continue to target iconic buildings and cities in the West: London, Paris, Rome, above all New York City. With perhaps serious damage to research institutions housed in these cities. Attacks on urban centers, regardless if done Bombay Style, or through weapons of mass destruction (airliners loaded with jet fuel, chemicals, biological weapons, and or nukes) are likely to decentralize Western society as attacks on critical centers have in the past. The danger here is that the West would possibly lose some margin of research edge, which is realistically its only hope in competing against manpower-driven rivals.
Contra Richard Florida, wealth comes not from trust-fund reliant urban hipsters, but the sort of folks who founded Hewlett-Packard, or Apple Computer, or MicroSoft, or Intel Corporation. Entrepreneurs and businessmen reliant upon a large pool of technically trained people, and basic research coming from technology and science driven universities. University of Texas at Austin, for example, is no better than LSU, while the University of Chicago, and University of Michigan, outweigh them both. But Stanford, Berkeley, and MIT seemed to have produced the most companies out of the basic research in science and engineering.
This makes Western cities far more productive, than Muslim or Mexican ones, but not in the way most pundits think. Antique stores, tragically hip tend-setters, gays, entertainment/fashion people, do not create wealth. They merely sip at the froth of the wealth created, by pocket protector wearing engineers and scientists. Who in turn create research only in stable institutions, located in middle to upper class income cities, that are livable and not third-world style hell-holes (sorry Tulane University and New Orleans), with a critical mass of colleagues, students, and potential employers.
This makes Western cities, such as San Francisco, Berkeley, Cambridge and Boston, New York City, London, Geneva, Zurich, Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, and Chicago vulnerable not just to dirty bombs, nukes, and chemical attacks, but demographic transformation. California could spend all its wealth in a vain attempt to educate immigrants from Chiapas, and their children and grandchildren, to levels of White and Asian achievement, and destroy the ability of the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University to continue cutting edge research into physics and chemistry. Destroying in turn the ability to innovate and create new industries and new jobs. Demographically, the transformation of California from 80% White in 1960 to 40.1% White today, is a serious and probably mortal threat to California's technological dominance.
You cannot sustain world-class research in physics and chemistry with the population of Mexico. Which California has been transformed from, the state of the Beach Boys and Apple Computer to Chiapas and Cuidad Juarez North, in the space of two generations. Long term, Stanford and Berkeley are finished, because all available money in California will be spent on basic K-12 education, and Affirmative Action at the University level for Chicano Studies and so forth. The same fates await the University of Chicago, and Urbana-Champaign, as Illinois transforms into majority-Mexican. This will move the center of research power to Boston and New York, and the surrounding areas, which are becoming Mexican majority the least rapidly. "Whitetopia", the area defined by Black Author Richard Benjamin, basically Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, have significantly no real research universities and no real output in physics or chemistry. Second-tier White states, with significant Black populations but miserable economies that don't attract many Mexican immigrants, such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi have at best, lower level (both shade of green and volume) research universities, but that is better than the basically none at all (confined to Washington and Oregon, what little there is) of Whitopia. Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina all have significant research universities, whose output while second-tier, is respectable. However demographically, they are somewhere between Texas and California (doomed to Mexican majority) and places like Alabama (poor, likely to remain Black and White only).
The advantage European states have, is the ability for some of them to kick out immigrants, particularly places like Germany and Italy and Switzerland (there is less will in the UK or France to do this at present) and so spend most of their education money on things (research on physics, chemistry, and other science/engineering subjects) that create wealth, power, jobs, and advantages. Instead of pouring money down a rathole of attempting to make Muslim, or Mexican, or African immigrants into respectable, bourgeois, science-minded Europeans. To some extent, power is likely to pass, from the US, back to Europe, because their demographics are more favorable, if they act now to kick as many non-natives out. This would mean in practical terms, technological innovation over the next thirty years is likely to come from Europe, not America, and not China (which has volume but little original research).
In the US, technological power and thus wealth creation, is likely to pass to the East Coast again, specifically Boston and New York City. Both of which have remained White enough to attract and maintain world-class researchers at world-class universities. Both of which also seem to have enough of a middle class tax hinterland to support research, instead of what amounts to variations of "University of Phoenix" or Devry Institutes. This certainly sets up a conflict, between a mostly Scots-Irish population ethnically cleansed out of California and the Southwest and parts of the South, and the old Puritan-Progressive population of the Northeast. It is worth noting that while the technological base of the US military depends almost entirely on work done at the basic research level at the few East and West Coast Universities, the manpower of the Military is drawn almost exclusively from West and South White populations.
In the end, we are likely to see over the next thirty years, a nearly total confrontation in all spheres, between a very thin population, almost exclusively White, relying on ever changing, and more powerful technology, and manpower based swarming strategies, designed to overwhelm while not exposing a mass to firepower. Against a backdrop of shortages of almost everything, driven by Chinese demand. While manpower is not a power to be dismissed, against shortages of almost everything, technology often wins. Not every time, but most of the time.
The power given by something as simple as Google Maps shown by the research paper, to visualize data, is likely to be more decisive over time, to a population no matter how small, attuned to use it. Technology is value neutral, except for one aspect. Those who are willing to change their societies and persons, to use more and better technology, succeed more than those wed to a way of life, above all else. Successful use of technology requires its total embrace. Not elevation of God, Allah, or racial characteristics (La Raza, Ubermenschen, etc.) above all else. Instead a constant, restless seeking of advantage.
At any rate, the multicultural, diverse world of today and tomorrow hardly resembles Disneyland's "It's a Small World" Ride of handholding, singing children. Rather, a fairly Hobbesian war of all against all.