Can Europe Become Western Again?

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

For the first time in a millennium, Europe no longer plays a critical role in promoting Western civilization nor in world history at large.

Ostensibly it should. Some 750 million people live on the European subcontinent.

Europe still remains the most popular tourist spot on earth. Its hallowed architecture, art, infrastructure, and natural beauty still remind millions of visitors of the world’s once most dynamic and grandiose civilization.

Even now, European nations, in and out of the Europe Union, still produce a combined gross domestic product of $24 trillion, second only to the United States.

Europe’s exports are among the world’s most coveted cars, sophisticated technology, and valued industrial goods.

Yet since World War II, Europe has played an increasingly reduced role in world affairs, despite its membership in the NATO alliance and the growth of the European Union.


The twentieth-century traumas of World War I and II—in which some 70 million Europeans were killed—saw Europe commit near collective suicide. The ensuing Cold War hinged on protecting a relatively unarmed Europe from an aggressive nuclear Soviet empire on Europe’s borders.

But as World War II and the Cold War faded into memory, Europe did not snap back and assume its centuries-old role as a world leader and beacon of Western Civilization.

Instead, a weary Europe outsourced its security to the United States. It redefined itself as a postmodern, pacifist, socialist utopian project—most recently predicated on redistributionist entitlements, open borders, and radical green policies that have all inevitably ensured European decline.

Europeans grew louder and whinier the less relevant they became.

Although Europe has large sources of untapped hydroelectrical, nuclear, coal, and natural gas power, its green religion has all but shut down new nuclear and fossil fuel generation and closed existing plants. The result is that the cost of European energy is prohibitive for both the public and industry.

Recent economic growth was essentially zero throughout the Eurozone. The European cradle-to-grave social net, and its hyper government regulations and restrictions on economic activity increasingly are unsustainable.

Few European nations spend even a mere two-percent of their GDP on defense. And the result is that both Europe at large and its NATO members cannot defend their continent without the assistance of the United States.

Nor can Europe project power beyond its shores to preempt dangerous threats on its own horizon or to its allies.

Europe is also shrinking and aging. Its collective fertility rate of 1.5 is far below the rate of replacement. Most young people in Europe—the ancient home of Christendom—express neither belief in God nor any faith in organized religions.

In many European countries, foreign-born emigrants comprise twenty percent of the population. Most of them have arrived poor, without education, in mass, illegally, with little desire to fully integrate, from inimical countries, and holding political and religious views hostile to Europe.

The other half of the West is in little better condition.

The United States is reeling under $33 trillion in national debt.

After embracing various bankrupt academic critical legal “theories,” major American cities are unsafe, unhealthy, and unsightly. The American southern border is wide open. Eight million illegal aliens have poured in just since January 2021, many of them hostile to the United States.

America is increasingly politically, racially, and tribally divided. It has mysteriously determined not to fully utilize its vast natural resources, especially gas, oil, and rare earth metals.

In this vacuum, the enemies of the West see only opportunity.

Russia invaded European Ukraine. Its ongoing aggression still terrifies frontline NATO nations.

China threatens periodically to storm Taiwan, as it bullies it neighbors, buzzes U.S. ships and planes, and manipulates currency, markets, and trade.

Iran has armed to the teeth anti-Western terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Iran’s “Shiite Crescent” from Tehran to Damascus to Beirut to Palestine threatens both pro-Western Arab regimes and Israel.

Iran brags that its surrogates can destroy Israel and will soon be nuclear with a global reach to both the United States and Europe.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, presumably on the assumption that current generations of Westerners in Israel, the U.S., and Europe would not react too strongly to its precivilization barbarity if it entailed a subsequent messy war.

In sum, the world is safe only when a strong America, along side its European partner, secure their borders, protect the world’s sea- and air spaces, support constitutional and pro-Western nations, and deter thuggish belligerents.

Perhaps as war clouds gather and enemies multiply, Europe will rediscover its heritage and reawaken to its historical role.

Increasingly, a lonely U.S.—and the world at large—need the return of a sane and powerful European co-partner, one that emerges from its self-induced slumber, and resumes its ancient role in preserving civilization from its multiplying enemies.


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32 thoughts on “Can Europe Become Western Again?”

  1. I wish all of America could read this and would listen to VDH every week. Have a great holiday Victor! Thanks for continuing to share your wisdom!!!

  2. Europe has become a series of segmented ‘buffer states’ fringed by the USA to the west, Islamic states to the south, and Totalitarian states to the east and Far East. Although China is farther afield, it is considering its options to flex its military muscles while the USA has a weak and incompetent political leader who failed upward all the way to the POTUS. Right now, because of its Western-funded rapid economic growth, the Chinese economy is like a snake that devoured a large pig and is now slowly digesting it. Moreover, China has too many men and not enough woman. Only a war can solve that problem. China has men to burn.

  3. A minor criticism here – but not a minor omission
    “[the U.S.]is reeling under $33 in national debt” Really?
    I believe Mr. Hansen meant $33 Trillion, not $33.00. If only an average Turkey dinner cost that much.

    The U.S. is now the most indebted nation in history. And while the efficiencies brought by a new Industrial Age of Quantum computing, graphene, AI etc. may bring inflation down, these higher prices the Bidenistas have wrought will remain.

  4. If by ‘Western’ one might mean become the great intellectual of the Enlightenment once again then, no, that cannot be for there is no ‘progress of man’ left to that ideal. Progress is an ever diminishing journey that never quite reached that , like Moses, never quite reached the promised land. Spiritually Europe is fast becoming a wasteland as secular ideal assume religious qualities and the corresponding failures of human kind. As a land loses in population, in particular its youth, the diminishing birth rate dooms that population to become over run with the outsiders of the borderlands, usually a more robust population not opposed to the taking, fair or not, of the former populations lands, goods, and property.

    Here in America our ‘Western-ness’ will be skewed by the increasing populations of illegal aliens. Just as one can see the relics and influences of the Moorish culture in Spain and Mexico so our brave new world will still continue to see the influences of our western culture and heritage.

  5. A pessimist would say:

    Europe has been invaded by a cancer that will eventually kill its host. There will be no miracle drug to save Europe. There will be periods of struggle in which the host will appear to make progress, but in the end, they will succumb to the deadly disease. 100% certain.

    A practical realist and knowledgeable historian might say:

    Europe has been invaded by a cancer that will eventually kill its host. There will be no miracle drug to save Europe. There will be periods of struggle in which the host will appear to make progress, but in the end, they will succumb to the deadly disease. 100% certain.

    A logical thinker would say:

    Unless conservatives support strong, united and unrelenting resistance, America is destined to suffer the same fate.

    We can see it coming. We just need to do something about it.

    Or not.

  6. Mr Hanson,
    What a presentation on the day of Thanksgiving. I couldn’t agree more with
    The covid shot, lockdown, etc mandates laid upon the American people. I
    still wonder how we all fell for the lockdowns, masks, shots, etc in addition
    To jailing all our students at home and behind a mask. I guess when the
    Rug is pulled out from under you it is very difficult to have a rug to stand
    I particularly enjoyed the last part with your family at Thanksgiving. I sat
    Back and closed my eyes as you were, with different people and places,
    Talking about my teenage years at Thanksgiving with relatives in many
    Cases only seen once a year.
    Then, ‘responsibility’, you were talking about my Dad. Don’t question Him,
    Just go do it cause He knows you are able.
    Last but not least was the ‘honey bucket’ chore; when our septic tank filled
    Up and we could no longer pull up the solids with shovels guess who was
    Handed the bucket and sent down the ladder.

    Loved it,
    Happy Thanksgiving

    Ron Shipman

  7. Make America great again should be the top agenda of the day. Colonialism has its place is the restoration of peace and unity. Europe use to rule the high seas but now it lips in its soft green agenda and submitting itself to false ideologies. Merit, Unity, Strength of the common citizen is most needed now more than ever. The door is there we just need to open it and walk through. Victor thank you for you inspiration through your words and valued comments. Your like the Grandfather I never got to meet. God bless you and God bless America.

  8. Western civilization has been associated with freedom of thought, and periodic explosions of creativity that have greatly advanced human civilization. The West has not been associated with stagnation. Part of that history has been movement towards citizen freedom of expression, moving away from repressive totalitarian government regimes – this includes the equal application of law to its citizens.

    We currently see these principles being threatened on numerous fronts in the US, and in Europe.

    One would think that the hard won lessons of the past would serve as a warning to not repeat history – but the omnipresent lure of power corrupts, requiring the vigilance of the citizens to keep nations from the brink. Sadly, the tactics of power hungry autocrats are directed precisely at weakening that vigilance.

    The worst news is that no human society of the past has solved this problem – for a potential glimpse of our own future, we should all remember the words of Ozymandias: “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” .

  9. When Muslim migrants began invading Europe, I saw a prediction that in 20 years, some of those countries would be Muslim majority and under Muslim rule. They are well on their way.

  10. Fantastic piece as always, VDH.
    I count on western Europe for nothing. I do count on the USA, currently in failure mode , but we are currently on a suicide mission that is incomprehensible . I can’t pinpoint the exact day we became followers, but it could coincide with the election of Barak Obama and some weird ideology that we are not deserving of lead dog in the pack position.
    There seem to be no Maggie Thatcher’s left. I had to Google the current Prime Minister of Great Britain! France? A lovely place to visit, but let’s be honest – do we count on France for anything?
    Ronald Reagan turned the somewhat sad state of Germany around by outspending the USSR military budget, a wall came tumbling down to much jubilation and the USSR was “history” . Why are we ( since ) always asking permission for anything and everything , when a simple glance across a large pond would tell you nothing is working across that pond. You need not even cross a “pond”! Go over a bridge to Canada!
    You tell me. Why? Just WHY we want second place to any. If you want Europe to step it up, you must lead. That must be us.

  11. Recent political events in The Netherlands (Geert Wilders massive election victory) and Ireland protests against illigal immigration may be a positive indication of a changed direction….. x’ing fingers.


    “For the first time in a millennium, Europe no longer plays a critical role in promoting Western civilization nor in world history at large.”

    Who DOES promote Western Civilization today? There are people fighting for it, whether individuals like you, Douglas Murray, Jordan Peterson, Os Guinness, Dr. Larry Arnn, Dennis Prager, Donald Trump, to name a few; and institutions like Hillsdale College, Grove City College, the Heritage Foundation-again, a short list of a short list. But generally, society here in the West-in Western Europe and the Anglosphere-rejects its civilization for the worldview and values of Statism, collectivism, totalitarianism. It rejects personal liberty for the soma of Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

    Can those fighting for Western civilization yet reclaim it? It’s a tough row to hoe. It means changing minds to prize classical values over Statism, maturity over immaturity.

    Unfortunately, unchanging human nature often rejects the former for the latter. It’s simply easier.

  13. Michael D Henderson

    Victor Davis Hanson.

    Thank you for being the brain and consciousness for western Society. It is time that we rise up and assume our correct place in the world. You describe it beautifully.

  14. George Chalustowski

    Thank you, Victor, for the thought-provoking essay. Western Civilization may be saved by the Poles and Hungarians who seem to be the new vanguard pushing back against the new “invasion” from its borders. While the Poles and others welcomed more than two million Ukrainian refugees into their homes, they drew the line when it came to other “enemies” of their religious and political beliefs. The European Union has threatened the two as well as other states that don’t fall in line with their “world views”. The Poles and Hungarians point to France, Germany and the UK as examples of what they don’t want to see happen in their own countries. They fought the Ottoman Turks for centuries and maintained their culture as a result. So, why would they now surrender their values for the so-called “new world order” when they know it will destroy their freedom of expression?

  15. Gratias tibi, O Victor magister. As someone who lived in the UK for over a year and a French-speaker, I would like to think that Europe, like the US, can begin rebuilding civilization. In fact, one area where I think the French at least excel most media in the U.S. is that they still maintain a culture of open intellectual discussion. For instance, Radio France International (RFI) has a program called “Débat du Jour” where one can find two or three people discussing a topic from different perspectives in a civil manner. Sure, the topics themselves have a leftward leaning, but there is a level of detached discussion here that I haven’t found either on the right (Fox solo) or left (everyone else) in the U.S. There’s also an obsession with “laïcité”, the French version of the separation of church and state, that still endures, and one can sense a genuine concern from many of the French on this front in view of the influence of radical Islam on public expression. In addition, their high school seniors still study enlightenment philosophy and civics to some degree. I’m not saying France has it all together, but that it has a cultural foundation on which its recovery can be built and a full military to back it (all branches, not just a glorified police force like many European countries).

  16. For decades now I’ve been arguing that Europe is little more than a museum to the greatness of western civilization. Soon, it won’t even be that.

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