Sometimes the author rises to meet the times, and the times cooperate. Just after the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mark Steyn forever cemented his reputation among the literary Right by releasing America Alone, a short, painfully well written and reasoned book about terrorism and demography. America Alone had the effect on the Right of an excruciatingly loud, rude alarm clock: It was not enough to want to win the battle for civilization; we much also think about the odds against us.
About sixteen months later Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism was published, effectively making the case that no matter what one assumes or is told, fascism shares with socialism and Communism the unmistakable stench of the Left. So as Barack Obama went on about “shared sacrifice,” the need for government-run health care, and how America should start apologizing for itself, America Alone and Liberal Fascism became primers and debate prep for those conservatives who not only understood what Obama was, but otherwise just could not hold their noses for John McCain.
Now, near the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Mark Steyn has produced After America, a relentless, brilliantly reasoned, fantastically written, and unflinchingly dark analysis of what one could reasonably call the decline and fall of the United States of America (after Gibbon). Steyn is at his absolute best as a writer and thinker here, taking that rare step up from a man who wrote an important book to one of conservatism’s few indispensable men.
As one who writes only occasionally these days, I must admit that when Steyn gets on a roll, he very nearly brings me to the brink of stopping entirely. “Obama himself is not about ‘doing,’” he explains early on. “Why would you expect him to be able to ‘do’ anything? What has he ever ‘done’ other than publish books about himself? That was the story of his life: Wow! Look at this guy! Wouldn’t it be great to have him … as Harvard Law Review editor, as community organizer, as state representative, as state senator, as United States senator. He was wafted ever upwards, staying just long enough in each ‘job’ to get another notch on the escutcheon, but never long enough to leave any trace – until a freak combination of circumstances (war weariness, financial meltdown, divisive incumbent, inept opponent, the chance to cast a history-making vote) put Obama in line for the ultimate waft.”
That is Barack Obama put succinctly; it is also one part of one paragraph on page sixty-two. The great joy of After America is that there is so much to take in, the reader will find himself going back, re-reading, and thinking about the passage he just finished. This is not a book to be skimmed or taken lightly; Mark Steyn wants, and deserves, your undivided attention.