That said, it's crucial to recognize the precious common ground between the United States and Europe. While on a different plane from those fallow battlefields of the Ardennes, it is also sacred soil. I refer to our shared cultural and historical progressions as civilizations whose ideals are founded on liberty. Such liberty is once again under threat and from an ideological enemy -- the ideology of Islam, which, as spread by a massive influx of Islamic immigration over the past several decades, promises, as historians and writers from Bat Ye'or to Mark Steyn have copiously explained, to transform all of Europe into an Islamic continent.
And what do our presidential candidates think of the strategic ramifications of an Islamic Europe? Who knows? The likely but not inevitable civilizational shift is so far off the U.S. radar screen (with our government keeping it there, what with its recommended lexicon discouraging all terror-related references to Islam) it is invisible. American tourists -- those flush enough to pay their way with Euros, that is (and I didn't see many) -- can still visit the old Europe of gingerbread towns and Gothic cathedrals without noticing much more than a few hijabbed women, signs of Islamization that usually fail to register more than a multicultural nod.
Of course, even many (most?) residents are blind to the staggering changes in progress. This is something I discovered, to take one example, in conversation with a conservative British MEP (Member of European Parliament), who, after nine years of representing a sector of southern England in Brussels, both doubts the existence of "no-go zones" in Britain -- despite the writings on the subject by the Bishop of Rochester -- and has never visited the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. A stone's throw from the ritzy EU environs in which we sat, this Islamic enclave more closely resembles a bustling outpost of the umma than the so-called capital of Europe.
"You ought to get out more," I suggested.
As should we all -- which is why I embarked on this expedition in the first place. In the following weeks, I hope to turn the mountain of raw material I brought home with me into a series of reports from Over There, augmented by interview transcripts and photos that I plan to post at my Web site (dianawest.net).
We have a lot to learn from Europe.