HH: I begin, as I do every single Thursday that he's available, with columnist to the world, Mark Steyn. Mark Steyn, your assessment of the war against Israel, a week into it?MS: Well, I think the interesting feature so far, really, is the poodles that didn't yap, to pacify Sherlock Holmes. Normally, by this stage, the public rhetoric of the Europeans and the Arabs would be ferocious. And instead, I think both of them have been very circumspect in public. And certainly, the ones I've talked to in private are in fact, in a strange way, and possibly unprecedented, at least in the last thirty years, they're rooting for Israel. Amazing.
HH: Why is that?MS: Well, I think because they have actually seen that...they've had a tremendous glimpse of their own future, and what has happened to Gaza, and what has happened in Southern Lebanon, and to Lebanon as a whole, and in effect, even to Syria, because Syria is, in fact, playing Mini Me to Iran's Dr. Evil at the moment, and that they've seen a terrible portent to where things could go, both for Jordan, for Egypt, for Saudi Arabia, and down the line, for certain European countries, too.
HH: What do you make of the Lebanese prime minister's on again/off again, we support Hezbollah, the Lebanese army will fight for Hezbollah, then it's not our war. What's going on with his game?MS: Well, I think to a certain extent, he's hemmed in. And although he is the prime minister of Lebanon, Lebanon is effectively a state that's been hijacked. What he doesn't know is how popular the hijacking is. Lebanon has a very peculiar electoral system, essentially where the parliament is allocated on the basis of religious beliefs, and the census that determines who gets what seats, in part goes back to the 1930's. In fact, it's way out of date. Basically, if they were to redesign the Lebanese Parliament to reflect democratic reality, there'd be an awful lot more Hezbollah seats in there. That is just a sad fact. But as much as we like seeing those hot Beirut babes chanting for freedom in the streets not so long ago on TV, they look fabulous...fabulous looking women, Westernized women, chanting for freedom. There is a side of the Lebanese population that is solidly behind Hezbollah, and that is a problem for anybody in that state.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, do you think that side has been shaken by the...a miscalculation on the order of Hitler's invasion of Russia at this point, for Nasrallah?MS: Yes, I think so, and I think what we have to do is basically do what the U.N. is usually quite good at, which is to delay doing anything at all until the situation has settled. I mean, that's what they do in the Sudan. The U.N. Security Council talks and talks and talks until everybody's dead, and then it's not an issue anymore. That's what they do in Sudan, that's what they did in Rwanda, that's what they're good at. But when the Israelis are involved, suddenly there's a terrible urgency about it, and we have to insert U.N. peacekeepers right now, and we have to get Condi Rice and Kofi Annan & Co. to fly in right now. And that's not what we want to do. What has to come out of this is that proxy clients of Tehran are so damaged, so battered, so brutalized, so humiliated, that the price of taking Tehran's side becomes too high.
HH: You just mentioned the U.N., and I'll get to Kofi in just a second. But there is this comic element to this otherwise very, very important series of events, and that's that hapless little group of U.N. blue hats stuck up there somewhere on the northern border, just over the Israeli border. And I'm not quite sure what their job is, Mark Steyn. Do you know?MS: Well, I think they're basically the sleeping partner in the Hezbollah operation. When you look at those little offices, they've got the Hezbollah flag flying from one flagpole on the left hand side of the building, and the U.N. flag flying from the flagpole on the right hand side of the building. It's really quite disgraceful what is going on. And in a sense, this...at the heart of this whole issue is the kind of post-modern nature of Middle Eastern politics, where we all pretend that somehow the Palestinians are victims of Israel, that Lebanon is a victim of Israel, and the reality of the situation is...the reality of the situation is that basically, any nationalist group that wants to get its own country in the modern age can. Slovenia's independent, Slovakia's independent, East Timor's independent. Anywhere can be independent. The reason why what's happened in Gaza and Southern Lebanon has been such a mess has nothing to do with Israel, but is because of the pathologies of the people, and the U.N. has been complicit in that.
HH: Let's turn to Kofi Annan's statement of today. Here it is:
KA: While Hezbollah's actions are deplorable, and as I've said, Israel has a right to defend herself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned.
HH: Mark Steyn?MS: Well, that's complete rubbish. I mean, basically, when you talk about...proportionality has a kind of legal meaning in international law, if you happen to recognize it. It doesn't relate to whether they kill ten of yours, whether you're allowed to only kill ten of them. That's not what it's about. Proportionality in law means whether what you're doing disproportionately affects civilians, compared to the merits of the military target. Now that's very hard when you're fighting a terrorist group, because they deliberately hide their men and their arms in people's houses and villages in civilian areas. But the reality of the situation is that even if we accept that the U.N. has an obligation to mediate between two warring, sovereign states, it's a huge leap for Kofi Annan then to suddenly feel that it's his job to mediate between a sovereign state and a terrorist organization. That's a vile aspect of what the U.N. does. The right of hot pursuit, which even the British have actually exercised against the United States in the 19th Century, they sent British troops over the border from Canada into the United States. Every...historically, the right of hot pursuit is recognized in international law, and he should just...Kofi Annan, if that's his contribution, he should just keep his mouth shut.
HH: Well, if hot pursuit extends to the people bringing a sophisticated weaponry into...we're going to be right back in Tehran, Mark Steyn. Probably the most important development of the last week is that the missile that struck the Israel ship, and sunk the Egyptian's ship, was provided by Iran, and it is suspected was manned and guided by Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Your reaction to that news?MS: Well, I think this is why the Europeans and the Arabs suddenly have gone very quiet, and in fact, have been supportive of Israel, because they understand...the Arabs, after indulging in this post-modern fear-mongering for 60 years, that Israel is an entire threat to the region. Suddenly, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia see that there's a real threat, not a pseudo-threat to the region, that they are going to be living per force under an Iranian-dominated region. That in fact, the last 50 years will just have been a brief interlude of Arab independence between living as subjects of the Ottoman Empire, and now being subject to a kind of de facto apocalyptic Iranian Empire.
HH: Do you think that's clicking in, Mark Steyn?MS: I think that's absolutely what is prompted the extraordinary Arab League statement, and the circumspection of the European leaders. They both understand that if Tehran, in a year's time, Tehran could have missiles that can hit any European capitol. And they don't want to do anything about it, but if Israel wants to set back that program, they're not going to complain.
HH: Now many people have suspected that Iran launched Hezbollah on its self-destructive mission last week as a diversion from the U.N.'s action against its program. There's also been in this time frame over the last 60 days, a huge uptick in the slaughter in Iraq. And today, 59 people killed by a suicide bomber promising them jobs. How much of the Iraqi instability, Mark Steyn, do you put down to other Iranian adventurism?MS: Well, I think that's absolutely part of the equation here, that Iran exercises its powers, and looses its proxies to their full extent. That's what they're doing in Iraq at the moment, that's what they're doing in Southern Lebanon. And the question, of course, for everybody else, is if they've got a rifle, they'll shoot it across the border at you. If they've got these rockets, they'll lob them at Haifa. A year or two down the line, what are they going to have? And what are they going to be doing with that? That's the question.
HH: Now the Russians, of course, are saying today no need to hurry about Iran. But I do...if you're right, then that urgency will pick up around the international community, regardless of what Putin says.
MS: Yes, and I think the idea is just in a sense, to destabilize them. I was thinking of Sir Francis Drake, when he sailed into Cadiz, and destroyed the fleet there. And he set back the king of Spain's armada against England by a year. And they said that he in effect has singed the king of Spain's beard. That's how it used to be taught in history lessons. And I think that's really what we hope can come out of this, that by brutalizing Hezbollah, who are in effect the beard for Iran, you're singing the president of Iran's beard, and that will have some impact on it.
HH: Did you see Nic Robertson on CNN take the Hezbollah tour?MS: Yes, I did see that, and they're very good at that at CNN, that actually getting...doing what you might call jihad tourism. They did it in Afghanistan, they did it in Saddam's Iraq, they're now doing it in Lebanon.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, Hezbollah is the organization adjudicated by the United States District Court, Judge Royce Lamberth presiding, as having been behind the massacre of 241 Americans at the Marine barracks in 1983. Anything untoward in CNN not telling their audience that?MS: Yes, I think so. I think if one looks at this in historical sense, it would be absurd to see a New York Times photographer tagging along, say, on a Luftwaffe raid, and taking photographs of the Luftwaffe guy as he drops his bombs over London. It would have been unthinkable to be doing that in the 1940's. Now we live in a world when in effect, the media regard themselves as a kind of transnational power in and of themselves, that they don't have allegiances. I think this is preposterous. I think every CNN reporter, and every New York Times journalist, in his heart of hearts, he wants his sons and daughters to be growing up and living in a free society. And when they say what did you do during the war, Daddy, and when he says well, I got a great scoop, because I tagged along with the jihad guys as they were planning on killing our side, I think that's...I don't think that's going to be something they're going to be proud of, no matter how many Pulitzers it wins them.
HH: And the pathetic thing is, there's no scoop. Listen to this excerpt of Nic Robertson from yesterday.
NR: You know, in all that time we were there, which was a very, very brief period, we didn't see any evidence of any military equipment. We didn't go into the buildings, we didn't search underneath the rubble. But some of the buildings were really torn up, there was a lot of debris hanging out of broken sides of buildings, a lot of debris strewn across the roads. And in all of that, we didn't see any evidence of a military infrastructure, or anything like that. Again, though, Wolf, I have to say it was a very, very brief and swift tour, escorted by Hezbollah.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, that is just idiocy.MS: Yes. I mean, this is this idea that Hezbollah is basically some kind of social organization, that they run great schools, and they run terrific hospitals, and all the rest of it. Actually, even this side of it is deeply toxic. The schools they run teach you basically to hate Jews and infidels. So even on that side, I don't think that they're as benign as Nic Robertson & Co. make out. But the idea that somehow he is being taken on a...led by the nose through this site that has no military weapons, and therefore it means that the big, bad Israeli guys must have accidentally bombed the social welfare side of the Hezbollah operation, this is preposterous.
HH: Oh, it's just the same premise as though a journalist would have expected Hitler to take him to Auschwitz in 1944.MS: Well, in fact, they did do that, in effect. They had the sort of good concentration camp at...what's it called? Terezin, at what is now the Czech Republic, where they basically, the Jews were...
HH: They had the band.MS: ...were treated better.
HH: Yes.MS: At Terezinstad. And they...people were taken on tours of it to see, in fact, that they were just...basically, it was like a health club for Jews, and they kept them all conveniently in this nice place, and they had...So they had like one show camp. And this is really the early 21st Century equivalent of that.
HH: At the same time that some are dupes, others are beyond what the Roman Catholic Church would call invincibly ignorant. Yesterday's Los Angeles Times includes the line, "To what extent Syria is acting in concert with Iran is not clear." Mark Steyn, how clear is it that Syria is acting in concert with Iran?MS: Well, I think it's absolutely clear that Boy Assad is not his father. His father was a contemptible and evil man, but he had control of events on his own terms. What has happened since then is that this state, effectively, is being propped up by Iran, and in a way, represents Iran's first Sunni-Arab colony. And the idea...in a sense, it's a chain, a chain snaking back through Hamas and Hezbollah, to Damascus, and from Damascus back to Tehran. And if you don't understand that, as the Los Angeles Times apparently doesn't, you probably shouldn't be writing about this subject at all. I'm sure there's Barbra Streisand's latest fundraiser or something to write about instead.
HH: Well now, we've moved from the dupes to the dunces. Now, let's get to the defeatists, which is most dangerous. Whether it's Andrew Sullivan throwing batting practice, or Greg Djerejian in middle relief, or George Will, who used to be a very serious starting pitcher in the commentariat. Lots of people, Mark Steyn, are turning belly up, not just on Iraq, but on the entire idea that there's a global war on terror, which not only can be won, but has to be fought.MS: Well, George Will I'd separate from them, because I think he is...he makes...I think he's wrong, but he has a serious argument. Andrew Sulliven, speaking as one armchair warrior to another...
HH: Yes...MS: I don't want to be in an armchair foxhole next to Andrew Sulliver. You know, he was writing in the days after September 11th, he was quoting all these heroic Auden poems from 1939. He was saying what an awesome privilege for our generation. This is the great...they were the words he used, an awesome privilege, and I remember thinking at the time, whoa, steady on, boy. And yet, suddenly now, the first whiff of something bad happening, Abu Ghraib, he turns against it. Sorry, that's what war is. Nobody following the invasion of Poland in 1939, the British imperial general's staff didn't say well, this is the way the war's going to go. We're going to be here in May, 1940, we're going to be this in September, 1941, and in April, 1943, here's what...it'll all be over, and we'll have the victory parade. No war ever fought goes according to plan. Horrible things happen. And if you don't...if you can't stick with the war through the horrible and unexpected things happening, if you're just a big ninny who runs around shrieking hysterically that it's gone off the rails, sorry, but your support is less than useless, and you shouldn't have gotten involved in it in the first place. I respect the visceral anti-war people more than Andrew Sullivan.
HH: But those sorts of fevers are spreading, and I don't mind Will going Buchanan on us, but I do mind the attempt not to argue with the Weekly Standard, and my position that Syria needs to be confronted sooner or later, ditto Iran. But to dismiss it as radicalism, it is hardly radicalism to argue for victory, Mark Steyn.MS: Well, no, and George Will is a historian, too, and he should know that there is simply no precedent for what America is, which is basically a non-imperial superpower. Now he says quite rightly that you can't just impose liberty and democracy on places. They don't have a Jefferson, they don't have a Madison. Well, most countries in the world didn't have Jefferson or a Madison, and they're not in the states that the Middle East is. Canada, my own country, never had a Jefferson or a Madison. If you really want to have a snoozerama when you can't sleep, pick up a huge volume called Canada's Founding Debate...
HH: (laughing)MS: ...by a lot of the third-rate hack, British imperial civil servants who invented the dominion of Canada. They didn't have a Madison or Jefferson. But compared to Syria or Egypt, they did good enough, and that's all we're asking here. We're saying okay, we accept the fact that America is the non-imperial superpower, but it simply cannot sit out its moment of history. This has happened on America's watch, and the idea that you can be a 19th Century isolationist republic is ridiculous.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Steyn at his best
One excellent point after another, as only Mark Steyn can make them. From an interview with Hugh Hewitt, transcribed here: