Sunday, December 31, 2006
Mark Steyn: What we need is some resolution
What we need in New Year is some resolution
December 31, 2006
My New Year's resolution is not to make any New Year predictions. I called last year pretty badly -- readers may remember my confident assertions every week or two that the Republicans would hold the House and Senate. War is a tough sell in a democracy, particularly the kind of war we face today. On the other hand, one should never underestimate the seductiveness of complacency. If you happened to catch John Edwards, the hair-today-gone-tomorrow pretty boy of the 2004 campaign, re-emerging in the artfully positioned debris of New Orleans last week, it was hard not to be impressed: An empty suit had somehow managed to get emptier. He's running for president on five big priorities: ''guaranteeing health care,'' ''leading the fight against global warming,'' ''strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty,'' and by then my fingers were too comatose to write down the fifth theme but, if memory serves, it was guaranteeing to lead the fight to strengthen ending the shame of platitudinous campaign rhetoric.
Listening to Edwards, you get no sense that this man is in any way engaged with the times. He's not alone, of course. It's been striking to read accounts of the incoming House leadership (of both parties) unable to tell the difference between Sunni and Shia or name a single book they've read on the present conflict. We are in an era of fast-moving demographic and technological transformation, and lavishly remunerated national legislators (with huge numbers of staff to do all the research) have minimal curiosity about it.
Here's something else nobody's curious about: Sandy Berger. Consider this passage from the inspector general's official report on the Sandypants and his destruction of classified materials from the National Archives:
''Mr. Berger exited the Archives on to Pennsylvania Avenue, the north entrance. It was dark. He did not want to run the risk of bringing the documents back in the building risking the possibility [redacted] might notice something unusual. He headed towards a construction area on Ninth Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ, and did not see anyone. He removed the documents from his pockets, folded the notes in a 'V' shape and inserted the documents in the center. He walked inside the construction fence and slid the documents under a trailer.''
Why is this man getting his security clearance back in 2008?
Aw, who cares? The thousands of Americans who drive around with that ''9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB'' bumper sticker are positively blase when confronted with an actual verified documented instance of a former national security adviser carrying on like a Cold War double agent making a dead drop.
I mentioned the old New Year's resolution up above, but in fact that's what I wouldn't mind seeing in 2007: a bit of resolution. There wasn't much in evidence last year. Take another little vignette that'll look good in the movie version:
Mustaf Jama, a Somali ''asylum seeker'' in Britain wanted for the murder of a policewoman, fled the country by taking his sister's passport, wearing a niqab (the full Islamic head-to-toe get-up that covers everything but the eyes) and passing unhindered through the checkpoints at Heathrow.
How about that? It turns out we are profiling after all, but we're profiling everybody except Muslims. Your wizened l'il ol' gran'ma on a Yuletide break to London is bent double and out of breath struggling to take off her coat and shoes. The officials sternly scrutinize her passport to check that the picture matches her flustered and bewildered face. All around her hundreds of women are doing the same, mutely shuffling through the scanner in their stocking feet. But Britain's most wanted man is breezing through because he took the precaution of dressing as a Muslim woman. And it would be culturally insensitive to expose them to the same scrutiny as your gran'ma.
Many of us think about the long-term shifts necessary to win this struggle: euthanizing the United Nations and overhauling other malign and anachronistic institutions. Fat chance. Mustaf Jama's express check-out is the perfect parodic reductio of "security": The state is willing to inflict pointless bureaucratic discomfort and inconvenience on everyone else, but the demographic group with the most links to terrorism gets to go through the fast-track VIP channel.
The funniest line in the Jama story was Her Majesty's government's touching faith in the Horn of Africa's extradition procedures:
''He is thought to be hiding in Somalia where approaches have been made to the transitional federal government to return him to Britain.''
At the time, the "transitional federal government" barely controlled enough of Somalia to fit inside Jama's niqab. This summer the country fell to the Islamic Courts Union, a Talibanesque regime interested in turning another husk of a state into a jihad training camp. But in the last few days the Ethiopian military has swept through the country and the Islamist forces have crumbled before them. Both Somali troops and various foreign jihadists have thrown off their uniforms and melted into the general population. Granted, that's what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, too: They're shrewd enough to understand it's not worth engaging superior militaries on their terms; better to wait awhile and grind them down in a dirty messy insurgency.
Well, we'll see about that. One difference between the Ethiopians in Somalia and the Americans in Iraq is that the former aren't fighting with one hand behind their back just in case some EU ally or humanitarian lobby group or fictitious Associated Press source leaks some "war crime" or other to the media. In fact, the Ethiopians have the advantage of more or less total lack of interest from the Western media. So they're just getting on with it.
And, given the potential for Islamist destabilization of their own country, they were wise to do so. The "international community" has reacted in the usual ways: calls for immediate cease-fires so that an ineffectual U.N. force of peacekeepers can go in and enjoy their customary child sex with the locals while propping up the Islamists. The Ethiopians can't be blamed for not taking the U.N. seriously. To be sure, the alternative to the jihad boys is a bunch of thugs. But that's the reality of much of the map today: a choice between being an outpost of the global jihad, or a patchwork quilt of warlords, or a bit of both with some feeble, half-hearted multilateral force mediating between the two. I don't know whether the Ethiopian intervention will work in the long run, but, if it does, the best hope for squashing the jihad might be to outsource the fight to Third World regimes less squeamish about waging it.
Happy New Year.
© Mark Steyn 2006