Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Steyn

The Wrong People Are Doing the Right Thing

Mark Steyn, writing in COMMENTARY last November, pulled out a great quote:

In 1975, Milton Friedman said this: “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Perhaps that climate is upon us. Who, in political terms, is more “wrong” than the progressive whistlers inhabiting the fiscal graveyard known as California? Yet, on Tuesday, Chuck Reed, the Democratic mayor of liberal San Jose won nearly 70 percent support for a ballet initiative that will deal huge cuts to the bloated pensions of city workers. Currently, retirement costs eat up more than 20 percent of San Jose’s general fund. None other than a Democratic mayor, backed by a clear majority, intends to slam on the brakes. Tea Party not needed.

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Mark Steyn, writing in COMMENTARY last November, pulled out a great quote:

In 1975, Milton Friedman said this: “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Perhaps that climate is upon us. Who, in political terms, is more “wrong” than the progressive whistlers inhabiting the fiscal graveyard known as California? Yet, on Tuesday, Chuck Reed, the Democratic mayor of liberal San Jose won nearly 70 percent support for a ballet initiative that will deal huge cuts to the bloated pensions of city workers. Currently, retirement costs eat up more than 20 percent of San Jose’s general fund. None other than a Democratic mayor, backed by a clear majority, intends to slam on the brakes. Tea Party not needed.

On national security, we see similarly encouraging signs. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry were among others who called for an investigation into recent Obama administration leaks about American cyberwarfare action against Iran. “Whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America,” said Kerry, using the kind of black-and-white tough talk he used to accuse the Bush administration of using to divisive effect.

And of course a slew of Democrats, from Feinstein to Deval Patrick to Bill Clinton, called foul on Barack Obama’s anti-private-equity reelection strategy.

The beautiful thing about living in a democracy with protected speech is that politicians aren’t solely in charge of framing the terms of debate—citizens set the political climate. In what has already passed of the Obama years, the temperature has been raised enough to make liberals sweat. Today a trickle. Tomorrow who knows? As Friedman saw it, that’s ultimately a greater conservative victory than what may transpire in November.

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Sestak Praised CAIR in 2007

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911”, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.'”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you — and certainly those in attendance at the event — might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –“down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” — and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911”, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.'”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you — and certainly those in attendance at the event — might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –“down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” — and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t expect a better description of the world’s unique treatment of Israel. From Mark Steyn: “North Korea sinks a South Korean ship; hundreds of thousands of people die in the Sudan; millions die in the Congo. But 10 men die at the hands of Israeli commandos and it dominates the news day in, day out for weeks, with UN resolutions, international investigations, calls for boycotts, and every Western prime minister and foreign minister expected to rise in parliament and express the outrage of the international community. Odd. But why? Because Israel is supposed to be up for grabs in a way that the Congo, Sudan or even North Korea aren’t. Only the Jewish state attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence, and insisting that, after 62 years of independence, that issue is still not resolved.”

Don’t miss the latest from Lee Smith on appeasing Muslim extremists: “The way Obama sees it, the upside is that it will not be a war without end, like the war on terror. All the extremists in the Muslim world want is money and the power that will flow their way as the consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. The faster the United States leaves, the cheaper the cost. This is why the Jewish state is isolated today and why Washington stands with her only reluctantly: Distancing ourselves from Israel is part of the deal we are preparing to strike.”

Don’t expect her to get a cushy White House job after leaving office: “Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has become a symbol that Barack Obama’s got to shake.”

Don’t think Obama’s foreign policy can’t get worse: “The Obama administration is secretly working with Russia to conclude an agreement that many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues.” Aside from the inanity of unilateral disarmament, how does he think this is going to get through the U.S. Senate?

Don’t hold your breath. The Washington Post editors go after Obama for his counterproductive timeline in Afghanistan: “It’s time for him to make clear whether the United States is prepared to stay long enough to ensure a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

Don’t imagine Republicans are ungrateful for a speech this bad: “President Barack Obama’s less-than-specific Oval Office address on energy has White House aides and Senate Democrats scrambling to find a way to pass climate change legislation. What it will be — if anything — remains an open question.”

Don’t let your guard down, but Obama finally seems to have been effective at killing some bad legislation: “Senate Democrats emerged from a special caucus meeting in the Capitol on Thursday with no clear consensus yet on the fate of energy and climate legislation due on the floor before the August recess.”

Don’t expect a better description of the world’s unique treatment of Israel. From Mark Steyn: “North Korea sinks a South Korean ship; hundreds of thousands of people die in the Sudan; millions die in the Congo. But 10 men die at the hands of Israeli commandos and it dominates the news day in, day out for weeks, with UN resolutions, international investigations, calls for boycotts, and every Western prime minister and foreign minister expected to rise in parliament and express the outrage of the international community. Odd. But why? Because Israel is supposed to be up for grabs in a way that the Congo, Sudan or even North Korea aren’t. Only the Jewish state attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence, and insisting that, after 62 years of independence, that issue is still not resolved.”

Don’t miss the latest from Lee Smith on appeasing Muslim extremists: “The way Obama sees it, the upside is that it will not be a war without end, like the war on terror. All the extremists in the Muslim world want is money and the power that will flow their way as the consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. The faster the United States leaves, the cheaper the cost. This is why the Jewish state is isolated today and why Washington stands with her only reluctantly: Distancing ourselves from Israel is part of the deal we are preparing to strike.”

Don’t expect her to get a cushy White House job after leaving office: “Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has become a symbol that Barack Obama’s got to shake.”

Don’t think Obama’s foreign policy can’t get worse: “The Obama administration is secretly working with Russia to conclude an agreement that many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues.” Aside from the inanity of unilateral disarmament, how does he think this is going to get through the U.S. Senate?

Don’t hold your breath. The Washington Post editors go after Obama for his counterproductive timeline in Afghanistan: “It’s time for him to make clear whether the United States is prepared to stay long enough to ensure a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

Don’t imagine Republicans are ungrateful for a speech this bad: “President Barack Obama’s less-than-specific Oval Office address on energy has White House aides and Senate Democrats scrambling to find a way to pass climate change legislation. What it will be — if anything — remains an open question.”

Don’t let your guard down, but Obama finally seems to have been effective at killing some bad legislation: “Senate Democrats emerged from a special caucus meeting in the Capitol on Thursday with no clear consensus yet on the fate of energy and climate legislation due on the floor before the August recess.”

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Welcome, Ricochet

Peter Robinson (with whom I speak here) and Rob Long (author of, among many other things, one of the funniest books ever written about Hollywood, Conversations with My Agent) have just opened up their new group blog Ricochet for general viewing, and I have to say, as a veteran group blogger here and at National Review‘s The Corner, it’s a triumphant debut. Give it a look. There are also some very, very amusing podcasts featuring Rob, Peter, and Mark Steyn.

Peter Robinson (with whom I speak here) and Rob Long (author of, among many other things, one of the funniest books ever written about Hollywood, Conversations with My Agent) have just opened up their new group blog Ricochet for general viewing, and I have to say, as a veteran group blogger here and at National Review‘s The Corner, it’s a triumphant debut. Give it a look. There are also some very, very amusing podcasts featuring Rob, Peter, and Mark Steyn.

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Capturing the Imagination of the World

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

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Mark Steyn on Gordon Brown

Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn offers a brilliantly compressed explanation of Gordon Brown’s hijinks yesterday:

So much for those Yank-style televised leaders’ debates only a couple weeks back. Instead, Britain will end up with a leader who didn’t participate in the leaders’ debates, presiding over a coalition that wasn’t on the ballot, implementing a platform no party ran on, yet committed to transformative electoral reform for which there is no mandate.

Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn offers a brilliantly compressed explanation of Gordon Brown’s hijinks yesterday:

So much for those Yank-style televised leaders’ debates only a couple weeks back. Instead, Britain will end up with a leader who didn’t participate in the leaders’ debates, presiding over a coalition that wasn’t on the ballot, implementing a platform no party ran on, yet committed to transformative electoral reform for which there is no mandate.

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Dreams of Disarmament

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

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Re: Eurabia Debunked

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

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Is Reid the Best They Can Do?

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

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“Eurabia” Debunked

Is Europe committing demographic and cultural suicide? Is the continent turning into “Eurabia” — a land populated primarily by Muslims? That is the case made in a series of popular books by the likes of Bernard Lewis, Mark Steyn, Tony Blankley, and Oriana Fallaci. Personally I’m skeptical. For much the same reason that I was skeptical about the prospects of a Y2K or avian-flu catastrophe: disasters that are so widely predicted seldom occur because corrective action can usually be taken in time. Justin Vaisse of the Brookings Institution, formerly a French Foreign Ministry staffer, suggests some other reasons for skepticism in this Foreign Policy article.

He points out that, while there are currently 18 million Muslims in Western Europe, or 4.5% of the population, and there will be increases in the future, “it’s hard to imagine that Europe will even reach the 10 percent mark (except in some countries or cities).” Why not? Because “fertility rates among Muslims are sharply declining as children of immigrants gradually conform to prevailing social and economic norms. Nor is immigration still a major source of newly minted European Muslims. Only about 500,000 people a year come legally to Europe from Muslim-majority countries, with an even smaller number coming illegally — meaning that the annual influx is a fraction of a percent of the European population.”

Moreover, he writes, fertility rates are actually rising in European countries: “In 2008, fertility rates in France and Ireland were more than two children per woman, close to the U.S. (and replacement) level; in Britain and Sweden they were above 1.9. And though in the 1990s European countries set an all-time record for low fertility rates, figures are now rising in all EU states except Germany.” And, no, those increasing fertility figures are not due to Muslims alone. Although Muslim migrant women have a lot of children, overall they “have a negligible impact on overall fertility rates, adding a maximum of 0.1 to any country’s average.”

Vaisse adds another reason we shouldn’t worry. He cites polling data to show that “to large majorities of Europe’s Muslims, Islam is neither an exclusive identity nor a marching order. Recent poll data from Gallup show that most European Muslims happily combine their national and religious identities, and a 2009 Harvard University working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris demonstrates that in the long term, the basic cultural values of Muslim migrants evolve to conform to the predominant culture of the European society in which they live.”

I would add another point: that continental societies have more resiliency than it may appear on the surface to Americans who caricature Europeans as effete surrender monkeys. While most European nations are not willing to engage in vigorous military action overseas (France and Britain are partial exceptions) they have shown far more ruthlessness in policing their own borders. France, in particular, as this AEI study notes, has been extremely aggressive in going after Islamist terror cells, giving their law enforcement and judicial authorities more power than in the U.S. Islamist excesses such as the killing of Theo van Gogh or the attempted murder of the Muhammad cartoonist are triggering a backlash. Europe, I predict, will not be subsumed into the umma as so many alarmists claim, based on worst-case projections.

Is Europe committing demographic and cultural suicide? Is the continent turning into “Eurabia” — a land populated primarily by Muslims? That is the case made in a series of popular books by the likes of Bernard Lewis, Mark Steyn, Tony Blankley, and Oriana Fallaci. Personally I’m skeptical. For much the same reason that I was skeptical about the prospects of a Y2K or avian-flu catastrophe: disasters that are so widely predicted seldom occur because corrective action can usually be taken in time. Justin Vaisse of the Brookings Institution, formerly a French Foreign Ministry staffer, suggests some other reasons for skepticism in this Foreign Policy article.

He points out that, while there are currently 18 million Muslims in Western Europe, or 4.5% of the population, and there will be increases in the future, “it’s hard to imagine that Europe will even reach the 10 percent mark (except in some countries or cities).” Why not? Because “fertility rates among Muslims are sharply declining as children of immigrants gradually conform to prevailing social and economic norms. Nor is immigration still a major source of newly minted European Muslims. Only about 500,000 people a year come legally to Europe from Muslim-majority countries, with an even smaller number coming illegally — meaning that the annual influx is a fraction of a percent of the European population.”

Moreover, he writes, fertility rates are actually rising in European countries: “In 2008, fertility rates in France and Ireland were more than two children per woman, close to the U.S. (and replacement) level; in Britain and Sweden they were above 1.9. And though in the 1990s European countries set an all-time record for low fertility rates, figures are now rising in all EU states except Germany.” And, no, those increasing fertility figures are not due to Muslims alone. Although Muslim migrant women have a lot of children, overall they “have a negligible impact on overall fertility rates, adding a maximum of 0.1 to any country’s average.”

Vaisse adds another reason we shouldn’t worry. He cites polling data to show that “to large majorities of Europe’s Muslims, Islam is neither an exclusive identity nor a marching order. Recent poll data from Gallup show that most European Muslims happily combine their national and religious identities, and a 2009 Harvard University working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris demonstrates that in the long term, the basic cultural values of Muslim migrants evolve to conform to the predominant culture of the European society in which they live.”

I would add another point: that continental societies have more resiliency than it may appear on the surface to Americans who caricature Europeans as effete surrender monkeys. While most European nations are not willing to engage in vigorous military action overseas (France and Britain are partial exceptions) they have shown far more ruthlessness in policing their own borders. France, in particular, as this AEI study notes, has been extremely aggressive in going after Islamist terror cells, giving their law enforcement and judicial authorities more power than in the U.S. Islamist excesses such as the killing of Theo van Gogh or the attempted murder of the Muhammad cartoonist are triggering a backlash. Europe, I predict, will not be subsumed into the umma as so many alarmists claim, based on worst-case projections.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Evan Bayh on a war surtax: “I don’t think it’s a good idea, not at this point, Chris.” He observes that “if ultimately you’re going to have to start talking about raising taxes, you shouldn’t do it until the economy is robust and really on its — on some pretty good footing.” Er … what about the hundreds of billions in the health-care bill?

Dana Perino on what conservatives will probably do if Obama gives Gen. Stanley McChrystal most of what he wants: “I think they’ll have to set aside the fact that they think it was a really sloppy process, that he undermined President Karzai, that he alienated General McChrystal, and say, ‘This is the right thing to do. We wish he wouldn’t talk about exit ramps so soon, but this is the right thing to do,’ and providing the generals what they need.”

Robert Gibbs issues a distressingly comical statement on news that Iran is about to embark on building 10 more enrichment sites, pronouncing that “time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear program.” Good grief. Could they possibly sound any more inept and unserious? Perhaps double secret probation is next.

Mike Huckabee says he likes his TV gig and sounds not too serious about running in 2012. But remember, in 2005 we hadn’t a clue who really was and wasn’t going to run in 2008, so perhaps it’s best to wait a year or three before assessing the field.

ObamaCare seems to have a negative impact on its supporters: “When survey respondents are informed that AARP does support the health care plan, the number with a favorable opinion of the group falls 10 percentage points from 53% to 43%. Knowing of AARP’s position on health care legislation, 53% offer an unfavorable opinion of the group. The number with a Very Unfavorable view nearly doubles from 20% to 38%. Those with a negative opinion include 52% of senior citizens and 59% of those aged 50-64.”

Bibi makes clear where the problem rests in the non-peace process: “I see preconditions being laid that never before existed. I see legal steps being taken at the international court to advance that absurd thing called the Goldstone report. You can’t reach peace if the horizon is moving away.”

Richard Allen on the West Point venue for Obama’s speech: “An announcement on which so much rests must be made from the President’s own unique and highly symbolic center of authority, The Oval Office. It has meaning. It should be made by him alone, without the props of thousands in an audience and the hoopla of presidential travel and a massive press entourage. This President surely does not need the device of an audience to authenticate and legitimize his message or to bolster apparent support. But it would appear that he will seek solace, if not a measure of safety, in a large audience over which he has command.”

Another fight in the Senate: “The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.” Maybe they should just not vote for the trillion-dollar health-care plan.

Mark Steyn bursts the “peer review” balloon: “The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the ‘peer-review’ process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The ‘science’ of the CRU dominates the ‘science’ behind the UN’s IPCC, which dominates the ‘science’ behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.”

Sen. Evan Bayh on a war surtax: “I don’t think it’s a good idea, not at this point, Chris.” He observes that “if ultimately you’re going to have to start talking about raising taxes, you shouldn’t do it until the economy is robust and really on its — on some pretty good footing.” Er … what about the hundreds of billions in the health-care bill?

Dana Perino on what conservatives will probably do if Obama gives Gen. Stanley McChrystal most of what he wants: “I think they’ll have to set aside the fact that they think it was a really sloppy process, that he undermined President Karzai, that he alienated General McChrystal, and say, ‘This is the right thing to do. We wish he wouldn’t talk about exit ramps so soon, but this is the right thing to do,’ and providing the generals what they need.”

Robert Gibbs issues a distressingly comical statement on news that Iran is about to embark on building 10 more enrichment sites, pronouncing that “time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear program.” Good grief. Could they possibly sound any more inept and unserious? Perhaps double secret probation is next.

Mike Huckabee says he likes his TV gig and sounds not too serious about running in 2012. But remember, in 2005 we hadn’t a clue who really was and wasn’t going to run in 2008, so perhaps it’s best to wait a year or three before assessing the field.

ObamaCare seems to have a negative impact on its supporters: “When survey respondents are informed that AARP does support the health care plan, the number with a favorable opinion of the group falls 10 percentage points from 53% to 43%. Knowing of AARP’s position on health care legislation, 53% offer an unfavorable opinion of the group. The number with a Very Unfavorable view nearly doubles from 20% to 38%. Those with a negative opinion include 52% of senior citizens and 59% of those aged 50-64.”

Bibi makes clear where the problem rests in the non-peace process: “I see preconditions being laid that never before existed. I see legal steps being taken at the international court to advance that absurd thing called the Goldstone report. You can’t reach peace if the horizon is moving away.”

Richard Allen on the West Point venue for Obama’s speech: “An announcement on which so much rests must be made from the President’s own unique and highly symbolic center of authority, The Oval Office. It has meaning. It should be made by him alone, without the props of thousands in an audience and the hoopla of presidential travel and a massive press entourage. This President surely does not need the device of an audience to authenticate and legitimize his message or to bolster apparent support. But it would appear that he will seek solace, if not a measure of safety, in a large audience over which he has command.”

Another fight in the Senate: “The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.” Maybe they should just not vote for the trillion-dollar health-care plan.

Mark Steyn bursts the “peer review” balloon: “The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the ‘peer-review’ process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The ‘science’ of the CRU dominates the ‘science’ behind the UN’s IPCC, which dominates the ‘science’ behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.”

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Sure Beats a Hallmark Card

Yesterday, Mark Steyn weighed in on Israel’s 60th. From his birthday greeting:

The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map-makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years — Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? I don’t find that a hard question to answer. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second) and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region. On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 — and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that’s because it’s uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: Their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohammed Atta coming at you through the office window.

Kind of says it all.

Yesterday, Mark Steyn weighed in on Israel’s 60th. From his birthday greeting:

The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map-makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years — Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? I don’t find that a hard question to answer. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second) and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region. On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 — and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that’s because it’s uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: Their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohammed Atta coming at you through the office window.

Kind of says it all.

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The Starvation Jihad

In Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, the militant members of the Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation (KEVIN) claim they have an “acronym problem”. Not compared to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front! MILF has an acronym problem. And its real.

But names are the least of this Philippine radical group’s concerns. What they don’t have is food. At least they didn’t until Wednesday, when they picked up their guns and took over the coastal village of Sangay. Three hundred armed jihadists forced more than a thousand (mostly Christian) villagers off their land after demanding food and confiscating recently-harvested rice.

Up until now, the save-the-planet crowd has weakened the West mostly by way of sapping morale. Without an enormous colonial empire to oppose, anti-Westerners have to make do with railing against the immensity of the West’s “carbon footprint.” We’re supposed to feel guilty about the cars we drive and question the lightbulbs we use. Then came “biofuels.” The EU and the U.S. signed on to commitments requiring that vast amounts of food crops go to the production of burnable fuel.

As Mark Steyn put it, “When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat?” Actually, we tubby Westerners can still walk into any McDonald’s and stuff our faces. It’s the developing world that’s literally eating dirt to survive.

But now we’ve arrived at the next step. When things get that bad in places like Cité Soleil and Mindanao, the only people who get what they need to live are the ones with guns. And in Sangay, that’s MILF. So, the global food shortage, brought on in part by environmentalist radicals, has enabled the Darwinian advancement of armed jihadists in the developing world. There have recently been food riots from the Phillipines to Indonesia to Egypt. In this last case the Muslim Brotherhood has lent their name to the cause. It doesn’t take an expert on world religions to spot the overlap between countries with too little food and countries with too many Islamists. One of the worst “innovations” spawned by Western guilt has just gotten appreciably worse.

In Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, the militant members of the Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation (KEVIN) claim they have an “acronym problem”. Not compared to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front! MILF has an acronym problem. And its real.

But names are the least of this Philippine radical group’s concerns. What they don’t have is food. At least they didn’t until Wednesday, when they picked up their guns and took over the coastal village of Sangay. Three hundred armed jihadists forced more than a thousand (mostly Christian) villagers off their land after demanding food and confiscating recently-harvested rice.

Up until now, the save-the-planet crowd has weakened the West mostly by way of sapping morale. Without an enormous colonial empire to oppose, anti-Westerners have to make do with railing against the immensity of the West’s “carbon footprint.” We’re supposed to feel guilty about the cars we drive and question the lightbulbs we use. Then came “biofuels.” The EU and the U.S. signed on to commitments requiring that vast amounts of food crops go to the production of burnable fuel.

As Mark Steyn put it, “When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat?” Actually, we tubby Westerners can still walk into any McDonald’s and stuff our faces. It’s the developing world that’s literally eating dirt to survive.

But now we’ve arrived at the next step. When things get that bad in places like Cité Soleil and Mindanao, the only people who get what they need to live are the ones with guns. And in Sangay, that’s MILF. So, the global food shortage, brought on in part by environmentalist radicals, has enabled the Darwinian advancement of armed jihadists in the developing world. There have recently been food riots from the Phillipines to Indonesia to Egypt. In this last case the Muslim Brotherhood has lent their name to the cause. It doesn’t take an expert on world religions to spot the overlap between countries with too little food and countries with too many Islamists. One of the worst “innovations” spawned by Western guilt has just gotten appreciably worse.

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It’s Not a Race

In a debate the other night, Edina Lekovic, director of communications for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, referred to Dutch parliamentarian and filmmaker Geert Wilders as a racist. Wilders, who made the recent anti-Islamist film “Fitna,” has admitted to a distaste for Islam (a religion). But if he’s defamed any ethnic group, I’m unaware of it. So why “racist”?

Last week, Mark Steyn wrote:

Islam is everything but a race. It’s a religion — which is to say [it is] an ideology. It’s also a political platform and an imperialist project, as those terms are traditionally understood. It has believers of every colour on every continent. So, if Islam is a race, then everything’s a race — from the Elks Lodge to the Hannah Montana Fan Club to the British Airways frequent flyer program . . .”Racist,” of course, no longer has anything very much to do with skin colour. It merely means you have raised a topic that discombobulates the scrupulously non-judgmental progressive sensibility.

Steyn doesn’t need any help making his point. But there’s a story in today’s Telegraph that can be cited as supporting evidence. Simon Keeler, a white Muslim, was found guilty of storming with a gang of his associates a moderate mosque in London. In other words, a Western country convicted a white man for harassing and threatening Muslims. Somehow, though, it seems doubtful that Ms. Lekovic will now describe the British courts as racist against whites.

In a debate the other night, Edina Lekovic, director of communications for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, referred to Dutch parliamentarian and filmmaker Geert Wilders as a racist. Wilders, who made the recent anti-Islamist film “Fitna,” has admitted to a distaste for Islam (a religion). But if he’s defamed any ethnic group, I’m unaware of it. So why “racist”?

Last week, Mark Steyn wrote:

Islam is everything but a race. It’s a religion — which is to say [it is] an ideology. It’s also a political platform and an imperialist project, as those terms are traditionally understood. It has believers of every colour on every continent. So, if Islam is a race, then everything’s a race — from the Elks Lodge to the Hannah Montana Fan Club to the British Airways frequent flyer program . . .”Racist,” of course, no longer has anything very much to do with skin colour. It merely means you have raised a topic that discombobulates the scrupulously non-judgmental progressive sensibility.

Steyn doesn’t need any help making his point. But there’s a story in today’s Telegraph that can be cited as supporting evidence. Simon Keeler, a white Muslim, was found guilty of storming with a gang of his associates a moderate mosque in London. In other words, a Western country convicted a white man for harassing and threatening Muslims. Somehow, though, it seems doubtful that Ms. Lekovic will now describe the British courts as racist against whites.

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How the Left Lacks Humor

One of the most telling differences between the Left and the Right–at least among political journalists–is that the Left lacks a sense of humor. Case in point: the wickedly funny piece by Christopher Buckley–author of Thank You For Smoking–in yesterday’s New York Times, which seeks to explain why some conservatives are uneasy with a McCain presidency. In discussing McCain’s alleged lack of conservative bona fides, Buckley writes:

And—true, again—Mr. McCain is a bit of a girlie-man when it comes to waterboarding high-value detainees; but that’s a tricky one, even for macho, red-meat conservative chest-thumpers. You get a pass on that one if you’ve spent five-and-a-half years being bastinadoed by North Vietnamese.

This earned the following reaction from the oh-so-serious folks at ThinkProgress, blog of the Center for American Progress, which categorizes Buckley’s column as yet another example of the “Radical Right-Wing Agenda”:

Buckley’s description of McCain as a “girlie-man” reveals a couple of things. The first is Buckley’s belief that one’s “manliness” can be deduced from his support for torture. The second, and more important, is that the state of American conservatism is such that McCain requires “forgiveness” for opposing torture.

Aside from the fact that the author of this post totally misses the point in that Buckley is lampooning McCain’s conservative critics, he also seems like a total party pooper. Observe that, in the column, Buckley refers to the “the Archfiend, Ted Kennedy” and notes that Fred Thompson “could barely manage to stay awake during his own announcement speech.” Indeed, Buckley opens the piece with an anecdote about a New Yorker cartoon. The problem with the liberals at ThinkProgress is that, since they themselves have no sense of humor, they cannot recognize a joke when it hits them square between the eyes.

I may not agree with Christopher Buckley or Mark Steyn about everything, but I’d sooner share a drink with them than with Paul Krugman, Joe Conason, or any other of the multitude of sober, boring, hectoring liberal writers who populate the nation’s newspapers and magazines.

One of the most telling differences between the Left and the Right–at least among political journalists–is that the Left lacks a sense of humor. Case in point: the wickedly funny piece by Christopher Buckley–author of Thank You For Smoking–in yesterday’s New York Times, which seeks to explain why some conservatives are uneasy with a McCain presidency. In discussing McCain’s alleged lack of conservative bona fides, Buckley writes:

And—true, again—Mr. McCain is a bit of a girlie-man when it comes to waterboarding high-value detainees; but that’s a tricky one, even for macho, red-meat conservative chest-thumpers. You get a pass on that one if you’ve spent five-and-a-half years being bastinadoed by North Vietnamese.

This earned the following reaction from the oh-so-serious folks at ThinkProgress, blog of the Center for American Progress, which categorizes Buckley’s column as yet another example of the “Radical Right-Wing Agenda”:

Buckley’s description of McCain as a “girlie-man” reveals a couple of things. The first is Buckley’s belief that one’s “manliness” can be deduced from his support for torture. The second, and more important, is that the state of American conservatism is such that McCain requires “forgiveness” for opposing torture.

Aside from the fact that the author of this post totally misses the point in that Buckley is lampooning McCain’s conservative critics, he also seems like a total party pooper. Observe that, in the column, Buckley refers to the “the Archfiend, Ted Kennedy” and notes that Fred Thompson “could barely manage to stay awake during his own announcement speech.” Indeed, Buckley opens the piece with an anecdote about a New Yorker cartoon. The problem with the liberals at ThinkProgress is that, since they themselves have no sense of humor, they cannot recognize a joke when it hits them square between the eyes.

I may not agree with Christopher Buckley or Mark Steyn about everything, but I’d sooner share a drink with them than with Paul Krugman, Joe Conason, or any other of the multitude of sober, boring, hectoring liberal writers who populate the nation’s newspapers and magazines.

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World War IV: Powerline’s Book of the Year

Powerline has just announced that Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV is the winner of its first Book of the Year Award. Podhoretz is, of course, COMMENTARY’S Editor at Large, and the articles that formed the basis of the book first appeared in COMMENTARY. As Scott Johnson, one of the three proprietors of Powerline, writes:

We judge Podhoretz’s book perhaps the most important published last year. It is an elegantly written assessment of the long war in which we are engaged, and a passionate defense of the Bush Doctrine. As Podhoretz notes in the book, we have occasionally expressed our own second thoughts about the Bush Doctrine and do not necessarily agree with every tenet of his argument. We are nevertheless quite sure that it is a book, not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future during which the United States will confront the Islamist enemy that is at war with us.

The $25,000 prize, funded by an anonymous benefactor and to be donated in Podhoretz’s honor to Soldier’s Angels, makes it the most financially substantial award in American publishing. “With this award,” Johnson writes, “it is our intention to raise awareness of one of the several outstanding books published by conservative authors last year that have been or will be given short shrift by the Pulitzer and NBCC judges.” The award will be presented Monday night at a dinner in New York featuring Henry Kissinger and Mark Steyn.

Powerline has just announced that Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV is the winner of its first Book of the Year Award. Podhoretz is, of course, COMMENTARY’S Editor at Large, and the articles that formed the basis of the book first appeared in COMMENTARY. As Scott Johnson, one of the three proprietors of Powerline, writes:

We judge Podhoretz’s book perhaps the most important published last year. It is an elegantly written assessment of the long war in which we are engaged, and a passionate defense of the Bush Doctrine. As Podhoretz notes in the book, we have occasionally expressed our own second thoughts about the Bush Doctrine and do not necessarily agree with every tenet of his argument. We are nevertheless quite sure that it is a book, not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future during which the United States will confront the Islamist enemy that is at war with us.

The $25,000 prize, funded by an anonymous benefactor and to be donated in Podhoretz’s honor to Soldier’s Angels, makes it the most financially substantial award in American publishing. “With this award,” Johnson writes, “it is our intention to raise awareness of one of the several outstanding books published by conservative authors last year that have been or will be given short shrift by the Pulitzer and NBCC judges.” The award will be presented Monday night at a dinner in New York featuring Henry Kissinger and Mark Steyn.

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His Name Is Ezra Levant

David Frum and Mark Steyn draw our attention to Ezra Levant–former publisher of the Western Standard, a Canadian political magazine–who, like Steyn, is being harassed by Canadian “human rights” commissars over his apparent lack of sensitivity to fundamentalist Muslims who wish to impose Shari’a law on Canada. In men like Steyn and Levant, the professional grievance hustlers have their hands full.

Levant has his own blog, where he posts missives about his case and republishes statements he’s made to the “human rights” commission. He says rousing things like this:

It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.

And:

The first [complaint against me] was filed by a radical imam in Calgary, Syed Soharwardy, a tin-pot fascist who has publicly called for Canada to be ruled by sharia law.

And:

Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these ‘human rights’ commissions are interested in what George Orwell called ‘thought crimes’.

And:

No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.

This man deserves not only our support, but a standing ovation–for he is not just defending the basic principles of a free society, but doing so in high style and with a sense of confident outrage that puts his detractors on the defensive, which is the best place they should ever hope to be. His website, again, can be found here.

UPDATE: A Facebook group has been created on behalf of Levant’s cause. It can be found here.

David Frum and Mark Steyn draw our attention to Ezra Levant–former publisher of the Western Standard, a Canadian political magazine–who, like Steyn, is being harassed by Canadian “human rights” commissars over his apparent lack of sensitivity to fundamentalist Muslims who wish to impose Shari’a law on Canada. In men like Steyn and Levant, the professional grievance hustlers have their hands full.

Levant has his own blog, where he posts missives about his case and republishes statements he’s made to the “human rights” commission. He says rousing things like this:

It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.

And:

The first [complaint against me] was filed by a radical imam in Calgary, Syed Soharwardy, a tin-pot fascist who has publicly called for Canada to be ruled by sharia law.

And:

Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these ‘human rights’ commissions are interested in what George Orwell called ‘thought crimes’.

And:

No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.

This man deserves not only our support, but a standing ovation–for he is not just defending the basic principles of a free society, but doing so in high style and with a sense of confident outrage that puts his detractors on the defensive, which is the best place they should ever hope to be. His website, again, can be found here.

UPDATE: A Facebook group has been created on behalf of Levant’s cause. It can be found here.

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The Real Benazir Bhutto

Never mind the mystery of who killed Benazir Bhutto and what method was used. There’s an emerging chorus of conflicting opinions about just who the late prime minister was. Liberator? Operator? Criminal?

Bernard-Henri Levy’s encomium in today’s Wall Street Journal skips beatification and plunges straight into sainthood:

And now they have killed Benazir Bhutto—killed her because she was a woman, because she had a woman’s face, unadorned yet filled with an unswerving strength, because she was living out her destiny and refusing the curse that, according to the new fascists (the jihadists) floats over the human face of women. They killed this woman incarnation of hope, of spirit, of the will to democracy, not only in Pakistan, but in all the lands of Islam.

Thomas Barnett brings Ms. Bhutto back down to earth:

Bhutto, despite our mythologizing of her past rule and future potential, was not going to fix Pakistan. As such, her passing matters only to the extent it creates short-term instability. But, in the end, I don’t expect to change much about the correlation of forces right now in Pakistan.

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens offers tempered admiration:

The fact of the matter is that Benazir’s undoubted courage had a certain fanaticism to it. She had the largest Electra complex of any female politician in modern history, entirely consecrated to the memory of her executed father . . .

It’s hard to beat Mark Steyn’s early assessment:

She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be—though in practice, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world’s most corrupt political classes.

Steyn is particularly dead-on about the West. We’ll never know what Benazir Bhutto would have meant to Pakistan’s future, but perhaps we should re-calibrate our expectations about what’s next—and start by softening the sharp lines along which we demonize or celebrate Pervez Musharraf.

Never mind the mystery of who killed Benazir Bhutto and what method was used. There’s an emerging chorus of conflicting opinions about just who the late prime minister was. Liberator? Operator? Criminal?

Bernard-Henri Levy’s encomium in today’s Wall Street Journal skips beatification and plunges straight into sainthood:

And now they have killed Benazir Bhutto—killed her because she was a woman, because she had a woman’s face, unadorned yet filled with an unswerving strength, because she was living out her destiny and refusing the curse that, according to the new fascists (the jihadists) floats over the human face of women. They killed this woman incarnation of hope, of spirit, of the will to democracy, not only in Pakistan, but in all the lands of Islam.

Thomas Barnett brings Ms. Bhutto back down to earth:

Bhutto, despite our mythologizing of her past rule and future potential, was not going to fix Pakistan. As such, her passing matters only to the extent it creates short-term instability. But, in the end, I don’t expect to change much about the correlation of forces right now in Pakistan.

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens offers tempered admiration:

The fact of the matter is that Benazir’s undoubted courage had a certain fanaticism to it. She had the largest Electra complex of any female politician in modern history, entirely consecrated to the memory of her executed father . . .

It’s hard to beat Mark Steyn’s early assessment:

She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be—though in practice, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world’s most corrupt political classes.

Steyn is particularly dead-on about the West. We’ll never know what Benazir Bhutto would have meant to Pakistan’s future, but perhaps we should re-calibrate our expectations about what’s next—and start by softening the sharp lines along which we demonize or celebrate Pervez Musharraf.

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UNhelpful in Annapolis

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

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The Closing of the American Ear

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, the New Criterion’s November issue contains a series of essays offering a reappraisal of Bloom’s (in)famous polemic. Among them: Mark Steyn’s “Twenty Years Ago Today,” a characteristically witty discussion of Bloom’s excoriation of rock music.

To Bloom, rock-n-roll symbolizes the vulgar hedonism of a youth culture that is averse to liberal arts education. For presenting this view, Bloom was naturally pilloried as an elitist. In fact, Steyn says that “for Bloom to write his chapter on ‘Music’ seems to many of us braver than attacking the 1960s or the race hucksters or his various other targets.”

Steyn doesn’t entirely agree with Bloom’s perspective on rock music. Even so, he gets to the core issue surrounding the contemporary genuflection to popular culture:

Most of us have prejudices: we may not like ballet or golf, but we don’t have to worry about going to the deli and ordering a ham on rye while some ninny in tights prances around us or a fellow in plus-fours tries to chip it out of the rough behind the salad bar. Yet, in the course of a day, any number of non-rock-related transactions are accompanied by rock music.

This calls to mind Joe Queenan’s crack about exercising at his local YMCA: “It was now apparent to me that if I was going to lose any weight, I was going to have to listen to an awful lot of Phil Collins records in the process.”

And here’s the point: The problem isn’t so much the popularity of rock music, which, with its rigorously undemanding aesthetic, can be fun at times. The problem is the way in which our surrender to pop-culture populism has wound up forcing classical, jazz, and other forms of music into almost complete obscurity.

The end result has been the virtual disappearance of non-rock music from American ears.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, the New Criterion’s November issue contains a series of essays offering a reappraisal of Bloom’s (in)famous polemic. Among them: Mark Steyn’s “Twenty Years Ago Today,” a characteristically witty discussion of Bloom’s excoriation of rock music.

To Bloom, rock-n-roll symbolizes the vulgar hedonism of a youth culture that is averse to liberal arts education. For presenting this view, Bloom was naturally pilloried as an elitist. In fact, Steyn says that “for Bloom to write his chapter on ‘Music’ seems to many of us braver than attacking the 1960s or the race hucksters or his various other targets.”

Steyn doesn’t entirely agree with Bloom’s perspective on rock music. Even so, he gets to the core issue surrounding the contemporary genuflection to popular culture:

Most of us have prejudices: we may not like ballet or golf, but we don’t have to worry about going to the deli and ordering a ham on rye while some ninny in tights prances around us or a fellow in plus-fours tries to chip it out of the rough behind the salad bar. Yet, in the course of a day, any number of non-rock-related transactions are accompanied by rock music.

This calls to mind Joe Queenan’s crack about exercising at his local YMCA: “It was now apparent to me that if I was going to lose any weight, I was going to have to listen to an awful lot of Phil Collins records in the process.”

And here’s the point: The problem isn’t so much the popularity of rock music, which, with its rigorously undemanding aesthetic, can be fun at times. The problem is the way in which our surrender to pop-culture populism has wound up forcing classical, jazz, and other forms of music into almost complete obscurity.

The end result has been the virtual disappearance of non-rock music from American ears.

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