Fighting It– Looking Back at the Five Years

Mark Steyn in National Review, Sept. 25, writes his observations about the five years of the War vs. Islamo-fascism since 9/11 (the war didn’t start then, we just didn’t realize it yet). He derides the foolish and inspires the clear-minded.

Excerpts: Rummaging through the moldy clippings, I see The Spectator gave the piece I wrote that Tuesday the headline “A War for Civilization.” As it turned out, that’s correct — though I’m not sure I grasped quite how existential it all was that September morning. My instant reaction, as the towers burned and then fell, hit a number of themes I’ve come back to ad nauseam in the half-decade since — the uselessness of the U.N., the postmodern nature of “the Western alliance,” the paradox of the non-imperial hyperpower — and, while I’d like to congratulate myself on getting the big picture, it seems to me the fellows who stayed focused on the small picture may have had the right idea. In Britain’s Observer that first Sunday, Richard Ingrams wrote a column titled: “Who Will Dare Damn Israel?”

Answer: Take a number and join the line. I used to do a radio show with Ingrams. A likeable cove, if you steered clear of the whole Jew thing, and that’s good general advice in Britain and Europe anyway, long before the present unpleasantness arose. Still, I thought his was a pretty kooky angle to take as the rubble was still smoldering. Silly me. Five years on, European airports deny Israeli flights from the U.S. refueling rights just in case they happen to be carrying ammunition that might possibly wind up getting used against Hamas and Hezbollah. In France, Jews are physically assaulted. In Britain, cemeteries are desecrated. In Montreal, a Jewish school is firebombed. The dead of 9/11 seem to have served as a license renewal for the world’s oldest hatred.

Here’s another thing I got wrong. Do you remember the summer of 2001? Shark attacks. Swimming off the Florida coast, a kid called Jessie Arbogast had his arm ripped off… “September 11th was a call to moral seriousness. You cannot compromise with a shark, you cannot negotiate with a suicide bomber,” I wrote. “The next shark to chew up a Florida moppet will get a tougher press, even from the New York Times.”

I must have been drunk. The Times is back to siding with the sharks. Every other week, it leaks details of the government’s new shark-tracking program or demands full Geneva Convention protection for them. On Labor Day, a terrorist opened fire on a group of Western tourists in Amman, killing a British subject. Rana Sabbagh-Gargour, correspondent for the Times of London, also came down on the side of the shark, attributing the attack to “mounting frustration on the streets of the Arab world” over the West’s “perceived bias” on Iraq and Lebanon.

Lebanon? Hey, why not? Reuters laid the August Heathrow bomb plot at the feet of Tony Blair for “refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire” in Lebanon. That’s right, folks. You don’t have to invade anyone, you don’t have to be supporting one side or the other even rhetorically, you don’t have to say a word on the subject. Simply being tardy in issuing a press release demanding a ceasefire is a sufficient “root cause.” Tony Blair is the root cause of jihad, and so is the Iraq War. And though neither explains 9/11 or Bali, nor why non–Iraq combatants such as Canada and Germany have been targeted, it’s apparently not self-evidently risible to the hundreds of reporters who type it up every other day.

So much for “moral seriousness.” After 9/11, when Michael Moore was bemoaning that Osama had targeted Gore-voting states, Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, assured us he was a “well-known crank, regarded with considerable distaste even on the left.” Three years later, he was sitting alongside Jimmy Carter in the presidential box at the Democratic convention. The crank Left metastasized, swallowing among others the Dems’ vice-presidential nominee: As I understand it, the Left’s line is that Joe Lieberman is still the rightful winner of the 2000 election, but that they’d have impeached him by now.

…. Rather than a call to moral seriousness, 9/11 seems to have severed the last frayed slender thread connecting a big chunk of the American people to reality.

And I’m not even talking about the nuts. In June 2004, a majority of Americans were already telling pollsters the Iraq War was a mistake. Just a year after the invasion. And with a historically low level of casualties. That suggests that “quagmires” and “grim milestones” are mere euphemisms for what Niall Ferguson regards as the American people’s geopolitical ADHD. Not all of them, but enough.

I never thought “Let’s roll!” was a partisan line, but five years on it is. And, when you’re a famously sleepy giant, “Let’s roll over and doze off again!” is the most potent rallying cry of all.

“A war for civilization” will by definition be a long one. I never thought quite so many people would check out quite so soon.


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