Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2003/ 5 Teves, 5763
Doers and disparagers
Two weeks ago, George W, Bush's
Christmas present to the world (if not
to Democratic presidential candidates)
prompted a wide array of
interpretations. But, to simplify things,
most of them fell between two
The one end is neatly distilled by the
headline on John Podhoretz's column
on Saddam's capture from the New
York Post: "Message: America wins."
The other end is encapsulated by
our old friend Ayman al-Zawahri,
Osama bin Laden's No. 2: "America has
been defeated by our fighters despite
all its military might," he said in an
audiotape broadcast on al-Jazeera last
weekend. "With G-d's help, we are still
chasing Americans and their allies
everywhere, including their homeland."
He didn't mention Saddam's arrest, as
this is a minor event irrelevant to al
Qaeda's dazzling array of recent
You won't be surprised to hear I
incline broadly to the "Message:
America wins" end of the spectrum.
What's slightly more perplexing is the
number of hitherto sane people who
take the al-Zawahri line. For example,
the distinguished British historian
Professor Correlli Barnett, whose piece
in the current issue of the Spectator is
headlined "Why al Qaeda is winning." If
I were Osama, I would tuck that one
away in the cuttings file. Except, of
course, that these days what's left of
poor old Osama can itself be tucked
away in the cuttings file.
Here, in a nutshell, is why recent
trends seem to be going Mr Bush's way
rather than al-Zawahri's: In the little
more than two years since September
11, 2001, two vile dictatorships have
fallen in Kabul and Baghdad, and only
the other day a third, in Tripoli, has
suddenly announced it is dismantling its
nukes program and the Brits and Yanks
are welcome to take a look over
anything they fancy. A plus for
President Bush's side? Or al-Zawahri's?
You make the call.
But in between these two poles are
various other points on the spectrum.
At point (a), you'll find those wise old
foreign policy birds who get everything
wrong but never seem to notice. That would include all those
fellows who tut-tutted that the Pentagon's announcement
that France, Germany and Russia would be excluded from
bidding for Iraqi reconstruction contracts was an appallingly
amateurish screw-up given that Washington was about to go
cap in hand to Paris, Berlin and Moscow asking them to
forgive Iraq's Saddam-accumulated debts. "Democrats seized
on the episode as further evidence of Bush diplomatic
blundering," reported London's Independent.
"Further" evidence: Lovely touch, that. But you get the
gist: The Europeans would now be certain to reject any
moves to forgive Iraqi debt. Chris Patten, the European
Union's external relations commissioner, called Washington's
move "politically maladroit. ... It's a triumph for Pentagon
diplomacy," said "a sarcastic Mr. Patten," as the Guardian put
it. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, pronounced: "It
is not the wisest decision. You are saying that countries
cannot participate in tenders and at the same time you are
asking those same countries to cooperate on debt."
But lo and behold, a couple of days later Bush emissary
James Baker touched down in the capitals of Europe and, in
defiance of the Guardian et al., France and Germany caved
and Russia semi-caved. Perhaps they took the Pentagon
frost-out as a sign the administration was serious. Or
perhaps they were worried their old pal Saddam might get too
talkative while in U.S. custody.
But either way, in an unsarcastic un-Chris-Patten way, it
does appear "a triumph for Pentagon diplomacy." If this is
politically maladroit blundering, blunder on; crank the
maladroitness meter up another notch.
Not that the administration will get any credit for it. For
among the two other international groupings of
Bush-disparagers are those in group (b) who argue yes,
there's good news, but no thanks to Mr. Bush; and those in
group (c) who say yes, it's all thanks to Mr. Bush, but it's
bound to turn out disastrously the good news will prove to
be bad news, if we just wait long enough.
There was an interesting example of group (b)-think at the
end of the week that began with Saddam's lice inspection.
Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi threw in the towel on his WMD
program chemical, biological, nuclear, the works. Why was
this? Well, according to the chaps at Reuters, it was because
"segments of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]
have become very concerned about Libya." Hmm. When the
IAEA starts showing "concern," you know you've only got
another two or three decades to fall into line or they'll report
you to the Security Council.
But make no mistake: Col. Gadhafi's surrender definitely
hasn't anything to do with Mr. Bush, Tony Blair, the toppling
of Saddam, stuff like that no sir, don't you believe it.
Here's an intriguing tidbit from an interview Italian Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi gave to the Spectator in September:
"I cannot say which country he was from, but someone
telephoned me the other day and said, 'I will do whatever the
Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I
was afraid.' "
Interesting. Who on Earth could Mr Berlusconi be talking
Col. Gadhafi is merely the latest example of what one
might call trickle-down destabilization. As I wrote in early May,
"You don't invade Iraq in order to invade everywhere else,
you invade Iraq so you don't have to invade everywhere else."
Meanwhile, in group (c) are all those who acknowledge that
America has won swift victories in Afghanistan and Iraq but
that they're meddling with ancient, complex cultural forces
that will come back to bite them in the butt.
Whatever gets you through the night, boys. One can't
help noticing that, despite innumerable warnings from these
Western defeatists about the folly of provoking the incendiary
"Arab street," that same street is now in the third year of its
deep slumber. It may be Osama is just very cunningly "lying
low," but, with each passing month, the reason he's lying low
is more and more likely to be due to an inability to get up
Taliban gone, Saddam gone, Col. Gadhafi retired, Osama
"resting." "Message: America wins" is as accurate a
summation of the last two years as any. Whether or not you
think American victory is a good thing is another matter. But
a smart anti-American ought to recognize that generally
things are going America's way, and the only argument worth
having is about the speed at which they're doing so.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
12/23/03: Spates of denial
12/16/03: Defiant? He's a Ba'athist who won't bath
12/10/03: Rummy speaks the truth, not gobbledygook
12/02/03: War on terror can't stop with Iraq
11/24/03: It's not Vietnam and Bush is no Kennedy
11/12/03: There is a Cold War between the US and the EU
10/28/03: Muslim paranoia: Enemies made us impotent!
10/28/03:The CIA scandal is important not because it put an agent's life at risk it didn't but because it shows that US Intelligence is either obstructive or inept
10/08/03: Palestinian death cult
09/29/03: Bring on the capitalists
09/22/03: Here comes General Clark, his policies will follow shortly
09/17/03: Don't wait for government protection
09/11/03: Predators aren't looking for peace
09/02/03: This is Hillary's moment You go, girl!
08/29/03: There are now calls for greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thatís the last thing the country needs
08/26/03: There's only one hyperpower so everything is our fault
08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird
© 2002, Mark Steyn