Mark Steyn is on crack

Well, unless someone else can come up with an explanation for this article, that’s about the only explanation I can think of. I’m not sure, though, whether it’s the argument that Europeans should breed more to stop a situation where ‘Europe will either be very old or very Muslim’ or his suggestion that ‘France and perhaps other Continental countries now exist in a quasi-Cold War with America’ that’s the most insane. Probably the second one, though.

(thanks to Harry for the link – as he puts it ‘I don’t see much difference between this sort of analysis and the kind of garbage we hear from the likes of Le Pen, Haider, Bossi and their counterparts in the UK‘)

68 thoughts on “Mark Steyn is on crack

  1. Matt:

    “So the question still stands: “Do you agree with the idea that during the Clinton Adminstration, there existed a state of war declared on the US by al-Qaeda, and that September 11 required the US government to actively fight the war?”

    I think it is undeniable that al-Qaeda (and similar organisations) has posed, still poses, and may continue to pose, a significant security threat to the US. It is the paramount duty of a government to ensure the security of the nation it governs. I don’t think anyone will argue with you on this.

    Calling the present situation vis-a-vis al-Qaeda a “state of war” however is somewhat obscurantist, as such a term invites comparisons and parallels with inter-State wars which are wholly irrelevant.

    Is this quibbling over definitions? Maybe, and I suspect most participants here do not really disagree with you on the fact that 9-11 and related events *are* problems the US government has to face and try to resolve.

    However, al-Qaeda is not a state, it is a collection of loosely knit groupings sharing some common ideological elements. And this is the problem with the usage of “State of War” as a descriptive term. You can wipe out the entire IRA leadership, but that will not prevent another group of Irish hotheads from calling themselves the New IRA and resuming the struggle. As they used to say back in the days of the Cold War, “You can bomb Russia, but you cannot bomb Communism”. In the same vein, you can enlighten a Communist, but you cannot enlighten a bullet. Fighting a war, and fighting anti-US sentiment require two different stratagems.

    Killing Osama or Saddam will not stop terrorism; winning hearts and minds will. Short of thorough genocide, in fact, militaristic adventures such as the one the US is currently engaged in will do absolutely nothing to prevent the growth of anti-US sentiment. It’s important to recognise this, ere the US will face the blowback from some home-grown embittered Iraqi “Osama” ten years down the road – and we’ll have deja-v? all over again.

  2. Linden:

    Paying lip service to multilateralism, and worse still, maing it explicit that one is only paying lip service to multilateralism, is not the same thing as multilateralism.

    Despite what Rauch says.

    In the runup to the war, Rumsfeld made it clear that they would go to war in Iraq with or without the UN, and even without their British allies, if necessary. See

    Now if the US is decided on a particular course of action and is ready to go the course even without its staunchest ally, then this is not multilateralism, this is unilateralism with the US’s partners coming along for the ride.

  3. Matt,

    “So the question still stands: ‘Do you agree with the idea that during the Clinton Adminstration, there existed a state of war declared on the US by al-Qaeda, and that September 11 required the US government to actively fight the war?'”

    As Britain’s experience with Northern Ireland shows only too clearly, there are hazards with becoming trapped by insisting on using particular names and terms and then debating about whether reality conforms with the words. It is more fruitful to focus on the substantive realities. Words are only labels. As Thomas Hobbes sharply put it: Words are the money of fools and the counters of wise men.

    American people, interests and property were the targets for a terrorist organisation – I listed above the earlier attempt on the WTC in 1993, the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the attack on the USS Cole in Aden in 2000 before we get to the terrorist events of 9-11 in 2001. I’m not a lawyer but doubt all that qualifies as a “state of war” in international law since al-Qaeda is not a recognised nation state or even, as far as I know, a corporate persona. That is why the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were officially classified as “unlawful combatants” by the Bush administration.

    Most folks would likely agree that US administrations would and should respond to the attacks and the implied prospect of future threats. Declaring “a war against terrorism” is just a piece of vacuous political rhetoric, presumably expressed to rally support to the adopted cause of the Bush administration. What matters is what the administration intends to do in response to the threats and what it does and achieves.

    Whether a “state of war” exists between al-Qaeda or Islamic fundamentalism and the West is only a semantic game. It is far more important to understand what motivates the enmity and associated terrorism than to debate whether this label or that applies. Both fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christian sects have theocratic ambitions. Both religions are also monotheistic. I often recall conversations with a professional colleague of the early 1970s.

    He was Hindu although neither of us were or are devoutly religious. Some 30 years back he predicted then that Islamic states would have difficulty in making transitions to democratic forms of government and contrasted India, a secular state, which has maintained political pluralism through from independence in 1948. He conjectured that was because Hinduism is a polytheistic religion so the notion of rivalrous deities is built in to India’s national culture. From there it is a short step to accepting rivalrous political parties and that ascendancy to government will change from time to time.

    His analysis of some 30 years back has proved remarkably prescient whereas the Bush administration seems only recently to have noticed that Islamic states have a problem in making transitions to democracy. That could be one reason why Europeans are apt to regard the Bushies as slow learners. The Bushies respond by tagging Europeans as anti-American. The truth is that Clinton is warmly welcomed on his informal visits here whereas with the prospective Bush state visit his security advisers have requested a wide exclusion zone around him. That’s the difference. As best I can judge, in Europe the Bushies are the most reviled US administration since WW2:

    America and Americans are not the only victims of terrorism – you have probably read about the enduring state of civil war in Sudan and the periodic massacres of Christian communities in Indonesia and Nigeria. For some insights, I recalled comparable massacres of the Huguenots in 16th century France during the Reformation in Europe. Religious divides were a recurring theme in British history through to the 19th century. The Gordon Riots in London in 1780 amounted to an anti-catholic pogrom and catholics were not accorded equal civil rights in law in Britain until 1829. The religious frictions in Northern Ireland are still with us. Even now, the heir to the throne in Britain is precluded by law from marrying a catholic.

    Reverting to your question, I’m reminded of the episode on the Berlin Airlift (1948-9) in CNN’s famed TV series on the Cold War. As per its usual format, the episode included archived interviews with people who had been involved with events at the time, in this case someone who had been part of the American team which had negotiated a settlement with the Soviets. He said the Soviets had a particular negotiating style. They would first try to secure agreement to some broad, apparently innocuous principle couched in bland language. If that was achieved, they then claimed the principle entailed acceptance of a whole string of fine print details which had not been agreed and which were often entirely unacceptable so the negotiations had to backtrack to unpick what the Soviets were construing the principle to mean. It was evidently a wearisome experience, especially as the tactic was persistently repeated. Very likely that is part of what the Soviets had intended. As the man wrote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  4. Wow, thanks fellas. I assume Bob and Elliott are Europeans, so your thoughts are extremely valuable to me.

    I agree that “War against terrorism” is a bad construction of words for us. “War against murderous islamsist bastards” is more accurate, but not politically viable. So we fundamentalist Christian rednecks support the name and the war. We, mostly, also enjoy the fact that Bush is reviled around the world while Clinton is still loved. I’m glad you brought that up. It is precisely Bill Clinton’s administration that has gotten us to where we are today.

    I know that is a big charge to make in this company, but the 1990s saw America attacked repeatedly around the world – Bob listed most of the incidents. The Clintons barely raised a finger to respond to and deter al-Qaeda during his 8 years. He preferred to sit and talk about problems rather than deal forcefully with them. His dealings with the Israeli-Palestinian issue is evidence enough. If that is what it takes for a president to be loved around the world, I’ll take hatred of GWB anyday of the week. Most of the world hated Reagan too, and he was right about the Soviets and communism.

    So many Americans believe what Bush and the administration are doing to win (destroying not only al-Qaeda but states who support them) is right that it does not matter who agrees or not. That’s what I’ve been trying to get at for a while here. A large part of us will tolerate foreign leaders calling our president, and by extension us, a moron and cowboy &c.

    As many of you may loathe about us Americans, we despise semantics and prefer action in times of crisis. So whether or not a “state of war” can legally exist between a state and an unorganized group of men is pointless. The fact is that we are at war, and have been for over 10 years. Bush and others believe the forceful exercise of American power and the promulgation of liberty and self-government is the best way to end the war. I agree. And we’re back to our original discussion: Does Europe see its future as being threatened by Islamic terrorism or not? The answer to that question determines the course of action for both Europe and the US.

  5. Oh, by the way, please read Bill Whittle’s essay on American power. He articulates it all so much better than I’ll ever be able to.

  6. “Does Europe see its future as being threatened by Islamic terrorism or not?”

    The short answer (-: is that Europe is threatened as the links below show all too clearly and the threats from North African and Middle East groups are not necessarily just from al-Qaeda affiliates. Other unrelated groups, insurgency movements and potential or actual terrorist organisations also have axes to grind. It is important to appreciate that al-Qaeda has many characteristics of a fanatical cult while other groups don’t.

    “Twenty-four alleged members of an Algerian extremist network have gone on trial in Paris for a wave of bombings that left 12 dead. Ten people were killed and more than 100 injured in the worst attack on an underground train at the St Michel metro station in Paris in July 1995. . . The men are suspected of being supporters of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. . . One of those believed to have played a major role in the bombings, Khaled Kelkal, was shot and killed by police later in 1995.” – from:

    “A French court has convicted three men of heading support networks for Islamic insurgents in Algeria at the end of France’s largest ever trial. Mohamed Chalabi, Mourad Tacine and Mohamed Kerrouche, were among 138 men accused of backing Islamic radicals seeking to overthrow the Algerian Government.” – from:

    “Europe’s first al-Qaeda trial opened in Frankfurt on Tuesday. At stake is the fate of five Algerian men accused of planning a bomb attack in Strasbourg and Germany’s reputation as a serious terrorist-fighting country.” – from:,3367,1432_A_499109,00.html

    “A Jordanian man has gone on trial in Duesseldorf accused of plotting attacks in Germany on behalf of a Palestinian group. Shadi Abdallah is accused of being a member of al-Tawhid, a group with alleged links to al-Qaeda.” – from:

    “Germany has issued official arrest warrants for a group of suspected Islamic extremists detained in the past two days, which the authorities say had been planning to carry out attacks in the country.” – from:

    There is a recognised urgent need for international cooperation because of al-Qaeda’s modus operandi: recruiting young men who have problems holding down a stable job and using a cell in one country to plan attacks in another, all intended, presumably, to confuse security services.

    It is wrong and certainly counter-productive to demonise all muslims regardless. However, France and Germany have recognised potential security problems: France from settlers from North Africa and Germany from its “gastarbeiter” (guest workers). France’s muslim population is estimated at 5 to 6m, out of a total of 60m. Germany’s gastarbeiter were estimated at 10% of the workforce in the source I have to hand.

    I know you don’t like the BBC website, Matt, but it is very friendly to use and an effective way of retrieving old news reports even if you don’t like the reporting nuances. At worst, you can use the BBC reports to extract dates, names and places and then use those data for a google search to access other reports. Much the same can be said of the Guardian site.

  7. Elliott: “Killing Osama or Saddam will not stop terrorism; winning hearts and minds will. Short of thorough genocide, in fact, militaristic adventures such as the one the US is currently engaged in will do absolutely nothing to prevent the growth of anti-US sentiment.”

    Ironically, the belief that hearts and minds can be won was exactly the reason why US forces failed in Vietnam. It is better to give up on that idea, and just make sure they fear us.

    Anti-US sentiment exists even when America is at peace, so whatever America does or doesn’t do is irrelevant: it will still get blamed for every slight and wrong.

  8. Markku:
    “Ironically, the belief that hearts and minds can be won was exactly the reason why US forces failed in Vietnam.”

    In what parallel universe?

  9. “‘the American birth rate among former Europeans is at replacement'”

    “This is not correct. The aggregate is at 2.1 (more or less), but this is only because of the tendency of immigrants to have more children, and to marry and start having children younger.Take these numbers out and you’d be around 1.7 or 1.8 (like say Sweden). Incidentally the ‘dreaded’ France headed by ‘lifelong socialist’ Chirac comes pretty close to replacement: so what does this prove.”

    Actually, the native French birth rate is only 1.3. The immigrant Muslim population’s far higher birth rate (3.6 or something) drives it up to 1.7.

  10. Eh, no.

    Immigrant fertility rates are around 3 children per woman and dropping; native fertility rates at least 1.6 and rising. The total French fertility rate is 1.9 children per woman.

  11. “Immigrant fertility rates are around 3 children per woman and dropping; native fertility rates at least 1.6 and rising. The total French fertility rate is 1.9 children per woman.”

    Actually, I think you’re right- at least about the current French fertility rate. I remember now that the figures of 1.7 for overall French fertility and 1.3 for native French fertility are three years old, prior to the recent mini-baby boom that occurred following the new pro-natalist policy. So it seems likely that native French fertility could have risen from 1.3 to 1.6, given that overall French fertility has risen from 1.7 to 1.9 in said amount of time. It was an honest mistake. I didn’t mean to mislead.

    Still, I wouldn’t bet on the pro-natalist policy to ressurect the native French birth rate permanently. The experience in Sweden suggests that such policies influence when people have children, but not how many they ultimately have. As for the declining immigrant birth rate, I haven’t seen any statistics on that, but will take your word on it.

  12. Bob,

    Here’s Thomas Jefferson, “Reply to the Representations of Affairs in America by British Newspapers (1) [before November 20, 1784] ”

    ??.I have received serious condolances from all my friends on the bitter fruits of so prosperous a war. These friends I know to be so well disposed towards America that they wished the reverse of what they repeated from the public papers. have enquired into the source of all this misinformation & have found it not difficult to be traced. The printers on the Continent have not yet got into the habit of taking the American newspapers. Whatever they retail therefore on the subject of America, they take from the English. If your readers will reflect a moment they will recollect that every unfavourable account they have seen of the transactions in America has been taken from the English papers only. Nothing is known in Europe of the situation of the U.S. since the acknowlegement of their independance but thro’ the channel of these papers.

    “But these papers have been under the influence of two ruling motives 1. deep-rooted hatred springing from an unsuccesful attempt to injure 2. a fear that their island will be depopulated by the emigration of it’s inhabitants to America. Hence no paper comes out without a due charge of paragraphs manufactured by persons employed for that purpose. According to these America is a scene of continued riot & anarchy. Wearied out with contention, it is on the verge of falling again into the lap of Gr. Br. for repose. It’s citizens are groaning under the oppression of heavy taxes. They are flying for refuge to the frozen regions which still remain subject to Gr. Br. Their assemblies and congresses are become odious, in one paragraph represented as tyrranising over their constituents, & in another as possessing no power or influence at all, &c. &c.??

    ??To bring more home to every reader the reliance which may be put on the English papers let him examine, if a Frenchman, what account they give of the affairs of France, if a Dutchman, what of the United Netherl ds ., if an Irishman, what of Ireland &c. If he finds that those of his own country with which he happens to be acquainted are wickedly misrepresented, let him consider how much more likely to be so are those of a nation so hated as America. America was the great pillar on which British glory was raised: America has been the instrument for levelling that glory with the dust. A little ill humour therefore might have found excuse in our commiseration: but an apostasy from truth, under whatever misfortunes, calls up feelings of a very different order.”

    Perhaps it’s worth considering Jeffersons warning, as you should be skeptical of ANY British newspaper scooping the WP or NYT regarding a “top secret CIA” document.

  13. Quiet American,

    It’s said that wise men tend to their own gardens prior to taking a neighbor to task for planting slovenly rows. If we accept an analogy between ones opinions and the quality of ones produce, it’s my experience that zealously weeding partisan rhetoric results in a greater yield of reasonable discussion. To wit:

    “There was a time, not that long ago, when the extreme right didn’t control most of American government and much of the English-speaking media, and one could have reasonable discussions about politics. ”

    Just how “Much” of the English-speaking “media” is controlled by the Extreme Right? And how Much do you claim is required to stifle reasonable discussion? The GOP does indeed control, in Congress, the Senate, the White House, a majority of State Goverors and Legislatures; enough of America’s various electoral positions to qualify as Most of the US government. That said, can you please clarify the difference between the Republicans and the ‘extreme Right”? Are they logically interchangeable?

    QA wrote: “… It is a mistake to try and make sense of how most conservatives use the terms Left/Democrat/European; don’t bother asking them to clarify. These are simply interchangable terms of abuse to them, nothing more.
    This doesn’t make any sense, but then, neither do the people who use such tactics.”

    I’m not certain if the above was serious or satire? It’s often hard to make sense of arguments, as you astutely point out, from “people who use such tactics”. Could you clarify your curious interchanging use of the terms Extreme Right/Conservatives/American government?

    QA wrote: “Nowdays, ‘debate’ is mainly a matter of listening to fundamentalists, racists, neo-nationalists, supply-side and xenophobic cranks froth at the mouth and howl whenever their worldview is questioned. One could only wish these men (and they are usually men) were truly made of straw, as some claim…”

    I’m still uncertain on the satire question… if so, it was too subtle for me to descern for sure. As a male, paleo-Nationalist, neo-Libertarian, proto-Taoist Unitarian fundamentalist, who’s never denied his Racism (I’d be happy to defend the virtues of the Scottish race, by God!), I take great offense at your implication that either xenophbia or crank are inherently bad! It’s a proven fact that people who use Crank attract treacherous ScareCrows of straw, and if you’d been abducted by aliens while on Crank, you’d be xenophobic as well!

  14. Alexander,

    Thanks for the quotes from Thomas Jefferson. I’m one of his many latter-day admirers although I have to admit to browsing our George Orwell (1903-1950) more often for his perennially valuable insights. Big Brother’s slogans in Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) have a renewed resonance of late:

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

    I’ve been often reminded of this passage too:

    “Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous, and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph,”

    and this: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,”

    and this: “The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of the thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”

    Recognising your aversion to the subversive inclinations of the NYT I turned elsewhere for enlightenment on Bush and America:

    “There are two George Bushes. One is ideological, divisive, willing to tear up the rule book and push strongly conservative policies. This is the Bush loved by Republicans, loathed by Democrats (see chart 6). The other is more incremental and sometimes more bipartisan. Yet even this Bush, who might appeal to the middle, is also surprisingly audacious. His audacity causes wariness among voters who are not strongly inclined for or against him.” – from:

    As for we British: “On Friday the British polling firm YouGov provided NEWSWEEK with survey data gathered in recent days. It doesn?t make pretty reading for Bush fans. By big majorities, Britons believe Bush is – not very intelligent (62 percent), – insincere (53 percent) and – not very well informed about the world (62 percent). He also – does not care much about the views of people in other countries (82 percent), is – a bad advertisement for America (65 percent) and is – foolish (63 percent).” – from:

    Regards from Oceania,

  15. Alexander,

    Thank you for that most interesting quote from Jefferson. As it was before, so it is now, – with the BBC and Reuters.

    Bob: George Orwell is always an entertaining read, but his 1984 prediction hardly came through, except if you really exert yourself in a stretch of the imagination.

    I also caution you about using even American media to judge what is going on within America. The media here, too, has a left-of-center bias (thank goodness for a little opposition from Fox and other right-wing voices). And the media has been spectacularly wrong in divining the mind of the nation. I won’t dwell on post 9/11 issues for examples, but point to how little they understood the Monica Lewinsky/Clinton impeachment fracas. It simply was not an issue the public wanted to dwell on, despite the best efforts of the media to hype it up (something the right-wing, – reprehensively so – relied on).

    As for bashing Bush, there will be Americans out there who will view it as an attack on America, and not just on Bush. I doubt that the protestors in the upcoming visit will be able to make that distinction, despite the best efforts of the BBC and Reuters to spin it that way.

    Hopefully, it will rather increase the divide between the US and Europe; next time, we shouldn’t trust a Blair’s promise that he could deliver Europe and the UN, if we only let them have a voice….

  16. Markku,

    On Orwell, he wasn’t predicting, more like depicting a possible future. You are make no allowance for the context in which he was writing. Remember that Victor Gollancz, who had been pleased to publish Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937 with its account of poverty in the north of England during the depression, refused to publish his next book, Homage to Catalonia in 1938 on the civil war in Spain, and then Animal Farm just after WW2, the last because it was insulting to our heroic Soviet allies. Stalin’s “personality cult” was then still in full flush. Orwell was among the first of the leftist literary glitterati to uncover the realities. Look around on the web and folks on both sides of the Atlantic are still writing and talking about Orwell’s perceptions more than 50 years after he died of TB in his late 40s.

    “I won’t dwell on post 9/11 issues for examples, but point to how little they understood the Monica Lewinsky/Clinton impeachment fracas. It simply was not an issue the public wanted to dwell on, despite the best efforts of the media to hype it up (something the right-wing, – reprehensively so – relied on).

    Take it up with Newt Gingrich. At the time, I was much embroiled online with Americans reminding them then that polls in America were reporting steady 60% ratings in support of Clinton but they wouldn’t have it.

    “As for bashing Bush, there will be Americans out there who will view it as an attack on America, and not just on Bush.”

    Bush’s poll ratings have been declining. The latest polls show a 50-50 split on support for the administration’s position on the Iraq war. The Bushies and Blair claim that any criticism of Bush amounts to anti-Americanism just as Sharon claims that any criticism of himself amounts to anti-semitism. Risible.

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