Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: We tried appeasement once before...
Posted on 03/22/2004 4:06:01 PM PST by Pokey78
A neighbour of mine refuses to let her boy play with "militaristic" toys. So when a friend gave the l'il tyke a plastic sword and shield, mom mulled it over and then took away the former and allowed him to keep the latter. And for a while, on my drive down to town, I'd pass Junior in the yard playing with his shield, mastering the art of cowering more effectively against unseen blows.
That's how the "peace" crowd thinks the West should fight terrorism: eschew the sword, but keep the shield if you absolutely have to. Yesterday, The Telegraph reported that two Greenpeace activists had climbed up to Big Ben to protest at the Iraq war. Don't ask me why Greenpeace is opposed to the liberation of Iraq. It's been marvellous for the eco-system: the marshlands of southern Iraq are now being restored after decades of Saddamite devastation.
Nevertheless, the Greenpeace guys shinned up St Stephen's Tower, just as a couple of months before that a Mirror reporter blagged his way into a servants' gig at Buckingham Palace just in time for the Bush visit, and a couple of months before that an Osama lookalike gatecrashed Prince William's party.
History repeats itself: farce, farce, farce, but sooner or later tragedy is bound to kick in. The inability of the state to secure even the three highest-profile targets in the realm - the Queen, her heir, her Parliament - should remind us that a defensive war against terrorism will ensure terrorism. Tony Blair understands that. Few other European leaders do.
For more than a week now, American friends have asked me why 3/11 wasn't 9/11. I think it comes down to those two words you find on Holocaust memorials all over Europe: "Never again." Fine-sounding, but claptrap. The never-again scenario comes round again every year. This very minute in North Korea there are entire families interned in concentration camps. Concentration camps with gas chambers. Think Kim Jong-Il's worried that the civilised world might mean something by those two words? Ha-ha.
How did a pledge to the memory of the dead decay into hollow moral preening? When an American Jew stands at the gates of a former concentration camp and sees the inscription "Never again", he assumes it's a commitment never again to tolerate genocide. Alain Finkielkraut, a French thinker, says that those two words to a European mean this: never again the führers and duces who enabled such genocide. "Never again power politics. Never again nationalism. Never again Auschwitz" - a slightly different set of priorities. And over the years a revulsion against any kind of "power politics" has come to trump whatever revulsion post-Auschwitz Europe might feel about mass murder.
That's why the EU let hundreds of thousands of Bosnians and Croats die on its borders until the Americans were permitted to step in. That's why the fact that thousands of Iraqis are no longer being murdered by their government is trivial when weighed against the use of Anglo-American military force required to effect their freedom. "Never again" has evolved to mean precisely the kind of passivity that enabled the Holocaust first time round. "Neville again" would be a better slogan.
Among all the foolish apologists for the murderers of Madrid, it was the Reverend Mark Beach who happened to catch my eye. Preaching at St Andrew's Church, Rugby, nine days ago, Mr Beach said: "The people of Madrid are reaping the fruits of our intolerance towards those of different races and religions. The war in Iraq was never going to solve the problems of that region but instead inflamed Arab people all over the world to new heights of anger towards the West."
God Almighty. The sooner the Potemkin Church of England is sold for scrap the better. Almost every word of Mr Beach's is false; there are mosques in the English Midlands, but no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia. Its official tourism commission lists among prohibited categories of visitor "Jewish persons".
It is precisely because the West is so open to different races that Islamist bombers can blend in on Madrid commuter trains, and the Tube and the Paris Metro, in a way that, say, a team of blond, blue-eyed Aryan bombers certainly couldn't in Damascus. The war in Iraq has actually solved quite a few problems in that region, and Arab people all over the world aren't inflamed - the allegedly seething Arab street is as somnolent as ever.
In 2002 and 2003, I took a couple of two-legged, mini fact-finding trips - first to western Europe, then on to the Middle East. And both times I was struck by the way the Muslims of Araby were far less inflamed than those in the alienated immigrant ghettoes around Paris and Amsterdam. Life in the West, exposure to the self-loathing platitudes of Anglican clerics, these are the sort of things that seem to inflame Muslims. Many of the wackiest Islamists from Richard Reid to Zacarias Moussaoui to Metin Kaplan are products of the enervated Europe symbolised by the Rev Mark Beach.
A century ago, in The Riddle Of The Sands, the first great English spy novel, Erskine Childers has his yachtsman, Davies, try to persuade the Foreign Office wallah Carruthers to take seriously the possibility of German naval marauders in the Fresian Islands: "Follow the parallel of a war on land. People your mountains with a daring and resourceful race, who possess an intimate knowledge of every track and bridlepath, who operate in small bands, travel light, and move rapidly. See what an immense advantage such guerrillas possess over an enemy which clings to beaten tracks, moves in large bodies, slowly, and does not 'know the country'."
Davies wants Carruthers to apply the old principles to new forms of warfare. The Islamists are doing that. Their most effective guerrillas aren't in the Hindu Kush, where it is the work of moments to drop a daisycutter on the mighty Pashtun warrior. They're travelling light on the bridle-paths of Europe - the small cells that operate in the nooks and crannies of a free society, while politicians cling to the beaten tracks - old ideas, multicultural pieties and a general hope that things will turn out for the best.
That's the drawback of sticking with the "Neville again" routine: appeasement is even less effective when the faraway country of which you know little is your own.
All those who spout this claptrap can never explain why the Taliban destroyed the thousand-year-old statues of Buddha.
Somehow, I doubt it is because they don't like America.
That's also why every one of them prefers to talk principle rather than result. That is, in fact, moral cowardice.
Steyn has hit a sore spot here - a sharp point, and it isn't, IMHO, particularly humorous. It is simply this: under the principles of national sovereignty, intervening at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen to save the Jews was wrong, despite the clear common-sense humanitarian moral imperative to do so. When this sort of dissonance is experienced, it's time to re-examine these principles. But the left refuses do so - and that is the moral cowardice of which I speak.
But I disagree with the notion of "humanitarian moral imperative," even if moderated by "common-sense," as a guide for national involvement in international affairs. I guess I'm a little more "realpolitic," a little less "neocon." Human injustice cries out from around the globe. We should intervene only where our national interest dictates. True enough, the war on terror has certainly expanded the neighborhood, when rag heads in Kabul plan the destruction of the lower end of Manhattan. This we have to crush. And we have to try to leave behind a middle east that will be, at best, a place unlikely to generate the psychopaths of al Qaeda because of a decent social order in their countries, or, at worst, a place that understands that the costs of messing with us are socially unbearable. I believe we should police our nearby region--beginning with the abomination that is Cuba. But the Balkans should be a Europeon responsibility. And Africa must develop regional powers which can play a guardian role. (In theory, Egypt and South Africa could be such, unlikely as that seems now.) I believe it is in our national character to avoid "foreign entanglements" and we should adhere as much as is reasonable to this. Besides, we do the most good, in the moral, as well as physical, sense when we encourage trade and capitalism--our greatest genius.
There are more and more of these imbeciles around. Worse: they keep getting jobs as teachers.
"Never again" has evolved to mean precisely the kind of passivity that enabled the Holocaust first time round. "Neville again" would be a better slogan.
The notion that because we intervene in a certain set of circumstances we MUST intervene wherever and whenever a similar set of circumstances arises is a fallacious one. We may, in fact, feel justified in doing so, but we are not compelled to do so. Our intervention in Iraq, for example, does not make an intervention in North Korea compulsory, but it does make it justifiable, and just that much more possible, and Kim knows it perfectly well. So did Gadafi, and Assad, and a host of others who look at the rhetoric of the left and the reality of the 3d ID on the ground and know that the old games aren't going to work anymore.
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