Skip to comments.
Mark Steyn: Why I nearly resigned
The Spectator (U.K.) ^
| Mark Steyn
Posted on 04/24/2003 6:44:07 AM PDT by Pokey78
Mark Steyn says he is disgusted by what he sees as The Spectators ill-judged and idle defence of the UN
The UN should be appointed overseer of the peace not because that organisation possesses planning skills which America does not, but because to shut it out will cause resentment in the Arab world. However irritating are many of the do-gooders among its ranks, the UN has the advantage of being seen as an antidote to alleged Western imperialism. After reading those words in The Spectators leading article of 12 April, I hurled the magazine across the room and typed up my letter of resignation. A nervous dependant pointed out it might be wiser to line up alternative employment first. It quickly emerged that no other British publication would have me, and the only alternative employment was casual construction work. So let me try to explain instead why the heart sinks at finding a paragraph like that in what purports to be a conservative magazine.
The short answer is the official Russian response to the suggestion that UN sanctions should now be lifted, so that Iraqis can sell their oil and start rebuilding their country. This decision cannot be automatic, says the Russian foreign minister with a straight face. For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not.
Got that? Last month, the Russians were opposed to war on the grounds that there was no proof Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This month, the Russians are opposed to lifting sanctions on the grounds that theres no proof Iraq doesnt have weapons of mass destruction.
There are a few striped-pants masochists in the State Department who enjoy this sort of thing and have spent the last four weeks pining for M. Chirac to walk all over them in steel-tipped stilettos one more time. But most Americans, given a choice between being locked in Security Council negotiations with the Russians, French and Germans or being fed feet-first into one of Saddams industrial shredders, would find it a tough call.
In the week before The Spectators demand that Kofi and co. be put back in the limelight, Id devoted this space to suggesting why the UN was not the answer for postwar Iraq. While one is not so foolish as to believe the scales will be falling from Dominique de Villepins eyes, one hopes ones argument might as least circulate as far as the magazines editors. After all, that was also the column in which I opined on the progress of the war. Were still on Cakewalk Time, I wrote. If Baghdad falls within the next seven to ten days, thats a quickstep cakewalk.
Well, I was wrong. It was six days. But that still put me ahead of that issues leader (Now that coalition forces are digging in around Baghdad waiting for reinforcements...), not to mention Julian Manyon (We now know that The Plan General Frankss plan, as Donald Rumsfeld has effortlessly started calling it was based on a number of arrogant assumptions. It completely disregarded a key lesson of modern history that invasions ignite nationalism, and that even the worst of tyrants may be preferred by many of his people to occupation by a foreign army.... Meanwhile, Saddam appears to be plotting an Arab Stalingrad). In an issue brimming with an unintentional hilarity not seen since Alexander Chancellors Falklands coverage, I was happy to do my bit to help maintain a few shreds of The Spectators reputation.
A thank-you note and a box of chocolates would have been nice; a large raise and comprehensive medical coverage would have been better. But at the very least, instead of rushing on to their UN bromides, The Specs editors might have thought, Hmm. Steyn was right on the war; maybe hes right on the postwar, too.
You dont have to be a genius to see that, since 11 September, we have entered a transitional phase in world affairs. John Pilger can keep boring on about Vietnam until hes driven away every last Mirror reader, but to any sentient columnist the analogy is irrelevant: indeed, a canny newspaper would design a software programme that crashed a columnists computer every time he typed in the word.
The Spectator is not motivated by anti-American animus, of course, and, unlike certain anti-war contributors to these pages, it was not on Saddams payroll. But its as prone as anyone to a slyer temptation: the seductive power of inertia in human affairs. The wish not to have to update ones Rolodex burns fiercely in the political breast. Brent Scowcroft, George Bush Srs national security adviser, wanted to stick with the Soviet Union even after the Politburo had given up on it. The European Union was committed to the preservation of Yugoslavia even when there had ceased to be a Yugoslavia to preserve. Indeed, as Tim Congdon pointed out last week, Britains own membership of the EU now defies any rational justification other than force of habit which is a mighty potent force. As Polly Toynbee wrote to Peter Cuthbertsons Conservative Commentary website a couple of months back, War without the UN is unthinkable. But it happened anyway. Imagine that.
Clinging to the status quo even as its melting and dripping on to your shoes is one reason why the Middle East is now a problem. Youll recall G.W. Hunts famous 19th-century music-hall song, the one that gave us a new word for the kind of militant patriotism most distasteful to the enlightened soul:
We dont want to fight, but by Jingo if we do,Whats often overlooked is what all this flag-waving was in aid of:
Weve got the ships, weve got the men, weve got the money too....
Weve fought the Bear before, and while Britons shall be true Why? Because the British coveted it? Not at all. Her Majestys Government was interested in cherrypicking the odd isle and emirate Cyprus here, Oman there but, other than that, they were committed to maintaining the Ottoman empire: all that jingoistic rabble-rousing not for British glory but just to keep some other fellows simpleton sultan on his throne. The Middle East is in its present condition in part because the European powers kept propping up the Turkish empire decades after it had ceased to be prop-up-able. It would have been much better for all concerned if Britain had got its hands on Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Arabia in the 1870s rather than four decades later. But, even in the later stages of the Great War, after the British had comprehensively sliced and diced Turkey from top to toe, Londons official position was that somehow the Ottoman empire should be glued back together and propped up till the next war.
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.
Now another Middle Eastern war has come and gone, and the bien-pensants are anxious that once again an obsolescent institution be glued back together and propped in position. This time its the UN. The Spectator has it exactly backwards: its not the irritating do-gooders among its ranks, but the do-badders. The oil-for-palaces programme (as Tommy Franks calls it) is a classic UN boondoggle: it was good for bureaucrats, good for Saddams European bankers, good for George Galloway (allegedly), but bad for the Iraqi people. A humanitarian operation meant to help a dictators beleaguered subjects has instead enriched the UN by more than $1 billion (officially) in administrative costs. Theres no oversight, no auditing, nothing most businesses would recognise as a legitimate invoice, and, although non-essential items can be approved only by the secretary-general himself, Kofi Annan has personally signed off on practically anything Saddam requested, including boats, from France. The UN, France, Germany and Russia are desperate to keep the oil-for-palaces programme going, and they figure they can bully the Americans into going along.
Before the war, it was said that, for America, the issue was Iraq and, for everybody else, the issue was America. Now the issue is the UN, France, Germany and Russia, and whether they can get away with hijacking the Anglo-American victory. You dont have to agree (though, as it happens, I do) with my distinguished compatriot George Jonas that the UN is a fully-fledged member of the axis of evil to recognise that theres little point in going to war to install yet another branch office of UNSCAM. If the problem is Americas image in the Arab world, in what way does it help to confine the Stars and Stripes brand to unpleasant things like bombs, while insisting all the nice postwar reconstructive stuff be clearly labelled with the UN flag? If the answer is that thats the price you pay for healing the rift with Old Europe, that presupposes Old Europe is interested in healing it. Tony Blair may be keen, but the Continentals have different agendas. Will the Belgian government approve the complaint of genocide against Tommy Franks? The petition accuses the general of inaction in the face of hospital pillaging, which apparently meets the Belgian definition of genocide. Unlike the deaths of more than three million people, which is the lowball figure for those whove died in the civil war in the Congo or, as I still like to think of it, the Belgian Congo.
The Congos civil war is everything George Mohammed al-Galloway claimed Bushs war would be: there were more civilian deaths in a few hours in Ituri province last week than in the entire Iraq campaign; while the blowhards at Oxfam and co. the Big Consciences lobby insist on pretending that Iraq is a humanitarian disaster, theres an actual humanitarian disaster going on in the Congo, complete with millions of children dead from disease and malnutrition. While the lefties warned that Ariel Sharon would use the cover of the Iraq war to slaughter the Palestinians, the Congolese are being slaughtered, and you dont need any cover. Because nobody cares. Because no Americans or Zionists are involved.
Thats why The Spectator should be wary of lending credence to phrases like Western imperialism. Theres no such thing. Theres Belgian imperialism, which, as the Congo continues to demonstrate, is a sewer. And then theres Anglo-Saxon nation-building, which, from India to Belize, works quite well, given the chance. St Lucia, Mauritius, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea, to pluck four at random, have enjoyed the attributes of a free society a lot longer than, say, Greece, Portugal and Spain, which were dictatorships a quarter-century ago. The argument of our old friend Ghazi Algosaibi, the Saudi minister of water, that freedom is European is not borne out by the facts. If Latin Americans, Pacific islanders and even the Muslims of south Asia can live in liberty, its surely a little racist to suggest that Arabs are uniquely incapable of so doing. Had Britain begun administering Mesopotamia in 1877 instead of 1917, we wouldnt even be asking the question.
But if you want to turn a long shot into a surefire failure, theres no better way than handing postwar Iraq from the Americans to the UN the successors to the Belgian school of nation-building. At best, youll end up with Cambodia, where the UN has colluded in the nullification of democracy; at worst, youll wind up with the Balkans, where once functioning jurisdictions are reduced to the level of geopolitical tenements with the UN as slum landlord in perpetuity.
As my colleague Matthew Parris has written, there are today two competing philosophies, which he has characterised as America vs the Rest of the World. For the purposes of this argument, America includes Australia, Poland and Qatar, but lets not quibble. The Rest of the World the Franco-Russo-Belgian philosophy has given us the oil-for-food programme, Hun Sens UN-approved coup in Cambodia, and Congolese genocide. Thats good enough for Belgium, but it shouldnt be for Britain and America. Washington should dare the French and Russians to veto, let the Iraqis turn on the spigots, and pay no attention to Spectator editorials.
TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ineffectiveun; iraqifreedom; marksteyn; marksteynlist; postwariraq
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-70 next last
posted on 04/24/2003 6:44:07 AM PDT
To: Howlin; riley1992; Miss Marple; deport; Dane; sinkspur; steve; kattracks; JohnHuang2; ...
posted on 04/24/2003 6:46:44 AM PDT
Bump for an excellent article.
posted on 04/24/2003 6:48:44 AM PDT
(Let slip the cats of conjecture.)
As usual, Steyn is right on target.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:04:48 AM PDT
(Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
Comment #6 Removed by Moderator
Excellent, excellent Steyn!
Let the UN die its deserved death.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:07:38 AM PDT
To: Cultural Jihad
posted on 04/24/2003 7:07:40 AM PDT
(He needed killin')
Bump for later.
We need a word beyond "Brilliant." Steyn has a an ability to draw conclusions from a vast knowldge of history.
I hope everyone involved with the future of Iraq will read this and take it to heart.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:21:59 AM PDT
(Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE)
Once we have most of the facts on Galloway, I hope Steyn will do an article on Galloway's pronouncements and the drum beat responses to them. Saddam was paying Galloway to say what he said; most of the usual leftists responded because they were leftists, willing to jump on any anti-American bandwagon, although some were, surely, also on Saddam's gift list. Check out Pilger, as well. Has Tommie the Commie's wife also been taking cash from Saddam?
posted on 04/24/2003 7:28:08 AM PDT
Many thanks for your dedication to Steyn ping-ation. We never, never tire of this man's genius and honesty...
To: notorious vrc
Do you suffer under the notion that less Steyn would be a good thing? I find myself always wanting more. Longer articles, whole treatises, whole books even would be my preference.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:51:21 AM PDT
I wrote this yesterday in relation to some idiot professor's contention that Mark Twain was a "liberal" in the modern sense, and this article by Mark Steyn proves the point:
It's a bit ironic, but IMHO the one current pundit who seems to come closest to Twain in ability to turn a phrase and stick it deep with a twist of the blade is a Canadian, Mark Steyn. He's not Twain's equal, nobody is (how many essayists have written novels still being read after 130 years?), but he'll do.
Steyn is the best writer I know of who is working as a columnist today.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:54:42 AM PDT
Because no Americans or Zionists are involved.
That says it all.
posted on 04/24/2003 7:59:08 AM PDT
A good one. He makes a great case. The versatility of Steyn's talent and mind is astounding.
posted on 04/24/2003 8:01:13 AM PDT
To: notorious vrc
I wish that Steyn would lengthen
One Saturday night a while back, I went over to the Telegraph site and just sat and read every one of his columns.
I had quite a good time that night.......LOL.
posted on 04/24/2003 8:05:23 AM PDT
Will the Belgian government approve the complaint of genocide against Tommy Franks? The petition accuses the general of inaction in the face of hospital pillaging, which apparently meets the Belgian definition of genocide. Unlike the deaths of more than three million people, which is the lowball figure for those whove died in the civil war in the Congo or, as I still like to think of it, the Belgian Congo.
As much as I love Steyn when he's funny, he's even better when he's angry. I'd ask for a cleanup in the Belgian waffle aisle after that, but there's really nothing left.
posted on 04/24/2003 8:06:06 AM PDT
by Mark de New Brighton
(So, Eason Jordan, what else aren't you telling us?)
posted on 04/24/2003 8:09:07 AM PDT
by Al B.
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-70 next last
Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual
posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its
management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the
exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson