Needed in the New Year: Res­o­lu­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

MyNew Year’s res­o­lu­tion is not to make any New Year pre­dic­tions. I called last year pretty badly — read­ers may re­mem­ber my con­fi­dent as­ser­tions ev­ery week or two that the Repub­li­cans would hold the House and Se­nate.

War is a tough sell in a democ­racy, par­tic­u­larly the kind of war we face to­day. On the other hand, one should never un­der­es­ti­mate the se­duc­tive­ness of com­pla­cency. If you hap­pened to catch John Ed­wards, the hair-to­day-gone-to­mor­row pretty boy of the 2004 cam­paign, re-emerg­ing in the art­fully po­si­tioned de­bris of NewOrleans two weeks ago, it was hard not to be im­pressed: an empty suit had some­how man­aged to get emp­tier. He’s run­ning for pres­i­dent on five big pri­or­i­ties — “guar­an­tee­ing health care,” “lead­ing the fight against global warm­ing,” “strength­en­ing our mid­dle class and end­ing the shame of poverty.” By then my fin­gers were too co­matose to write down the fifth theme but, if me­mory serves, it was guar­an­tee­ing to lead the fight to strengthen end­ing the shame of plat­i­tudi­nous cam­paign rhetoric.

Lis­ten­ing to Mr. Ed­wards you get no sense this man is in any way en­gaged with the times. He’s not alone, of course. It has been strik­ing to read ac­counts of the in­com­ing House lead­er­ship (of both par­ties) un­able to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween Sunni and Shia or name a sin­gle book they’ve read on the present con­flict. We are in an era of fast­mov­ing de­mo­graphic and techno- log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion, and lav­ishly re­mu­ner­ated na­tional leg­is­la­tors (with huge staffs to do all the re­search) have min­i­mal cu­rios­ity about it.

Here’s some­thing else no­body’s curious about: Sandy Berger. Con­sider this pas­sage from the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fi­cial re­port on the Sandy­pants and his de­struc­tion of clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als from the na­tional archives:

“Mr. Berger ex­ited the Archives on to Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, the north en­trance. It was dark. He did not want to run the risk of bring­ing the doc­u­ments back in the build­ing risk­ing the pos­si­bil­ity [redacted] might no­tice some­thing un­usual. He headed to­wards a con­struc­tion area on Ninth Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the win­dows of the Archives and the DOJ, and did not see any­one. He re­moved the doc­u­ments from his pock­ets, folded the notes in a ‘V’ shape and in­serted the doc­u­ments in the cen­ter. He walked inside the con­struc­tion fence and slid the doc­u­ments un­der a trailer.” Why is this man get­ting his se­cu­rity clear­ance back in 2008?

Aw, who cares? The thou­sands of Amer­i­cans who drive around with that “9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB” bumper sticker are pos­i­tively blase when con­fronted with an ac­tual ver­i­fied doc­u­mented in­stance of a for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser car­ry­ing on like a Cold War dou­ble-agent mak­ing a dead drop.

I men­tioned the old New Year’s res­o­lu­tion up above, but in fact that’s what I wouldn’t mind see­ing in 2007: a bit of res­o­lu­tion. There wasn’t much in ev­i­dence last year. Take an­other lit­tle vi­gnette that’ll look good in the movie ver­sion:

Mustaf Jama, a So­mali “asy­lum seeker” in Bri­tain wanted for the mur­der of a po­lice­woman, fled the coun­try by tak­ing his sis­ter’s pass­port, wear­ing a niqab (the full Is­lamic head-to-toe get-up that cov­ers ev­ery­thing but the eyes) and pass­ing un­hin­dered through the check­points at Heathrow.

How about that? It turns out we are pro­fil­ing af­ter all, but we’re pro­fil­ing ev­ery­body ex­cept Mus­lims. Your wiz­ened l’il ol’ grandma on a Yule­tide break to Lon­don is bent dou­ble and out of breath strug­gling to take off her coat and shoes. The of­fi­cials sternly scru­ti­nize her pass­port to check that the pic­ture matches her flus­tered and be­wil­dered face. All around her hun­dreds of women do the same, mutely shuf­fling through the scan­ner in their stock­ing feet. But Bri­tain’s most wanted man is breez­ing through be­cause he took the pre­cau­tion of dress­ing as a Mus­lim wo­man. And it would be cul­tur­ally in­sen­si­tive to ex­pose them to the same scru­tiny as your grandma.

Many of us think about the longtermshifts nec­es­sary to win this strug­gle: Eu­th­a­niz­ing the United Na­tions, and over­haul­ing other ma­lign and anachro­nis­tic in­sti­tu­tions. Fat chance. Mustaf Jama’s ex­press check-out is the per­fect par­o­dic re­duc­tion of “se­cu­rity”: the state is will­ing to in­flict point­less bureau- cratic dis­com­fort and in­con­ve­nience on ev­ery­one else, but the de­mo­graphic group with the most links to ter­ror­ism gets to go through the fast­track VIP chan­nel.

The fun­ni­est line in the Jama sto­ry­was Her Majesty’s Gov­ern­ment’s touch­ing faith in the Horn of Africa’s ex­tra­di­tion pro­ce­dures:

“He is thought to be hid­ing in So­ma­lia where ap­proaches have been made to the tran­si­tional fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­turn him to Bri­tain.”

At the time, the “tran­si­tional fed­eral gov­ern­ment” barely con­trolled enough of So­ma­lia to fit inside Mr Jama’s niqab. This sum­mer the coun­try fell to the Is­lamic Courts Union, a Tal­ibanesque regime in­ter­ested in turn­ing an­other husk of a state into a ji­had train­ing camp. But in the last few days the Ethiopian mil­i­tary has swept through the coun­try and the Is­lamist forces have crum­bled be­fore them. Both So­mali troops and var­i­ous for­eign ji­hadists have thrown off their uni­forms and melted into the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Granted, that’s what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, too: They’re shrewd enough to un­der­stand it’s not worth en­gag­ing su­pe­rior mil­i­taries on their terms; bet­ter to wait awhile and grind them down in a dirty, messy in­sur­gency.

Well, we’ll see about that. One dif­fer­ence be­tween the Ethiopi­ans in So­ma­lia and the Amer­i­cans in Iraq is that the for­mer aren’t fight­ing with one hand be­hind their back just in case some Euro­pean Union ally or hu­man­i­tar­ian lobby group or fic­ti­tious As­so­ci­ated Press source leaks some “war crime” or other to the me­dia. In fact, the Ethiopi­ans have the ad­van­tage of more or less to­tal lack of in­ter­est from the West­ern me­dia. So they’re just get­ting on with it.

And, given the po­ten­tial for Is­lamist desta­bi­liza­tion of their own coun­try, they were wise to do so. The “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity” has re­acted in the usual ways — calls for im­me­di­ate cease-fires so an in­ef­fec­tual force of United Na­tions peace­keep­ers can go in and en­joy their cus­tom­ary child sex with the lo­cals while prop­ping up the Is­lamists.

The Ethiopi­ans can’t be blamed for not tak­ing the U.N. se­ri­ously. To be sure, the al­ter­na­tive to the ji­had boys is a bunch of thugs. But that’s the re­al­ity of much of the map to­day: a choice be­tween be­ing an out­post of the global ji­had, or a patch­work quilt of war­lords, or a bit of both with some fee­ble half-hearted mul­ti­lat­eral force me­di­at­ing be­tween the two.

I don’t know whether the Ethiopian in­ter­ven­tion will work in the long run, but, if it does, the best hope for squash­ing the ji­had might be to out­source the fight to Third World regimes less squea­mish about wag­ing it.

Happy New Year.

Mark Steyn is the se­nior con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for Hollinger Inc. Publi­ca­tions, se­nior North Amer­i­can colum­nist for Bri­tain’s Tele­graph Group, North Amer­i­can ed­i­tor for the Spec­ta­tor, and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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