Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mark Steyn in the City Journal

At hinge moments of history, there are never good and bad options, only bad and much much worse.
— Mark Steyn, Facing Down Iran
Mark Steyn delivers a compelling argument for military engagement with Iran in perhaps his most powerful piece of hawkish advocacy in the City Journal — as usual, it is a must-read.
Four years into the “war on terror,” the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: “the long war.” Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs—our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower—their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he’s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it’s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
At the little but frequent hinges of local and national history with which the London Fog regularly concerns itself, we are coddled at least with the knowledge that remnants of Englightenment-era institutions and the people under which they were raised mean that most of the acts and terms of mounting tyrannies are negotiable and theoretically reversible with due attentiveness and diligence on the part of a population to which appeals to reason are not forcefully withheld. But at the momentously global, bloody and shattering hinges of which Mark Steyn writes in his call-to-arms, however, actions to which individuals, acting alone or in free assocation, have recourse are of pathetic consequence to a tyranny that of necessity to itself does not admit of negotiation, compromise or circumstance.

The military itself is, however innoccuous or positive in its assignments from a domestic standpoint, an agent and extension of the same modern politicization of institutions that do compromise our liberties. Military solutions themselves indicate starkly the pitfalls and shortcomings of political processes revolving around the existence of states. But does this suggest that a response by a military in this instance would compromise liberty? It does not. In a world of nation-states, the threat of Iranian extraterritorial Islamic fascism coupled with nuclear gamesmanship is much more imminent than our ability to fashion defence founded on principles of free association. In the face of an uncompromising state-sponsored servitude, there is little recourse but to action by the state that defers at least in small part to its citizens and permits some measure of authority by those citizens over its methods and objectives.

Much thanks go to The Times of Winnipeg for pointing out the Mark Steyn article. On the same subject,Let It Bleed links to an Atlantic article by James Fallows that suggests that it's too late to do anything militarily about Iran's nuclear ambitions. As Bob says, "this one is going to be ugly."

Update: On the technical aspects of the subject, Thomas McInerney writing in the Weekly Standard presents a scenario for military action against Iran. Diplomacy with Iran is not a promising prospect, and McInerney argues for military intervention not only to destroy Iran's nuclear program but to topple the regime as well — which is entirely appropriate, considering this:
Iran's leaders have threatened to unleash a firestorm of terrorism in the event military action is taken against them. Any country involved in the attack would be subject to retaliation by Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al Qaeda, the Iranians have claimed. If nothing else, this threat demonstrates how closely tied Iran is to terrorist groups.


Brent Gilliard said...

Gasp. Pragmatism? But I joke.

Iran is a huge problem. But if they weren't making a big noise about it, would we be talking about military action or even Iran at all?

North Korea is nuclear-capable too, and it might be an understatement to define Kim as 'unstable'. Denuclearization agreement notwithstanding, North Korea is a pretty big threat to the world too.

Anyway, if the world does take military action against Iran (I assume it's the world because the US is rather busy next door)I hope they can get other Muslim nations on side, like Indonesia. Otherwise we're guaranteed to be trading an immediate problem (nukes) for a long-lasting chronic problem (even more terrorists).

MapMaster said...

Pragmatism? In this case, I worry not about being pragmatic but hoping or expecting that generally unpragmatic institutions will be pragmatic on my behalf. But no matter…

While North Korea is a threat as well, provided the Chinese government continues to be amenable, it is much easier to contain — and its juche ideology of self-reliance isn't really exportable or expansionary like Islamic extremism. North Korea is mostly a threat as far as exporting destructive technology.

I would hope that if military action is taken against Iran it would be by a larger coalition or at least by greater acquiescence of the world's nation-states. But either way, we've already got the "long-lasting chronic problem" of even more terrorists, especially as the extraterritorial ambitions of the terrorists continue to be unpunished. Military action might hasten the galvanization of terrorist sympathies among muslim populations, but it's happening and going to continue to happen anyway. If you read the Mark Steyn article, he suggests a goal of not merely tactically incapacitating Iran's nuclear ambitions, but a "sufficiently punitive" demonstration — not because Islamic terrorism is going to be stopped, but to demonstrate an utter contempt for it and a willingness not to abide for it.

religion of pieces said...

The problem is Islam itself. Iran is but the latest manifestation of Mohammed's psychopathic Death Cult.

Winston Churchill (who had a knack of spotting trouble in advance) said that Islam in a man is as dangerous as rabies in a dog.

Islam ...

- Is a mind-control and information-control cult founded by a murderer, torturer, brigand, rapist and pedophile called Mohammed.

- Is Mohammed's personality cult. Has no foundations other than Mo's murderous rantings (Koran and Hadith).

- It claims to worship the same God as Christians and Jews, but in fact worships a demonic abomination which is Mohammed's character writ large, incorporating pagan practices such as moon and meteorite-worship and cut-throat blood sacrifice of animals and non-believers.

- There is no philosophical nor theological basis, and the whole belief system is contradicted by science, philosophy, commonsense and human decency.

- Cannot withstand rational criticism. Can only spread and maintain itself by ignorance, illiteracy, war, terrorism, and intimidation. Islam has bloody borders and cannot co-exist peacefully with other belief systems.

- Has a superstitious dread of images of animals (esp pigs), humans, crosses and Buddhas.

- Regards Islamic women as semihuman. Wife-beating, incest and child abuse (including mufa’khathat - the ritual abuse of infants) are encouraged.

- Regards all unbelievers (Kaffirs, Kuffar, Kufrs, Kafirs) as ritually unclean subhumans to be killed, subjugated, enslaved, exploited or parasitised.

- The ethical system applies only to Muslims. Allah encourages rape, pillage and enslavement of non-Muslims. Morality does not extend beyond the gang (ummah). These are the ethics of the Mafia.

- The cultists are motivated by hatred, greed and lust. There is no love, mercy or compassion.

- Is the only religion NOT founded on The Golden Rule. Morality is based on Mohammed's example. If Mohammed did it then it's OK for all Muslims. Hence the encouragement of rape, pillage, subjugation and murder of non-believers and the institutionalised pedophilia prevalent thoughout Muslim society.

- All human relations are defined by Dominance/Subjugation. Cultists have schizoid inferiority/superiority complexes. They respect strength but despise compromise as weakness. Appeasement invites more aggression. The only political system which has been strong enough to subjugate Islam is Stalinism.

- Polygamy ensures alpha-males get extra women, leading to a shortage of women for the betas. Beta-males must either jerk off (a sin leading to hell), or form dog-packs and rape or capture kafir women as booty in a razzia, or else self-destruct then they can screw 72 mythical virgins in Allah's bordello in the sky.

- Lying and deception of infidels (taqiyya) is OK. This may take many forms, including outright lies, feigned moderation, and condemnation of terrorist attacks to the Kafr while rejoicing with fellow Muslims. Individuals may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers who can flip in an instant (Sudden Jihad Syndrome).

- Cultists are forbidden to befriend non-Cultists except for purposes of deceit or where conversion may be possible.

- The Koran is Allah's final word and cannot be changed or challenged. To do so is punishable by death. Consequently, the Cult can never change or be reformed. This instructions to murder and rape infidels are just as valid now as the day they were written.

- Treaties and agreements with Kaffirs are made to be broken (Hudna).

- The world is divided between Dar al-Islam and Dar al Harb (domain of war, the Kufr lands). Muslims living in Dar al Harb must work to disrupt their host nations until these can be brought into Dar al Islam.

- Muslims have no obligation to their hosts and in fact are encouraged to parasitise them. Welfare fraud, identity theft, forgery etc are endemic in Western Muslim populations, and serious crime against Kufrs is regarded as normal and justified.

MapMaster said...

I can't speak to the veracity of everything you say, but essentially I have no argument with it either, except for one point:

The only political system which has been strong enough to subjugate Islam is Stalinism.

A political system that defends only those pluralistic institutions not subject to arbitrary and political constraints or expansions with regard to any particular group of individuals, and denies any other instituion, would be able to deny Islam or any other special interest group artificial leverage in pursuit of power — which speaks to your last point.

Brent Gilliard said...

I wonder what he means by "incarceration".

"Sufficiently punitive" is an equally troubling phrase. WWI was not sufficiently punitive of an uber-nationalist Germany. It took an equally long war where cities were obliterated and thousands of civilians killed to knock some sense back into the country.

I can't see a war like that happening pre-emptively. Iraq was easy to sell because it was supposed to be quick and simple.

In an abstract sort of way, I kinda hope Iran would invade Iraq. Then we'd have a reason fully and totally smash Iran. And it might bring the Iraqis on our side.


My political proclivity (word of the day!) obligates me to make noises about pieces of religion's, um, list.

To universalize these abuses of religion does a terrible disservice to the millions of moderate muslims who live normal lives in the west (and the east) and don't blow themselves up or gang rape women in back alleys.

It is not neccessary to de-humanize people to oppose them. There is nothing inherently wrong with people who are Muslim (at least, no more than there is anything inherently wrong with anybody who worship any invisible being). In most cases, the environment shapes the crazies. That's why there were more communist dictators in Latin America than Western Europe. Change the environment (more challenging, unfortunately, than it sounds) and you change the people.

Pietr said...

The environment?
I thought that the mark of Man was the extent to which he shaped his environment, not vice versa.

That makes these other 'people' a bunch of losers!
Change the environment and you change the people?
You can say that after a hundred years of catastrophic 'social engineering'?
All it takes is the right set of laws, steadfastly upheld, and people will be people, which will make it work.

Any further 'social engineering' is properly achieved by good art.

Brent Gilliard said...

Free will is overrated. People are just animals with linoleum and pop tarts. And if they're lucky, an ipod.

MapMaster said...

Sorehead's quite right. People are responsible for humanizing themselves. (You should hear — you probably have — the universalizing and dehumanizing explanations and epithets applied to us "right-wing extremists" … whatever.)

But there's nothing inherently wrong with muslim people, per se — but there is certainly something wrong with the political and ethical objectives that muslim people hold, enabled by their religion. I addressed this indirectly in an old post on the subject of muslim immigration:

Reducing the numbers of muslims allowed to enter a country might seem at first glance to be a reasonable solution to prevent this kind of disorder, given that muslims have a readymade and apparently appealing annihilative creed at hand already, but it's hard to adopt that position if one wishes to be consistent as a proponent of freedom or natural rights or does not want to relegate muslims as non-human. Unless, of course, you think muslims are genetically disposed to violence and nihilism — you sick bastard. Oddly enough, though, large numbers of muslims already do live in Canada and the US without going on these kinds of rampages, and if it is true that a great number of them, including our own Mohamed Elmasry, have noxious views and French fantasies, it's only because we officially subsidize administration of their dirigiste apocalyptism — corporate multicultural welfare. More Billy Beck:

"One need only compare this wretched state of affairs with that of American immigration through most of the 19th century, in which people came to this country from around the world in order to work for their living, and not to soak off the productivity of people forced into the relationship of hosts to parasites. Absent this condition, these animals now raging in France would have had to resort to outright military action in order to approach the results now evident every day."

And, well, "sufficiently punitive" is a rather vague term. By it, I mean STOMP and destroy the regime. I don't really truck with the nation-building ideas of the US administration — that's just appeasement of terrorist-sympathizing domestic white lilies. STOMP, and if another fascist regime arises that tries to export its fascism… STOMP again.

Correction: only some people are just animals with linoleum and pop tarts, which is their responsibility. They can have it, but when they start redecorating and stocking my kitchen (a la Steyn again) they get no tolerance from me.

Brent Gilliard said...

You're not a right-wing extremist. True right-wing extremists want not only to crush Iran but to exterminate every Muslim on the face of the planet. And they seriously don't see the parallels to nazism.

I would say free will is a useful tool (or "illusion") in our highly individualistic society, but from our perspective we underestimate the power of society to influence people. If you think the NDP is trying to brainwash us, surely the Iranian regime has been successful to a degree.

MapMaster said...

"You're not a right-wing extremist."

*sniff* That's probably the nicest thing anyone's said to me all year…

But wait a sec… I've got a reputation to uphold and get hits on my blog for! Free will is not illusory at all, though. The evidence for it is all around us if we choose to see it — and the same goes for the evidence for evil, as espoused by Islamic terrorists and totalitarians. Indeed, many muslims do see it and reject those interpretations.

The concession I'll make is that it is very difficult to see that when one has been raised from birth to follow destructive doctrines rather than reason — for an extreme example, many or most Palestinian children — but when they start blowing people up, the excuse doesn't wash. We are fortunate in Canada and in much of the rest of the world to be able to listen to disabusing ideas. For people in countries like Iran, well… it sucks that you'd have to risk your neck (perhaps literally) to pursue the same, but I'd like to keep my neck as far away as possible from the same chopping-block.

Brent Gilliard said...

I agree. Insanity - genetic or because your parents were freaks who raised you in a carboard box or whatever - should not be a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Pietr said...

Free will is an illusion?
Who says?
And why?
What for?