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Mark Steyn hoping that our future isn’t back to the 30’s

Thursday, August 3, 2006

HH: It’s Thursday, and we begin, as we do most Thursdays, with Mark Steyn, columnist to the world. His material available, most of it, at least, at Mark, I got tricked by the Atlantic Monthly. I bought their magazine for travel this weekend. It’s the summer fiction section, and you weren’t in there. Is that a regular, a week off for you or something?

MS: I don’t think that’s a proper…I don’t mean to be snooty about the fellows who are in it, but I don’t think that’s actually a proper issue of the magazine, per se. It’s like a sort of special thing.

HH: Oh, they tricked me.

MS: I’m definitely in it in the next proper one, which I think should be out next week. I think that’s the September issue, yeah.

HH: Well, they duped me. Who are you writing about, the death of which was recent?

MS: To be honest, I’ve got a mental blank. As with these magazines, you always…it’s someone who died relatively recently in magazine terms.

HH: (laughing)

MS: I think it’s Kaiser Wilhelm or Queen Victoria, someone like that.

HH: Okay.

MS: Al Jolson, maybe. I can’t remember. It’s magazine lead time.

HH: We’re just going to have to look. Now let’s get to the serious stuff, Mark. On Monday of this week, President Ahmadinejead gave a very long speech. I want to give you three clips. “They have no boundries, limits or taboos when it comes to killing human beings. Who are they? Where did they come from? Are they human beings? They are like cattle.” He went on to say, “I hereby declare the world must know that America and England are accomplices to each and every one of the crimes of the Israeli regime that has occupied Jerusalem. They must be held accountable.” And he closed with, “Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what they are talking to.” That was part one. Any reaction to that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Yes, I think this comes back to the Osama bin Laden quote we always come back to. When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they’re naturally attracted to the strong horse. And Ahmadinejead figured, I think probably correctly, that there was a strong horse vacuum in the Middle East, and in the Muslim world generally, and that he was going to promote himself as such. And I think he’s done that very successfully. You look at recent developments, Sunni…he’s a Shiia. In fact, he’s a Millenarian nutball, but he’s a Shiia. And normally, the Sunni are…keep their distance from the Shiia in the Muslim world, but it’s interesting the number of Sunni theologians who issued rulings saying that it’s okay for Arab Sunnis to fight alongside Shiias in the struggle against, as he said, America, England and Australia. I mean, he has successfully promoted himself as the strong horse in the Muslim world.

HH: The day after, lest anyone think he’s also an outlier from the Iranian regime, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gave another speech, conveniently provided to us by the wonderful people in Iran, that includes this. “Now, more than ever, Muslim nations loathe America. The American regime must expect a hard slap on the face and the crushing fist of Muslim Ummah, because of its support for the crimes, and the Zionist criminals, and its blatant violations of the rights of the Muslim nations. The aggressive behavior of America and Israel will revitalize more than ever the spirit of resistance in the Islamic world, and will make clear the value of jihad.” He’s not talking about jihad, the internal spiritual struggle, is he, Mark Steyn?

MS: No, and you know what I find interesting is that a lot of the so-called experts want us to understand how complex the power structures are in Iran, that you have a president that he is subject to other controls from the ruling ayatollahs and everything. It doesn’t actually make any difference. The destruction of the Zionist entity, and the great Satan, are non-partisan issues in Iran. They’re the equivalent of the prescription drugs for seniors in Congress. You know, Democrats have one plan, and Republicans have another, but they’re all agreed on the need for prescription drug plans for seniors. Well, they’re all agreed in Iran on the need for the destruction of the Zionist entity and the Great Satan.

HH: Now part three came yesterday in Malaysia, where Ahmadinejead said, “Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage, and intermediate cease fire must be implemented. Israel is ‘an illegitimate’ regime. There is no legal basis for its existence.” You know, Mark Steyn, this feels like the 30’s.

MS: Well, it’s worse than that, because they didn’t talk…they weren’t quite so up front in the 1930’s. I mean, he’s saying our priority remains the destruction of Israel, but we need an immediate cease fire. That translates to stop lobbing rockets at us until we’re in a position to nuke you. I mean, it is ludicrous. And what I find interesting about that is that it involves an even higher level of self-deception than believing that Adolf Hitler was no threat in the 1930’s. It’s beyond that in a sense. And the fact that he was able to say it in Malaysia, which is actually one of the least worst Muslim countries, this is the strong horse routine now, that he can go to countries that in the overall span of things are among the most moderate of Muslim countries, and he can say this, and nobody says…that no moderate Muslim standing alongside him who says whoa, I need to distance myself from that…that’s alarming, too.

HH: You mean, as when you’re on a stage with someone who goes nutter, and you’ve got to disavow him. Nope, didn’t happen. Now there are three things I want…with that background, the Blair and, apparently Dr. Rice’s immediate push for a cease fire, the Lamont crushing of Lieberman, and Hillary’s confrontation with Rumsfeld today, against this backdrop, none of those make any sense to me, Mark Steyn.

MS: No, they don’t. I find it perplexing. I find it bad, even as theater. You know, occasionally, you get these e-mails claiming that it’s all part of some incredible rope-a-dope, that you know, the Bush administration has got Tony Blair out there arguing for cease fire, or some kind of massive head fake thing going on. But even as rhetoric, it would be bad. It’s hard to think of what would be the comparable comparison. You were talking about the 1930’s. This is a bit like after Pearl Harbor. Neville…Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, the prime minister and foreign secretary breaking off from fighting Hitler to demand an instant cease fire between Japan and America. I mean, it’s preposterous, because Hezbollah is part of the same enemy that Condi Rice and Tony Blair are supposed to be fighting. There is no reason why Condi Rice and Tony Blair should be presenting themselves as honest brokers between Israel and a terrorist entity that has not just killed Israelis, but has killed Americans. It’s even killed French. It killed 58 French people 20 years ago, and it’s even been trashing the U.N. building in Lebanon, too. So there’s no reason on Earth why anybody from the so-called civilized world, a category that seems to be fast shrinking, as far as one can tell. There’s no reason why any of them should be claiming that they need to act as honest brokers between Israel and a bunch of terrorists.

HH: Let me throw another log on the fire. Last Friday, the day after we last spoke, a Muslim broke into the Jewish Federation, killed one, wounded six. And today, there was a fire bomb thrown at the door of Baltimore Hebrew University, and a wonderful, local police officer said, “At this point, there is nothing that would indicate that this is a hate crime.” They have problems with juveniles in that area. It’s denial on a grand scale, Mark Steyn.

MS: Absolutely. And I think the whole idea…I mean, I feel very sorry. I think it’s tragic when I think about some of the…who would have thought that if you go to a community center in Seattle, you would risk being killed by a jihadist. This is the world we live in. And really, the only question is what percentage of people are hot for jihad? Because the pretense that this is some kind of the equivalent of a convenience store drive-by shooting, there’s no particular political animus to it, I think is one of the most deeply insulting things. And it’s very dangerous. I hear this all the time now. There was another attack on…there was an attack on a synagogue in Sydney a couple of days ago, in Australia. You heard it when the Mounties released their ludicrous statement in Toronto, about how the people they’d arrested represented the so-called broad strata of society, when in fact, the minute they appeared in court, the first thing they asked for was a copy of the Koran. What’s bad about it is eventually, ordinary citizens will conclude the spokesmen for the state are lying to them. And that’s not a good..that’s just not a good proposition. If every time a police officer is standing up at a press conference, you think to yourself, he’s not telling me the truth about this.

HH: Now with a minute left, one of the better columns you’ve written in a very long time, and I like them all, was in the Sun Times this past weekend, where you rose to the defense of our common friends, National Review’s Katherine Jean Lopez, who’d been upbraided for not having borne arms, and yet saying that the war…we all support the war, it’s about why we fight, and I think correctly so, Mark Steyn, the country fights, the nation fights, although the tip of the spear is the military services. And unfortunately, that’s eroding.

MS: Yes, and I think it’s important to remember, it is the tip of the spear, and they’re at the hardest…they have the hardest fight. But the reality is, I said in that column, America is responsible for 40% of the world’s military spending. It’s responsible for 80% of the world’s research and development of military spending. So in theory, the capability gap between America and all other militaries widens every single day. So the question is, why doesn’t it feel like that? It doesn’t feel like that, because the best military in the world can’t win a war unless the nation knows what it is it’s fighting, and what it is that victory looks like. And the idea that somehow, we have to intervene to protect Hezbollah is a very good example of how we don’t really understand what it is we’re fighting for, or what victory would look like.

HH: With perilous consequences, it feels like the 1930’s must have felt. Mark Steyn, thank you., America.

End of interview.

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