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Mark Steyn On ISIS’ Origins With Frank Loesser

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HH: And I begin this hour, which begins with our friend, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn,, with the Kinks’ Lola for a couple of reasons. But first, Mark, did you ever have any connection with the Kinks?

MS: Yeah, I have a great admiration for Ray Davies who wrote their songs. Waterloo Sunset, I think, is one of my favorite songs from the 60s. And I was on a BBC show with him a few years ago, and I happened to mention that he was one of my favorite songwriters, and put him at the end of a long list that included, you know, Rodgers and Hart and Cole Porter and all this, and he blanched and said he’d take it as a compliment, but he was a bit unnerved, because everybody else I liked had been dead for 40 years. And in fact, if I recall, he was, I don’t think they’re connected, but he was shot in New Orleans a little after that.

HH: Oh, my gosh.

MS: He’s alive and well now, and somebody who, Tal Bachman, who’s the son of Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and is a pop star in his own right, he was my warmup act at an event a few years ago, and he played, he knew I liked Ray Davies, and he performed a Ray Davies song for me from his sort of Last of England/Village Green Appreciation Society album. I was very touched by that, actually.

HH: Well, I’m telling you, the reason I started with Lola is a debate broke out this week in the United States about who caused ISIS. And I think there’s a good argument that we can blame it on British pop, and specifically cross-gender Lola and the rise or the lack of rise of standards that emanated out of the British invasion. And I’ll play for you three cuts so that we can place the Lola entry in the spectrum of explanations of ISIS. First comes Rand Paul on Morning Joe two days ago.

JS: Lindsey Graham would say ISIS exists because of people like Rand Paul, who said let’s not go into Syria. What do you say to Lindsey?

RP: I would say it’s exactly the opposite. ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’ job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya, because these same hawks in my party loved, they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it, but Libya is a failed state, and it’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state or a vassal state now of Iran. So everything that they have talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying and pointing fingers otherwise.

HH: And then I had Senator Tom Cotton on yesterday, and I played him Lindsey Graham and asked him whither ISIS, and here was his answer.

TC: I think that ISIS exists because Barack Obama made a bad decision to withdraw all of our troops from Iraq in 2011. Those troops, as I said, are there to defend us and defend our freedoms around the world. And our military commanders on the ground requested a small stay behind force to prevent exactly this kind of return of what was then called al Qaeda in Iraq and what became the Islamic State. So the responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State, in my opinion, rests largely at the doorstep of Barack Obama and his ill-advised decision in 2011 to squander the gains that our troops had fought so hard for the previous eight years.

HH: And then Congressman Mike Pompeo of the House Intelligence Committee was also on yesterday, and I put the same question to him, Mark Steyn.

MP: My judgment is different than both of them. I think ISIS was created because it’s a follow on from al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, the teachings of Sayyid Qutb, not because of, frankly, anything that either of them described there.

HH: Amen. Oh, my gosh, you may have read a book.

MP: Well, I’m not sure exactly which book you’re referring to, but in any event…

HH: The Looming Tower, which…

MP: I have actually read that. I have actually read The Looming Tower. I read it twice in my life.

HH: Yup.

MP: Yup.

HH: Yup.

HH: So Mark Steyn, my question to you is on the spectrum of explanations for ISIS, where does Mark Steyn come down?

MS: Well, I tend to go with that last answer, Hugh, because President Bush said something, a line when I was in a meeting with him a few years ago which I thought got it, you know, that in a sense, there’s no good trying to, no point trying to worry about these things, because as he said, it’s always something. If it’s not the Crusades, it’s the cartoons, which gets not just their inability to forget anything, but also their total lack of proportion. And I think the only thing you could say that we had anything to do with was that in keeping Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership holed up in Abbottabad and various other places, what emerged free from al Qaeda control was next generation al Qaeda. And there will eventually be a next generation ISIS that will even be more barbaric and evil and want to ratchet up an even higher death toll. But it’s nothing, even if we did nothing, even if we just behaved like Sweden, it would still be there. And to blame it on Obama or Bush or Coolidge or Chester Arthur is completely a waste of time.

HH: Well, the reason I used Lola is because in The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright wrote in that Pulitzer Prize winning book that Qutb was radicalized by his time in America, where Baptist pastors would encourage cheek to cheek dancing among boys and girls at Sunday School dances, and that, you know, Western culture has done but accelerate the Qutbists’ dismay at what’s going on. And I’m not declaiming against Western culture. It simply is, if you’re going to be provoked by people’s lifestyles that are different than yours, you’re going to be at war with the West regardless of whether or not we do anything with you.

MS: Well, it’s worth remembering that Sayyid Qutb was at a church dance in Greeley, Colorado, and Greeley, Colorado was a dry town in 1948. Everyone thinks he was revolted because he was in Haight-Ashbury or in the summer of love or Studio 54 in the disco era. He was in Greeley, Colorado at a church social in 1948, and the music they were dancing to was Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which is a great song by Frank Loesser. And so he wasn’t, you know, when you talk about the decadent sewer of Western culture, I’m with you on that. But I draw the line at tossing Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban into the decadent sewer of Western culture, because that’s what he was revolted by. And he would have been revolted by two people dancing to the Merry Widow Waltz in 1907. He would have been revolted by 19th Century line dancing or dancing at the court at Versailles. He doesn’t want any men and women to dance, because in Islam, the guys all dance together. It’s like beards night at some downtown club in Greenwich Village. The guys all dance together.

HH: Oh, my gosh. I have been blaming Lola, and I should have been blaming Loesser. Baby, It’s Cold Outside, I did not know that, and if I had a producer, we’ll go out with that so we can get to the nut of the root of the oak tree here. But Mark Steyn, what about Rand Paul’s argument, which we’re not going to hear less of, we’re going to hear more of, that you know, you broke it, you bought it, we gave them the arms that they’re rampaging through a Ramadi with right now. What’s the best response to that?

MS: Well, I think the response is this, that a great power can’t sit out world events and expect to remain a great power. And people like Rand Paul, not so much Rand Paul compared with his father, but Ron Paul certainly had this vision, an idealistic vision of a 19th Century isolationist republic. America could be a 19th Century isolationist republic, because in the 19th Century, the sea lanes and the oceans were under the Pax Britannica of the Royal Navy. Somebody has to do it. Now what’s changed since the 19th Century is that everything in Rand Paul’s house is made elsewhere. It’s made, if it’s the cheap junk you get from Wal-Mart, it’s made in China. And if it’s the upscale electronic gizmos, it’s made at Bangalore in India. And you have to have free sea lanes and a reasonably stable planet for the stuff to get from there into Rand Paul’s house. So the idea that America can sit out world affairs in the way that Rand Paul wants, I think, is not credible. Now he’s got a point to this, in that the superpower, despite spending over 40% of the world’s military budget, has been unable to impress its will on a bunch of incendiary goat herds in Afghanistan.

HH: Yeah, but that’s where…

MS: And…

MS: That’s where Tom Cotton actually came down in the middle. He said we did put our will on them, and then, but we took the boot off of the neck of the fanatics. And 45 seconds, Mark Steyn, is Cotton right, because I think he is.

MS: Yeah, I think there’s a point to that, but a non-imperial power has to find non-imperial ways of impressing its will upon the world, or it will cease to be a great power. And then you won’t be able to afford all those cute electronic gizmos made in India.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure talking to you. Baby, It’s Cold Outside, now we at least know where it went from.

End of interview.


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