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Mark Steyn on the bad cop, worse cop team of North Korea and Iran.

Thursday, July 6, 2006
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HH: Joined now by columnist to the world, Mark Steyn. You can read almost everything Mark has written at Steynonline.com. Mark, we’re in the middle of sports madness with both Wimbledon and the World Cup. I don’t believe you’re really much of a fan of either, though, are you?

MS: I always liked Wimbledon. I used to have to write about it on a fairly regular basis, and it was always exciting, because you could just do the same jokes every year, you know? I’d say a great day for England. Many English players made it through to the second day due to rain postponing their opening matches. And you could do that kind of joke every year. And then unfortunately, this English player came along, Tim Henman, who was just good enough to sort of get into the quarterfinals, and then it would be a big disaster, because he’d lose, and re-establish the English losing streak. But I used to like doing Wimbledon every year.

HH: Well, okay. World Cup. Are you a World Cup person?

MS: Well, with the World Cup, I always like those kind of underdog countries like Cameroon, where you’ve just got…who come along usually once every tournament, and everyone roots for them, and they just play great, crazy, inspired football. And then you get incredibly dull teams like…I find England an almost insufferably dull team, because everything is kind of so tactically thought out that the football is just terribly dull. But I mean, I tend to, I must say, I don’t want to sound like the unassimilated Muslim.

HH: (laughing)

MS: But when it comes to sports, I do have a slight problem with all American sports, I guess, apart from baseball. And to be honest, this time of year, I wish…apparently, I’m in Northern New Hampshire right now, and I’m told there’s a cricket team in Southern New Hampshire. And God knows what they’re doing down there, but I assume they’d love another New Hampshire cricket team to play against. So perhaps I’ll form a cricket team.

HH: Don’t tell me you’re feeling like a centrifugal pull of a cricket match to the south of New Hampshire?

MS: Well, now, don’t knock cricket, because one of the first things that Afghanistan did after the Taliban were toppled was to start playing cricket again, and that’s not a bad hallmark of civilization, if they start playing cricket.

HH: Well, let’s talk about the decline and fall of a civilization unto itself, the New York media. Have you had a chance to read David Remnick’s New Yorker Talk of the Town not this week?

MS: Yes, I have, and I also heard your conversation with John Podhoretz about it.

HH: What did you make of Remnick’s sort of rallying? Do you think that’s just a friend in need is someone to whom I’ll ride to the rescue, even if it’s a terribly stupid thing I have to write?

MS: Well, I think there is an element to that, and I think that’s where they’re missing the point, the kind of guild mentality. They’ve got a union mentality in the big media. They sound like automobile plants did in the 1970’s. And in fact, that is actually true. One of the features about the U.S. economy is that it’s a generally deunionized economy, and one of the unnaturally unionized elements of it is, in fact, the newspaper industry. And I think that’s the one thing that people just don’t accept about it. They think that anyone, actually, can be a reporter if you happen…one of the interesting things about this internet business is that you can have something happen on some obscure corner of the world, and a fellow’s a got a digital camera, and next thing you know, you’re getting pictures of that, or film of it, from out in the middle of nowhere. And often, that’s as revealing or as interesting as when the big shot New York Times or CBS News guy goes out there. So I don’t think the public accept that guild mentality at all.

HH: Now over at Powerline, John Hinderaker has discovered some November, 2005, articles by Eric Lichtblau, the reporter who along with Risen, broke the June 23rd story about the banking surveillance. As late as November of last year, Eric Lichtblau was looking into this. He couldn’t find SWIFT, and he pronounced that through expert’s voices, that we hadn’t made a dent in the al Qaeda’s ability to move money in financed terrorist attacks, and that in fact, SWIFT was invisible to him as recently as seven months ago. I think that’s a very telling article, Mark Steyn, and it goes to the defense they’ve been mounting that their articles hurt no one and helped no terrorist.

MS: Yeah, their defense now of their big scoop is that it wasn’t a scoop, that in fact, everybody knew all this anyway, so they weren’t telling anybody anything they didn’t know. And I think that’s nonsense. You know, Ann Coulter had a very good…she just said it as a throwaway line, really just en passant, and I’m not sure she realized actually quite what a good question it is. She said at some point in a column the other day, how many big al Qaeda secret plans has the New York Times revealed? And I think that’s actually an interesting question. You know, when you go into a New York Times planning meeting, how much of their editorial resources are being devoted to getting inside the enemy? The British press is pretty anti-American, they’re pretty anti-Israeli, they’re anti-all kinds of things. But they still have journalistic instincts. Every week, I read a fascinating story in the London Times or some other paper, in which some guy has gone undercover as a Muslim among the radical Muslims in Yorkshire towns in England, where the July 7th bombers came from. And he’s got all this fascinating material. A guy went undercover at some mosque at Brighton, in England, and came out with all kinds of material. How come nobody at the New York Times seems to be interesting in devoting any editorial energy to exposing what the enemy’s up to? That’s an important question.

HH: Excellent question. There’s also a lack of sort of hard-hitting commentary of the sort which I was reading before the show. The newest issue of First Things Magazine has an article by George Cardinal Pell, the Archibishop of Sydney, Australia, about Islam which is as pessimistic an article about Islam, and as blunt an article about Islam, as I have read in three or four years, maybe even five years. And it’s in an obscure, though very fine magazine, not the New York Times.

MS: No, and I think that’s…First Things is a fine magazine, actually, and it’s a magazine that was ahead of the game on a lot of these big questions that are at issue today. And likewise with the Archbishop of Sydney, that I think these…he’s one of the few figures in an otherwise fairly somnolent Church that has actually addressed some of these issues. And I don’t understand why people don’t realize that this is the big question. And there are all kinds of aspects of this. This Toronto plot, for example, a couple of weeks ago. What’s interesting to me about that is the number of Islamic converts who were members of that plot. I don’t understand why if you’re a newsman, you’re not curious about the number of people who are converting to Islam in Canada, and America, and other Western countries. I mean, these are the questions that are far more interesting. I mean, whey is it only the government that you have to undermine and subvert? Aren’t there all kinds of other questions at issue here?

HH: Well put. Now moving to the most serious subject of the week, and that is North Korea, I don’t know if you saw minority ranking member Pelosi’s statement that it had begun to move North Korea into the realm of unacceptable behavior. It was so nutty as to defy even humor, Mark Steyn.

MS: (laughing) Well, you know, she’s talking about it in the wrong way. There is no North Korea. It’s a one-man state. And I don’t agree with these people who are saying well, look at this guy, Kim Jung-Il, what a joke. He’s got his big, fantastic, new missile, and he launches it up, and it falls straight out of the sky the minute it got up there. And what a bust it was for him. The point of the matter is that North Korea isn’t the United States or the Soviet Union or France or India. It’s not a competent power. It can’t feed its own people. Why would you expect it to be able to develop a competent nuclear program. You know, the fact of the matter is that that doesn’t make them less of a threat, it makes them more of a threat, because it’s quite conceivable…I mean, a couple of years ago, they were talking…five or six years ago, there was a rumor that the North Koreans were planning to nuke Montreal, because it would demonstrate to the Americans that they were serious, but yet it wouldn’t be so serious that the Americans would be obliged to nuke them in return. Now as a Montrealer, I was pretty distressed to hear that. But the point is even if they were aiming to nuke Montreal, it could land anywhere, and kill all you guys in California.

HH: Right.

MS: The fact of the matter is that a crazy guy with a nuke is even more dangerous than a sane, competent, technologically advanced guy with a nuke.

HH: Why do you expect, why do you think he’s rushing out his second Taepadong to get off?

MS: Because I think this is…he’s in the nuclear braggadocio mood, and I think in a sense, he and Iran are locked into this sort of bad cop, worse cop routine, where they both figured that the IAEA and the European Union negotiators, and to a certain extent, the United States as well, are all paper tigers, and that they’re in this kind of tag team where each one makes a move and emboldens the other. That’s the real danger. It’s the weaknesses of these states that make them the danger, not their strengths.

HH: And so do you expect we will do anything at all, we being the United States, as opposed to the West?

MS: I don’t think so, because I think it’s very hard to do…if I were interested in constructing a Machiavellian scenario, it would be to apply some serious pressure to China, because the fact of the matter is that it’s China that has let a lot of this stuff go walkabout around the world in ways that have been very unhealthy. And at some point, the Chinese have to be made to pay a price for that.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. Steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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