HH: And of course, we begin as we do most Thursdays when we’re lucky with Mark Steyn. Hello, Mark, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MS: Hey, good to be with you, Hugh.
HH: What did you make of General Odom’s piece in Sunday’s Washington Post?
MS: I thought it was very sad, really. I thought it was actually wrong on the face when he was disparaging, for example, the number of democracies, so-called democracies created since World War II. I think that’s absolutely wrong. I think the history of the exporting of democracy is actually far more successful than he portrays it as, and it seems to me that simply because it’s difficult in the Middle East is no reason not to do it. And secondly, I think he doesn’t truly take into consideration the consequences of losing the war to America, or in other words, withdrawing from the war, because I think it would send a message to the world that the worst thing you can be on this planet is America’s friend, because in the end, the Kurds are America’s best friend in that part of the world, and we would be abandoning them. And that would very much confirm, I think, Bernard Lewis’ view that America, as he sees it, you know, America is harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend.
MS: And this would pretty much confirm it.
HH: One other surprising thing, and again, I want people to be fair to the general and listen to the whole interview. But I asked him if he’d read The Looming Tower, and he hadn’t, and if he knew who Sayed Qutub was, and he didn’t. And I really wonder, Mark Steyn, how many people have done their homework about this enemy.
MS: Well, you know, I’m always astonished by this, Hugh. I don’t expect you very kindly always recommending my book to people, and I’m very grateful to that, but you know, certainly, you don’t have to read my book. There are an awful lot of books out there, and what always surprises me is that the President, who is regarded as a moron by, you know, “thinking” people everywhere, apparently, has actually read a lot of these books, and a lot of his critics haven’t.
MS: And I’m astonished at the level of understanding of what it is that’s going on in the world. I mean, I think the General’s point is actually very foolish, that if you’re going…for a start, temperamentally, you have to be the kind of society that can lose a war, if you’re going to decide to lose a war, lose it easily. And I don’t think America is. I think inevitably, if there was a tattered and shabby retreat from Iraq, that it would be, in a sense, Vietnam squared. In other words, it would be a traumatizing event for generations. And I think that’s very different from the way, you know, Britain, for example, around the time of the Vietnam era, it won some colonial struggles. In Malaya, it saw offered communist insurgency that was much more difficult and much better supplied than Iraq, and at the same time, it gave up Aden, where it had been in power for 130 years, and the British flag came down on whatever it was, November the 29th or whatever, and the very next day, they ran up the flag of the People’s Republic of South Yemen, the first Marxist state. Britain just sort of shrugged off 130 years very easily. America doesn’t do that. This would be a deeply traumatizing event.
HH: And we’ll let the General speak for himself in hour three. Let’s turn to the debate in Congress. First of all, the news this afternoon, Mark Steyn, is that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was wounded, his name is Abu Ayub al-Masri, and his second in command, Abu Adawa al-Majahami was killed today. Muqtada al Sadr has bugged out to Iran, and the security situation in Baghdad appears to be calming.
MS: Well you know, this is the stuff that matters if you’re in Iraq. The President gets no credit for it over here, because the war has in effect departed the physical constraints of Iraq, and is essentially now being waged for political considerations in Washington. And no news is good news, and sadder news is badder news, basically. I mean, the New York Times had this ludicrous piece yesterday arguing that the departure of Muqtada al Sadr for Iran could leave a power vacuum in Iraq that would be filled by even more extreme forces. In other words, whatever…whether the President kills the guy, whether he makes him prime minister, whether he chases him to Iran, as far as the New York Times is concerned, there’s no good news. And what we see, what astonishes me, I mean, I had a kind of out of body experience reading the Washington Post today, because it was like going through some sort of hallucination. I’ve never seen war coverage like it, where one party has in fact decided to take what it calls the slow bleed strategy, it’s quite openly telling people it doesn’t want to have the courage of its convictions and defund the war, it wants to deny the President the possibility of victory, while ensuring that it doesn’t get stuck with any blame for defeat, and this is completely contemptible.
HH: It is, and unfortunately, 13 Republicans at last count have joined these Democrats. I’m calling them white flag Republicans. They’re listed at www.victorycaucus.com. I think this is a Thelma and Louise moment for the Republicans, Mark Steyn. They are not whipping this vote, and let me play for you a little bit of Rick Keller, Orlando Republican, from his speech on the floor yesterday:
RK: Three years ago, we didn’t know whether surging more American troops into Baghdad would give us a long lasting impact. Now we know the answer, because we tried the same thing last summer. The benefits were temporary. The body bags were permanent.
HH: I think that may be the most contemptible thing I’ve ever heard a Republican say, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yes, and I agree with you that this man should be put under pressure in a competitive primary in his home district. You know, I think this is…as I’ve said, I’ve never felt more foreign in the last couple of days, and you know, I’m not…again, I feel very awkward in a way commenting about this, but I think this is simply a contemptibly immature way to discuss a war. And I think the abandonment by the Republicans of the real national security interests of this country is pathetic. I think in a sense, it’s easier to respect someone like Jack Murtha with his naked hostility to the administration than it is for these pathetic fair weather trimmers who are waiting to see what the focus groups bring back, and then crafting a position trying to have it every which way. I mean, this is terrible stuff.
HH: That’s what Rudy Giuliani said last night, that he could respect the cut and run crowd for being cut and run crowds, but the idea of non-binding resolutions when he said Larry King, and radio people like Rush, they get paid to comment. The Congressmen don’t get paid to comment. They get paid to decide things. I thought it was a penetrating critique of this charade.
MS: Yes, and I think it is absolutely right. I think Rudy Giuliani’s absolutely right there. Look, the fact of the matter is that if the war is a bad idea, then those people should be coming home, and sooner rather than later. But what’s happening, I think, is deeply dangerous, because I do think it’s having the effect of making it all but impossible to achieve any serious national goals in Iraq, because this debate is not just being played out to domestic TV viewers, it’s actually being beamed around the world. So they hear about the non-binding resolutions when they’re sitting in Islamabad and Riyadh, and in Paris and in Brussels and everywhere else. And what do they conclude about the United States? That this is in fact a superpower that uniquely, uniquely thinks it can go around the world launching into wars, and then get bored with them and come away. And people like Jack Murtha, who opposed the war all along, actually do make more sense than these guys who kind of decide halfway through the game well, we wanted to start the game, but we don’t want to finish it. That’s contemptible.
HH: Now can the situation be retrieved, in your opinion?
MS: Well, I must say, you know, I do think it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how this war can be waged effectively. As you say, Sadr has fled for whatever reason to Iran. The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been wounded, Zarqawi, his predecessor is dead, Uday and Qusay and Saddam are dead. There are real results that have been accomplished, and those results have had no impact on the kind of collective crack-up of the political class in Washington. This is simply a political class that is unworthy of a serious power. And it is difficult to see how this idea of discussing Iraq as if it’s some kind of board game about…it’s like the McGuffin in a Hitchcock movie, it’s merely the pretext for a lot of domestic political positioning. It’s not. It’s a real country, and it’s a real war, and it ought to be discussed in those terms.
HH: But I don’t see that happening except in the context of the presidential campaign. I do believe, perhaps, that is going to be the context since Giuliani, Romney and McCain are the three front-runners, and they’re all serious about the war. That may be the place where serious people have to debate this.
MS: Well, maybe, but you know, you’ve got one side, the other fellows on the other side simply think there is no…I mean, Barack Obama, who’s going around comparing himself to Lincoln in every speech, it’s hard to imagine Lincoln campaigning and simply, in effect, you know, not discussing the war. I mean, it’s hard to imagine Lincoln going around campaigning on health care and ending poverty in the middle of the Civil War. I mean, that’s…when one side basically has chosen at best to sit out the game, it is very hard, I think, to make it a serious debate.
HH: Mark Steyn, a pleasure. There’s a reason why your book was recommended by Shadegg and Hoekstra today, America Alone.
End of interview.