HH: We begin today, Thursday the 5th, as we do most Thursdays when we are lucky with Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. Mark, a good day after Independence Day to you.
MS: Yeah, and a happy day after Independence Day, and I think four days after Dominion Day for any two or three Canadians still listening.
HH: I’m sure there are more than that. Thank you. I was missing your Atlantic obituary today, Mark Steyn, because I read of the death of Gottfried von Bismarck. And I assumed that you had opportunity to cover him in the past.
MS: Actually, I haven’t, but he would have been a great guy to write about. I miss that slot, and for that reason, just because of those kind of odd characters who don’t quite fit into anything else, but would be great to write about there.
HH: I will talk about him later. Let’s get to the serious stuff. The attacks in Britain last week, Mark Steyn, have been now written up for a few days, and we’ve got competing narratives about Dr. Abdullah, who seems to be the ringleader. One of them is he was a nutter before he left Iraq, had already gone Wahabist, and the other is the Iraq war made him do it. What do you think?
MS: I think basically he believed these things before he left for Britain, and that he was in a sense inserted into Britain for that very purpose. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want to want health care, but socialized health care systems leave you with an exaggerated dependence on foreign doctors. In Britain, in 2003, the year before this guy came, 58% of the new doctors registered on Britain’s national health service came from foreign countries. And these people exploited that weakness. You didn’t need a work permit to become a doctor in Britain. And they were inserted into Britain for that very purpose.
HH: Now I had an e-mail from an ophthalmologist today, talking about the fact that all the English ophthalmologists have come to the United States, because they can make money here, and have access to the latest equipment. How far flung is this vulnerability, do you think?
MS: I think it’s very far flung. I mean, I think that is true generally of socialized health care systems on the whole, is that being a doctor, which is a big time thing here. If you walk into a single’s bar in California and say hey, I’m a doctor, the chicks think you’re going places. That is not true in socialized systems. It’s no longer an attractive, middle class profession. A lot of old Canadian doctors I know are still working in Canada. Young Canadian doctors I know are working in Phoenix and Houston and Boston, and all kinds of other places.
HH: There is also a story in the Telegraph today about a bulletin board that included a message from a guy saying that 45 Muslim doctors are threatening attacks in the United States, and they had a specific target list down at Mayport Naval Air Base.
HH: No follow up on that, but do you suppose the United States has the same vulnerability? Or is that just cheap internet talk?
MS: Well, I think it would be a lot more difficult, not entirely impossible. There is a shortage of nurses, for example, in the United States, so you have fast track programs to bring foreign nurses in, and that’s the sort of program that jihadists can exploit. I mean, let’s not delude ourselves about what happened here. Essentially, the people who got this plot going in Britain deliberately exploited an underscrutinized immigration program. Now you can imagine if some of the flimsy 24 hour visas had gone into place under this immigration bill that was rejected here a couple of weeks ago…
MS: There’s no reason to believe they’re not smart enough to exploit that weakness, too. So they understand, they understand the points of entry, and the soft underbelly, and the places where you can get something like this. You know, they had a fast track program for imams in Britain that wasn’t scrutinized. They scrutinize that now, so these guys have effectively moved on to the national health service.
HH: So they look for soft spots in the immigration laws in order to bring in jihadis.
HH: Point number one. Point number two, there’s a new Zawahiri video today. I was looking at it, examining it over at www.lauramansfield.com. Do you visit that website, by the way?
MS: Yeah, I’ve been on that a couple of times, yeah.
HH: They seem a little panicked to me, Mark Steyn.
MS: (laughing) Well, that’s one of the interesting things. Zawahiri seems a little panicked.
MS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think things are going well for al Qaeda as a command and control organization. You know, if you look at their corpse count of late, it’s mainly Muslims. And at a certain point, people wake up to that, you know, that if you don’t want death and destruction raining down on you, then letting al Qaeda guys have the run around of your place, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, is not a good idea. So I think certainly, that central command structure that was in place through the Afghan camps in 2001, is not in place now, but that some of these decentralized kind of free lance jiahadist networks are more active, and that’s what al Qaeda’s dependent on now.
HH: It’s also clear that the center of gravity of al Qaeda right now, their hopes and dreams for the future, is Iraq. And yet I read in the New York Sun today, New Effort To End War Set For Money – Democrats Eye Bid In Senate. It seems to me incredible, Mark Steyn, that the Democrats are still contriving to get us out of Iraq just as it becomes painfully clear that is not only a key front, it is the front in the war.
MS: Well, you know, a lot of this is just this stupid retrospective thing that is a particular…if you don’t mind me lurching into anti-Americanism for a moment, I don’t do it terribly often, Hugh, but I would say it is a characteristic of this political culture, that in a sense, it’s always dealing with yesterday’s issues. Because Democrats are mad about going into the war, four years into it, they now want to sit around essentially having a debate about the best way to help the President lose the war. And that’s not a grown up thing to do. Once you’re in it, whatever reason you wound up getting into it for, once you’re in it, win it, because the fact of allowing the war to be lost is revealing not about Iraq, but about America. In other words, the Iraqis will cope with America pulling out, you know, in their own way. But the rest of the world will draw its own conclusions about American will and American power.
HH: Will any Democrat beside Joe Lieberman have the political courage in the next 18 months, Mark Steyn, to say something along the lines…it may take five years to completely crush them.
MS: No, because if you look at these Democrat debates, I’m not terribly happy with the state of the Republican Party at the moment at all, but the Democratic debates are just the most pathetic kind of pandering, Hallmark greeting card, sappy, brainless, mush uplift, summarized by Hillary Clinton’s ludicrous pandering at that debate last week. I mean, these are not serious people. Barack Obama seems a very pleasant person, but the idea that he has, aside from the sort of wafting upwards on clouds of fluffy hope, that he’s making a serious contribution to this debate is ridiculous.
HH: I want to switch over to media for a second. In the Boston Globe today, there was a headline, Giuliani Watchers Wonder If He Will Overplay 9/11 Card. Now I find that somewhat repulsive to refer to 9/11 as a card to be played, or sort of a theater run that may be coming to its end, as opposed to a crisis and a state or frame of mind. But then I thought about it more. That really is how the left views 9/11 now, as an event to be manipulated.
MS: Well, the fact of the matter is that there are two views on 9/11. And leaving aside the kook left for a minute, the soft left, summarized by the Boston Globe, doesn’t think it was an act of war. They think it was something sad that happened, it was sad it happened, like a tsunami, like a tornado, and it blew in out of nowhere, and people were killed, and we should all hold hands, and have a candlelight vigil, but it’s not something with implications, strategic implications to the United States. And so that’s why they see it as a card. They think Giuliani is exploiting a sad, tragic event that we were weepy about it five years ago, but it’s over, move on. And Giuliani sees it as something that is the great central challenge to America’s national security interest. That’s not a card. The people who think of it that way, I mean, that’s a very revealing edit from the Boston Globe, because it actually gets to the heart of the difference…
MS: …you know, that great divide between people who see it as an event of profound implication for American policy, and others who think it’s just like an ice storm or a tsunami.
HH: Is that going to be the defining issue of 2008?
MS: Well, I would be cautious about that, Hugh, if only because I think the pounding that the President has taken on the war, and in part, the way the war is being fought more tentatively by the State Department and other institutions, I think has made the war a dubious matter on the conservative Republican side, too, and that certain Republican candidates are not going to want to face the war head on, too. There’s a weariness with the war on the right, too.
HH: I know that’s true in the Senate, but I’m beginning to suggest…believe that the Senate is sort of a lost island that floats out in a world that none of us go to very often, but that among Republican activists, and the people who will decide the primary, and perhaps even new media, we do understand the world in that bifurcated way.
MS: Well look, the short answer to that is I wanted Republicans last November to run on small government at home, and assertive nationalism abroad. Instead, we ran on a sort of tentative prosecution of the war abroad, and big government at home. And that drove a lot of districts out of the Republican side of the aisle, including my own state in New Hampshire. And I would say that it’s fine to argue that we should now sort of get those things the right way up. But it’s a bit late for a lot of people who are very disenchanted with the Republican Party.
HH: Well said, truly spoken. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, American, the author of America Alone. Get it if you haven’t already.
End of interview.