Tuesday 6 November 2007

Mark Steyn - The worlds best writer

Here are a couple of essays from the worlds greatest living political writer ;


Iraqi wacky woo
from The Irish Times, August 1st 2005

Until 60 years ago, all Nagasaki meant to most westerners was the setting for Madame Butterfly and a novelty pop song from the 1920s:

Back in Nagasaki
Where the fellers chew tobaccy
And the women wicky-wacky-woo...

Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, the Mills Brothers, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt - there was no shortage of recordings of "Nagasaki" through the 1930s and early 1940s - up to, oh, about two minutes past 11 on the morning of August 9th, 1945. And since then, well, you don't hear the song too much anymore. Nagasaki joined Hiroshima as a one-word shorthand for events beyond the scale of Tin Pan Alley exotica.

Sometimes the transformative event comes in an instant, as it did out of the skies from a B-29 60 Augusts ago. Sometimes the transformation is slower and less perceptible: The United States that so confidently nuked two Japanese cities is as lost to us as the old pre-mushroom cloud Nagasaki. In what circumstances would Washington nuke an enemy today? Were we to rerun the second World War, advisers to the president would counsel against the poor optics of dropping the big one, problems keeping allies on board, media storm, congressional inquiries, UN resolutions, NGOs making a flap, etc. And chances are the administration would opt to slug it out town for town in a conventional invasion costing a million casualties.

There's no doubt the atomic bomb wound up saving lives - American, Japanese, and maybe millions in the lands the latter occupied. The more interesting question is to what degree it enabled the Japan we know today. They were a fearsome enemy, and had no time for decadent concepts such as magnanimity in victory. If you want the big picture, the Japanese occupation of China left 15 million Chinese dead. If you want the small picture, consider Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. It fell to the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the 22 British watchkeepers surrendered to vastly superior forces. The following year, the Japanese took their British prisoners, tied them to trees, decapitated them, and burned their bodies in a pit. You won't find that in the Geneva Conventions.

The Japs fought a filthy war, but a mere six decades later America, Britain and Japan sit side by side at G7 meetings. The US and Canada apologise unceasingly for the wartime internment of Japanese civilians, and a historically uncontroversial authentic vernacular expression such as "the Japs fought a filthy war" is now so distasteful that use of it inevitably attracts noisy complaints about offensively racist characterisations. The old militarist culture - of kamikaze fanatics, and occupation regimes that routinely tortured and beheaded and even ate their prisoners - is dead as dead can be.

Would that have happened without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the earlier non-nuclear raids? In one night of "conventional" bombing - March 9th - 100,000 civilians died in Tokyo. Taking a surrender from the enemy is one thing; ensuring that he's completely, totally, utterly beaten is another.

A peace without Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been a different kind of peace; the surrender would have been, in every sense, more "conditional". Japanese militarism would not have been so thoroughly vanquished, nor so obviously responsible for the nation's humiliation and devastation, and, therefore, not so irredeemably consigned to history. A greater affection and respect for the old regime could well have persisted, and lingered to hobble the new modern, democratic Japan devised by the Americans.

Which brings us to our present troubles. Nobody's suggesting nuking Mecca. Well, okay, the other day a Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, did - or at any rate he raised the possibility that at some point we might well have to "bomb" Mecca. Even I, a fully paid-up armchair warmonger, baulked at that one, prompting some of my more robust correspondents to suggest I'd gone over to the side of the New York Times pantywaists.

But forget about bombing Mecca and consider the broader lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: an enemy folds when he knows he's finished. In Iraq, despite the swift fall of the Saddamites, it's not entirely clear the enemy did know. Indeed, the western peaceniks' pre-war "human shields" operation was completely superfluous mainly because the Anglo-American forces decided to treat not just Iraqi civilians and not just Iraqi conscripts but virtually everyone other than Saddam, Uday and Qusay as a de facto human shield. Washington made a conscious choice to give every Iraqi the benefit of the doubt, including the fake surrenderers who ambushed the US marines at Nasiriyah.

If you could get to a rooftop, you could fire rocket-propelled grenades at the Brits and Yanks with impunity, because, under the most onerous rules of engagement ever devised, they wouldn't fire back just in case the building you were standing on hadn't been completely evacuated. Michael Moore and George Galloway may have thought the neocons were itching to massacre hundreds of thousands, but the behaviour of the Baathists suggests they knew better: they assumed western decency and, having no regard either for our lives or for those of their own people, acted accordingly.

Was this a mistake? Several analysts weren't happy about it at the time, simply because Washington and London were exposing their own troops to greater danger than necessary. But, with hindsight, it also helped set up a lot of the problems Iraq's had to contend with since: not enough Baathists were killed in the initial invasion; too many bigshots survived to plot mischief and too many minnows were allowed to melt back into the general population to provide a delivery system for that mischief.

And in a basic psychological sense, excessive solicitude for the enemy won us not sympathy but contempt. Better Nagasaki than a lot of misplaced wicky-wacky-woo.

The main victims of western squeamishness in April 2003 were not American or coalition troops but the Iraqi civilians who today provide the principal target for "insurgents". It would have better for them had more Baathists been killed in the initial invasion. It would have been preferable, too, if the swarm of foreign jihadi from neighbouring countries had occasionally been met with the "accidental" bombing of certain targets on the Syrian side of the border.

Wars fought under absurd degrees of self-imposed etiquette are the most difficult to win - see Korea, Vietnam or even Northern Ireland - and one lesson of Germany and Japan is that it's easier to rebuild societies if they've first been completely smashed. Michael Ledeen, a shrewd analyst of the present conflict, likes to sign-off his essays by urging the administration, "Faster, please". That's good advice. So too is: Tougher, please.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Look at Sammy's Mascara run [Mark Steyn]

I'm in distant climes with only week-old copies of the London Telegraph to keep me in touch, but, in case Derb hasn't yet got to it, I thought the opening of this obit was sufficiently arresting to be worth sharing:

Sammy Duddy, who died on October 17 aged 62, had a rather unusual curriculum vitae for a member of the Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in having been a drag artiste who went by the stage name of Samantha.

During the 1970s the self-styled "Dolly Parton of Belfast" became well known on Belfast's cabaret circuit, presenting a risqué act in Loyalist pubs and clubs, dressed in fishnet tights, wig and heavy make-up.

He was a familiar face on the Ulster terrorist scene, and not just because of the mascara. But, from my memory of my days in the province, he never seemed the savviest paramilitary operative. He was a founding member of what he named "the Window Cleaners", the North Belfast UDA unit with a distressing tendency to whack the wrong guys: The old joke around town was that, if you were targeted by the Window Cleaners, your neighbor's life was in grave danger. Still, at a time when the two halves of Northern Ireland's divided community were riven by as deep a chasm as Dolly Parton's cleavage, it's sobering to relect that even cross-dressing cabaret acts were strictly sectarian.

Anyone know of any Sunni insurgents with a transvestite Jessica Simpson routine on the side?

11/03 07:56 PM

Another great article here - not from Mark but quoting Mark ;

Johanna Maurice
Saturday November 03, 2007
Reflections on a Halloween night

TRICK or Treat along the tree-lined streets of Kanawha City this week was a sight to savor. Dusk was descending. The Halloween decorations glowed. The leaves were scuffleable.

It was picture-perfect -- what Halloween should be.

The smallest children seemed practically crazed by it all. Moms and daddies strolled slowly down the streets, keeping an eye on kids so excited they had a tendency to run straight out into the street from between parked vehicles.

Such scenes make it possible for adults to remember how it felt to run around in the night, safe in peaceful neighborhoods, looking out at the world from behind the eye-holes of a mask.

But the Halloweens of today are not like the Halloweens of yesteryear in an important respect: Today's kids aren't running around with nearly as many siblings as earlier generations did.

Look at the obituaries. The "greatest generation," the one that won World War II, is passing on, and the difference between what their families looked like and what today's families look like leaps off the pages.

"He (or she) was preceded in death by three brothers and four sisters . . . and "survived by two brothers." Or preceded by nine brothers and sisters and survived by one. Or preceded in death by two sisters and one brother and survived by seven other siblings.

Before birth control pills, that's what American families looked like.

That has changed in most developed countries, a fact author Mark Steyn explored in "America Alone." Wrote Maclean's magazine in the foreword to an article by Steyn:

"The Muslim world has youth, numbers and global ambitions. The West is growing old and enfeebled, and lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it. It's the end of the world as we've known it."

"The most conspicuous feature of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia," Steyn wrote, "is that they're running out of babies. What's happening in the developed world is one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history."

The highest fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe is slightly less than 1.3 births per couple, "which is what demographers call the point of lowest-low fertility from which no human society has ever recovered."

In Italy, the fertility rate is 1.2. In Spain, it was 1.1. (In the United States, the fertility rate at the time was 2.1.)

"There's no need to extrapolate," Steyn said, "and if you do it gets a little freaky, but, just for fun, here goes:

"By 2050, 60 percent of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles.

"The big Italian family, with papa pouring the vino and mama spooning out the pasta down an endless table of grandparents and nieces and nephews, will be gone, no more, dead as the dinosaurs."

Columnist Maggie Gallagher noted last year:

"As European demographer Francesco Billari has explained, at the European average of 1.5 children per woman, the population will be cut in half every 65 years. At a birthrate of 1.3 children per woman (think Austria, Italy, Spain, as well as Greece and Japan), the population will be cut in half every 32 years."

What do trends like this mean for the future of nations?

As Steyn puts it: "Demographic decline and the unsustainability of the social democratic state are closely related. . . .

"You might formulate it like this:

"Age plus welfare equals disaster for you;

"Youth plus will equals disaster for whoever gets in your way. . . .

"Islam has youth and will. Europe has age and welfare."

Steyn further argues that there's "a correlation between the structural weaknesses of the social democratic state and the rise of a globalized Islam.

"The state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood -- health care, child care, care of the elderly -- to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct."

Steyn is not, as one of his many critics charged, a paranoiac who "thinks everything's about jihad."

He does, however, argue that "a good 90 percent of everything's about demography."

And in that he has a point for adults to ponder when things go bump in the night.

Maurice is editorial page editor of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-4802 or by e-mail at hanna@dailymail.com.



This book isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will. In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

India today is better off without suttee. If you don’t agree with that, if you think that’s just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don’t think you really believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis . . . . But if you think that suttee is just an example of the rich, vibrant tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 30, 48 percent of the people around you really believed in it too. Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.

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