Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Put up or shut up
Posted on 10/03/2002 6:42:35 AM PDT by Pokey78
Europe spends zip on defence and sneers at Americas warmongering. Its not a pretty sight, says Mark Steyn
Nelson Mandela says its the US and not Saddam Hussein whos the threat to world peace. Canadas transport minister, in his contribution to 11 September observances, regretted that the Soviet Union was no longer around to act as a check on American bullying. Swedens Goran Persson wants to build up the EU because its one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to US world domination. Sweden was famously relaxed about Nazi world domination and Soviet world domination, but sometimes there are threats so monstrous that even in Stockholm you have to get off the fence. In Germany Gerhard Schroeder is Chancellor today because his party successfully articulated the great menace that George W. Bush poses to the planet. Feel free to insert standard arrogant cowboy imagery and other examples of rampant Texaphobia.
Lets suppose for a moment that these fellows are right. The question then arises: So what are you going to do about it? Well, Mr Mandelas country has been busy selling aluminium tubes for uranium enrichment centrifuges to Saddam. The first secretary of the South African embassy in Jordan is serving as the local sales rep to Iraqi procurement agents. Thanks to these sterling efforts, theyre bringing significantly closer the day when the entire Middle East, much of Africa and even Europe will be under the Saddamite nuclear umbrella and thus safe from Bushs aggression.
Way to go, Nelson! But what are the rest of you guys doing? Im a little out of the loop with the great thinkers of the world stage, so Ive foolishly spent the last year working on the erroneous assumption that Saddams the big threat. Ive wasted my time positing likely scenarios for a post-butcher Baghdad and the possible consequences for Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. I dont pretend to have all the answers well, okay, I do, but only when Im being interviewed on TV shows but I find it a bit odd that the anti-American crowd, once you strip away the moral preening, dont seem to have any answers.
Worse, in confronting the Bush terror, theyve developed the curious habit of mistaking the Great Satans strengths for weaknesses. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the innovations of the Afghan campaign, when men in traditional Uzbek garb sat on horses and used laser technology to guide USAF bombers to their targets. There followed the usual flurry of huffy emails insisting this proved absolutely nothing as the cowardly Yanks hadnt had the guts to send in ground troops.
Ive heard this for a year now and I dont get it. So wars like cricket? Theres only one correct way to play? The idea that it doesnt count unless its the Somme is most peculiar. Until last October, it wouldnt have occurred to me that the way to fight a war is to use computers in Florida to drop horse-feed to anti-Taleban warlords but, if it serves your purpose, why not? Whether or not America has no stomach for body bags, in Afghanistan there was no need for them.
And, if you think about it, thats what really ought to worry the anti-Yanks. The Americans had very limited aims in Afghanistan: they wanted to eliminate the countrys function as a base of operations for al-Qaeda and kill as many evildoers as possible. This they did in little over a month, and very painlessly.
The anti-war types of the 1930s were wrong but, in fairness to them, their view was formed by the bloody toll of the Great War, the slaughter of a generation their brothers, cousins, friends. The anti-war crowd today face precisely the opposite problem: that therell be no wholesale slaughter, that war for the United States now comes with no human cost. It can do anything it likes and lose nothing more than a couple billion dollars worth of ordnance. Unlike the Great War, therell be no lions led by donkeys piled high on the battlefield because therell be no battlefield at least not for the Americans, dispatching their unmanned drones to drop bombs from thousands of miles away. Even during Vietnam, the traditional line vengeful old men sacrificing their nations best and brightest youth still held. Back in March, the ferociously anti-war cartoonist Ted Rall did a nasty little strip called Postmodern War Heroes featuring a bunch of veterans a few years in the future swapping war stories from the Afghan campaign and saluting their (literally) fallen comrades. Remember Ben whose helicopter went down on the way to Afghanistan? And Brenda, who fell out of hers? As Rall sees it, American servicemen no longer die in combat, just in accidents en route to carpet-bomb.
Theres something a little bewildering about an anti-war movement suddenly pining for the noble sacrifice of the poor bloody infantryman up to his neck in muck and bullets. But, if you honestly believe the Pentagon are long-range, high-tech, sissy-boy warmongers, let me say again: what are you going to do about it? The fact that the US is responsible for 40 per cent of the planets military spending pales in comparison to the really critical statistic: its responsible for almost 80 per cent of military research-and-development spending. The gap between America and its Nato allies widens every day. Even when ground troops are involved, they wont take up as much ground as they used to: as General James Jones of the US Marines puts it, The rifle company of the 21st century will be doing what the rifle battalion of the 20th century used to do thats about an 85 per cent lay-off. You think those reconnaissance drones high in the sky were mighty fancy? Theyve now got a five-pound computerised drone you can fit in your backpack. In Afghanistan, a handful of prototype robots assisted in the cave-by-cave search for al-Qaeda nutters. We can only guess at the new toys the Great Satan will have in five years time, but, whatever they are, Ill bet my in-tray is still getting sneering missives: So now the bloody Yank poofters are using flying nuclear cheeseburgers launched from the Diego Garcia Burger King. Not exactly the Bengal Lancers, is it?
If Europeans dont like this scenario, theres only one way to do anything about it: get yourself back in the game. At the recent Nato meeting, Don Rumsfeld invited his colleagues to demonstrate their seriousness by setting up a Nato Rapid Reaction Force. He meant a real, actual Rapid Reaction Force, not a fictitious one like the EUs. Youll recall Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, insisting late last year that the European Rapid Reaction Force must declare itself operational without such a declaration being based on any true capability. As the Washington Post remarked, Apparently in Europe this works. Asked to set up an actual operational Rapid Reaction Force, most Nato members bristled: the cost would divert valuable resources from social programmes and might mean theyd have to cut back on welfare payments to Islamic terrorists.
So instead the plan is to diminish US hegemony by spending zippo on defence and putting all your eggs in the UN basket. Structurally, the UN is a creature of the Cold War. It formalised the stalemate of East and West: it was designed to prevent rather than enable action; it tended towards inertia, which was no bad thing given the potentially catastrophic consequences of the alternative. But we no longer have a bipolar world, and so the vetoes only work one way to restrain the sole surviving superpower. Englands clergy have redefined the Christian concept of a just war to mean only one blessed by the Security Council, which is to say the governments of France, Russia and China: it will be left to two atheists and a lapsed Catholic to determine whether this is a war Christians can support. Even more perplexing, The Spectator feels the same way: our editorial last week declared that only UN authorisation could provide a justification for war.
Just as a matter of interest, how many countries does George W. Bush have to have on board before America ceases to be acting unilaterally? So far, theres Australia, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Turkey.... Romania has offered the use of its airspace to attack Iraq. The Americo-Romanian Coalition Against Iraq has more members than most multilateral organisations. But no matter how multilateral it gets, it doesnt count unless its sanctioned by the UN. If France feels the need to invade the Ivory Coast, that can be done unilaterally. But, when its America, you gotta get a warrant from the global magistrate.
The anti-Yanks fetishisation of the UN is consistent with their general retro approach to the geopolitical scene: the more obsolescent the concept, the more eagerly they embrace it. Indeed, just to complete their embrace of the metaphorical Austin Powers Nehru jacket, the Left has finally signed on to the concept of deterrence. In the Cold War, they wanted no truck with this repulsive theory: why, the notion that Mutually Assured Destruction and a balance of terror would protect us was morally contemptible and consigned our children to live under the perpetual shadow of Armageddon. But with Saddam itll work just swell. Hes a rational actor: even if he gets nukes even if he has them now hes not crazy enough to use them. And, if he does, well, hell, its hasta la vista, Baghdad.
I cant see it working myself. To pursue the analogy, deterrence means allowing Saddam to turn the bulk of the Middle East into his version of Eastern Europe, a collection of neutered and subverted client states, beginning with Jordan. Millions of people beyond Iraqs borders will be informally conscripted into Saddams prison and bequeathed to his even nuttier son. There will no be peaceful negotiated resolution of the IsraeliPalestinian question.
If the object is to contain Saddam, deterrence will flop. If the object is to weaken America it just might work. We forget how fragile the concept is. Its said the Soviets didnt take it seriously until the Cuban missile crisis: suppose a McGovern or Dukakis or Carter had been in the Oval Office then. In the Daily Telegraph, Adam Nicolson professes to be in favour of deterrence. But deterrence depends on plausibility. When Saddam switches on CNN and sees Adam Nicolson standing in Downing Street pre-emptively chanting Shame! Shame! over the mere possibility of a ludicrously antiquated vision of a prolonged siege of Baghdad, he might reasonably question how serious Nicolson would be about nuking the joint. The wily old monster might wonder, if he were to lob a small nuke at, say, Tel Aviv, whether the shame set would really have the stomach for full-blown retaliation with massive civilian casualties, or whether theyd be back in the streets chanting that violence only breeds more violence. He might conclude that a system of deterrence between a gangster and a ladies luncheon club will deter the latter and leave him free to do pretty much what he wants.
If you believe, like Nelson Mandela, that Bush is the problem not Saddam, then the above makes perfect sense. But I wonder if the rest of the anti-Yank set have thought it through. When they bitch about Americas warmongering but think the UNs the perfect vehicle to restrain it, you know theyre just posing, and that, though they may routinely say that Bush frightens me, theyre not frightened at all. America could project itself anywhere and blow up anything, but it doesnt. It could tell the UN to go fuck itself, but its not that impolite. Imagine any previous power of the last thousand years with Americas unrivalled hegemony and unparalleled military superiority in a unipolar world with nothing to stand in its way but UN resolutions. Pick whoever you like: the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, the Third Reich, the Habsburgs, Tsarist Russia, Napoleon, Spain, the Vikings. Thats really frightening. Ive now read a gazillion columns beginning, Hes a dangerous madman with weapons of mass destruction. No, not Saddam. George W. Bush. It barely works as a joke never mind a real threat. The fact that, in all the torrent of anti-Americanism, theres no serious thought given to how to reverse it nor any urgency about doing so tells you precisely how frightening and dangerous these folks really think the Great Satan is.
But the problem is this. Before 11 September, most Americans tolerated the anti-Yank diatribes from Europe as a quaint example of the local culture. Filtered through the smoke of the World Trade Center, its no longer quite so cute. The real phenomenon of the last year is not Europes anti-Americanism, which has always existed, but a deep, pervasive and wholly new American weariness with Europe. Saddams creditors in Moscow and under-the-table trading partners in Paris, his useful idiots in Europe and kindred spirits in the thug states may yet team up to stymie America at the UN and those 150,000 peace marchers will cheer. But be careful what you wish for.
I had to repeat it.
Oh, how I hope it is so. fsf
If you visit my Freep Video (QuickTime required), you'll find the anti-war protesters last weekend didn't even have enough people to hold up their sign (a scene about 3/4 through).
If you liked this column, it should give you a laugh :-).
Before 11 September, most Americans tolerated the anti-Yank diatribes from Europe as a quaint example of the local culture. Filtered through the smoke of the World Trade Center, its no longer quite so cute.
So many good quotes per column. Typical Mark Steyn.
Gee Mark, tell us what you really think! Har!!
So there is still a segment of the British population who thinks the best way to fight is to send men in formation and let everyone line up and shoot at each other? I think I'll take Francis "The Swamp Fox" Marion's approach over there way.
Got that, Fritz?
I love this line, but I think that the good author has underestimated MY weariness with the EuroTrash.
No offense to the Brits -- I don't consider them Europeans and most of my Brit friends agree.
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