Sunday, January 23, 2005
He's a worldbeater, all right
More mandatory reading. - Sailor
He's a worldbeater, all right
January 23, 2005
BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
I picked up the Village Voice for the first time in years this week. Couldn't resist the cover story: ''The Eve Of Destruction: George W. Bush's Four-Year Plan To Wreck The World.''
Oh, dear. It's so easy to raise expectations at the beginning of a new presidential term. But at least he's got a four-year plan. Over on the Democratic bench, worldwise they don't seem to have given things much thought. The differences were especially stark in the last seven days: In the first half of the week, Senate Dems badgered the incoming secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice -- culminating in the decision of West Virginia porkmeister Robert C. Byrd to delay the incoming thereof. Don't ask me why. Byrd, the former Klu Klux Klan Kleagle, is taking a stand over states' rights, or his rights over State, or some such. Whatever the reason, the sight of an old Klansman blocking a little colored girl from Birmingham from getting into her office contributed to the general retro vibe that hangs around the Democratic Party these days. Even "Eve Of Destruction," one notes, is a 40-year-old hippie dirge.
The Democrats' big phrase is "exit strategy." Time and again, their senators demanded that Rice tell 'em what the "exit strategy" for Iraq was. The correct answer is: There isn't one, and there shouldn't be one, and it's a dumb expression. The more polite response came in the president's inaugural address: ''The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.'' Next week's election in Iraq will go not perfectly but well enough, and in time the number of U.S. troops needed there will be reduced, and in some more time they'll be reduced more dramatically, and one day there'll be none at all, just a small diplomatic presence that functions a bit like the old British ministers did in the Gulf emirates for centuries: They know everyone and everything, and they keep the Iraqi-American relationship running smoothly enough that Baghdad doesn't start looking for other foreign patrons. In other words: no exit.
If you want an example of "exit strategy" thinking, look no further than the southern "border." A century ago, American policy in Mexico was all exit and no strategy. That week's President-for-Life gets out of hand? Go in, whack him, exit, and let the locals figure out who gets to be the new bad guy. If the new guy gets out of hand, go back, whack him and exit again. The result of that stunted policy is that three-quarters of Mexico's population is now living in California and Arizona -- and, as fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community, they've got no exit strategy at all.
By contrast, the British went in to India without an "exit strategy," stayed for generations and midwifed the world's most populous democracy and a key U.S. ally in the years ahead. Which looks like the smarter approach now? ''Most Indians Say 'Thumbs Up' To Second Bush Term,'' reported the Christian Science Monitor this week, "and no, that doesn't mean something rude in Indian culture.''
The problem with "exit strategy" fetishization is that these days everywhere's Mexico -- literally, in the sense that four of the 9/11 killers obtained the picture ID they used to board their flights that morning through the support network for "undocumented" workers, and only a few days ago the suspected terrorists supposedly en route to Boston were said to have entered the country via the Mexican smuggling route. But everywhere's also Mexico in the more figurative sense -- if you've got a few hundred bucks and an ATM card you can come to America and blow it up. Everyone lives next door now. Sept. 11 demonstrated that the paradox of America -- the isolationist superpower -- was no longer tenable.
That was what Bush accomplished so superbly in his speech: the idealistic position -- spreading liberty -- is now also the realist one: If you don't spread it, in the end your own liberty will be jeopardized. "It is the policy of the United States," said the president, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." By the end of his second term? Well, not necessarily. But what matters is that the president has repudiated the failed "realism" that showers billions on a friendly dictator like Egypt's Mubarak and is then surprised when one of his subjects flies a passenger jet into the World Trade Center.
You'd think the Democratic Party would welcome this: They spent the days after Sept. 11 yakking endlessly about the need to address "root causes." But, as the pitiful displays in the Senate hearing made clear, they still don't comprehend the new world -- abroad or at home. The other day David von Drehle of the Washington Post did a monster tour of what he called "The Red Sea" -- Bush country -- and went to almost painful lengths to eschew the condescension the coastal media elite usually apply to their rare anthropological ventures into the hinterland. But in the middle of his dispatch was this quote from Joyce Smith of Coalgate, Okla.: "When Kerry said he was for abortion and one-sex marriages, I just couldn't see our country being led by someone like that."
Von Drehle added: ''Later, I double-checked what Kerry had said on those subjects. During his campaign, he opposed same-sex marriage and said that abortion was a private matter.''
If the point is that Red Staters are ignorant, double- or even triple-checking John Kerry isn't the best way to demonstrate it. Insofar as I understand it, Kerry's view on abortion was that, while he passionately believes life begins at conception, he would never let his deeply held personal beliefs interfere with his legislative program. On gay marriage, likewise. That's why gay groups backed Kerry and why von Drehle's media buddies weren't running editorials warning that a Kerry presidency would end "a woman's right to choose": They understood his deeply passionately personally deep personal passionate beliefs were just an artful but meaningless formulation designed to get him through election season. Message: If Kerry's elected, abortions will continue and gay marriage will happen and he'll be cool with both. Joyce Smith understood that. Von Drehle seems vaguely resentful that she wasn't dumb enough to fall for the spin cooked up by Kerry's hairsplitters and enthusiastically promoted by his media cheerleaders.
There's a big lesson for the Democrats there that goes way beyond the merits of abortion or gay marriage. On Sept. 11, the world came unspun: There's no shame in acknowledging, as Condi Rice did last week, that previous policy -- Republican and Democrat -- toward the Middle East is wrong. But there's something silly and immature about a party that, from Kerry to Boxer to Byrd, can't get beyond spin, grandstanding and debater's points: Joyce Smith sees through it, even if David von Drehle thinks it's ingenious. If the president's speech yoked idealism and realism, that doesn't leave much for dissenting Dems except their own peculiar combination of cynicism and delusion.