Sunday, April 02, 2006

Steyn on demonstrations and rhetoric

Mark Steyn is the closest modern equivalent to G. K. Chesterton. He looks at the world with his head cocked and views it with insight and humor.

From his latest column (Don't deny that some Muslims are hot for jihad):

But, while Charlie Sheen is undoubtedly a valiant leader, you couldn't help noticing it was followers the anti-war crowd seemed to be short of on the third anniversary. The next weekend half a million illegal immigrants -- whoops, sorry, half a million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community-- took to the streets, and you suddenly realized what a big-time demonstration is supposed to look like. These guys aren't even meant to be in the country and they can organize a better public protest movement than an anti-war crowd that's promoted 24/7 by the media and Hollywood.

Well, OK, half the anti-war crowd aren't meant to be in the country either, if they'd kept their promise to move to Canada after the last election. But my point is there's no mass anti-war movement. Some commentators claimed to be puzzled by the low turnout at a time when the polls show Iraq increasingly unpopular. But there are two kinds of persons objecting to the war: There's a shriveled Sheehan-Sheen left that's in effect urging on American failure in Iraq, and there's a potentially far larger group to their right that's increasingly wary of the official conception of the war. The latter don't want America to lose, they want to win -- decisively. And on the day's headlines -- on everything from the Danish cartoon jihad to the Afghan facing death for apostasy -- the fainthearted response of "public diplomacy" is in danger of sounding only marginally less nutty than Charlie Sheen.
[emphasis mine]

While poking fun at anti-war ineptness, Steyn points out a greater ineptness on the part of major political leaders who support the war effort:

Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, gave a typical Western government official's speech the other day explaining that "a large number of Muslims in this country were -- understandably -- upset by those cartoons being reprinted across Europe and at their deeply held beliefs being insulted. They expressed their hurt and outrage but did so in a way which epitomized the learned, peaceful religion of Islam."

"The learned, peaceful religion of Islam"? And that would be the guys marching through London with placards reading "BEHEAD THE ENEMIES OF ISLAM" and "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS WESTERN TERRORISM" and promising to rain down a new Holocaust on Europe? This is geopolitics as the Aretha Franklin Doctrine: The more the world professes its R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the more the Islamists sock it to us.

At a basic level the foreign secretary's rhetoric does not match reality. Government leaders are essentially telling their citizens: Who ya gonna believe -- my platitudinous speechwriters or your lyin' eyes?

To win a war, you don't spin a war. Millions of ordinary citizens are not going to stick with a "long war" (as the administration now calls it) if they feel they're being dissembled to about its nature. One reason we regard Churchill as a great man is that his speeches about the nature of the enemy don't require unspinning or detriangulating.

It's one thing to defuse mob hatred which easily breaks out in war time. Germans were the targeted in WWI and WWII; the Japanese were victims in WWII.

It's quite another to ignore the link between jihadists, Islam and the terrorism which is not only a very real threat, but killed more Americans in a single attack than the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor.

Steyn is right that words matter.

If our leaders avoiding talking about the major problem facing Islam today (Is jihad directed towards their neighbors right or wrong?), they will not be able to convince the public that there is a threat worthy of a war effort or anti-insurgency effort. Especially one that does not have a clear end in sight.

My worry is that the official platitudes in this new war are the equivalent of the Cold War chit-chat in its 1970s detente phase --when Willy Brandt and Pierre Trudeau and Jimmy Carter pretended the enemy was not what it was. Then came Ronald Reagan: It wasn't just the evil-empire stuff, his jokes were on the money, too. In their own depraved way, the Islamists are a lot goofier than the commies and a few gags wouldn't come amiss. If this is a "long war," it needs a rhetoric that can go the distance. And the present line fails that test.


Mike's America said...

I cannot understand why our leaders bend over backwards to claim that Islam is a religion of peace every time the whackos go off on a display of intimidation.

Unfortunately, such inaccurate descriptions of the demonstrators in London encourages more of the same.

It's verbal appeasement.

terrance said...

Mike, you're right. It is verbal appeasement, and it doesn't help moderate Muslims to come to grips with the problem from within. One could understand it if there were a wave a hate crimes being committed against Muslims. But, that hasn't happened. The victims of not addressing this are not only non-Muslims, but more and more the main victims are Muslims themselves.