Steyn on the World
Two days ago, I wrote about Chuck Hagel's sleepy announcement of the downsizing of the US military, and compared it to Washington's predecessor as dominant power:
The symbolic moment came 46 years ago, in January 1968. Hugh Hewitt sprang it on me quite out of the blue in one of our weekly radio chats back in October 2011:
Well, I was off by a year or two. Not quite "mid-decade", but early 2014. But otherwise spot on. There are differences, of course. When Harold Wilson's Labour ministry, a few weeks after the devaluation of sterling, announced the withdrawal of British forces from "east of Suez", the media and, indeed, a big chunk of the citizenry understood what was happening. I believe the Government actually used the words "east of Aden" (ie, Yemen), but, because of that line from Kipling and much else, "east of Suez" was the phrase that resonated. It was not just a military retrenchment but a kind of psychological diminution, too. To be British was, in a certain sense, to be east of Suez, out there on the far horizon - in the Gulf, in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong... National identity was heavily invested in the concept: Britannia ruled the waves - because the Royal Navy patrolled distant oceans; it was the empire on which the sun never set - because the Union Flag flew in every time zone.
There was never a complete, absolute, total withdrawal from east of Suez. British troops stayed in Hong Kong until the handover to China in 1997. There remains a Royal Navy refueling station in Singapore, and a battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles and a School of Jungle Warfare in Brunei, and some personnel on Diego Garcia, and a few other pinpricks here and there. But Denis Healey and the Labour Government's decision remade the map: The emirs and sultans of the Persian Gulf protectorates were stunned by the unilateral withdrawal of imperial protection. The British not only had their own troops on the ground, but they ran and paid for the local forces, too - the Abu Dhabi defence force, the Trucial Oman Scouts. When London declined to reconsider, the no longer protected protectorates emerged as fully-fledged independent nations - Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates.
Just as the post-war Pacific was called "an American lake", so the Indian Ocean had been a British lake. And then, in nothing flat, they werel gone. As I wrote in After America:
If there was a single moment that told the British "You're no longer the empire on which the sun never sets, you're a small island in the North Sea, and it will never come again", it was Denis Healey's announcement of January 1968.
Chuck Hagel's announcement doesn't feel like that, in part because the court eunuchs of the US media aren't playing it that way, but also because the American people aren't as psychologically invested in the US global role as part of their sense of themselves. But other than that the parallels hold up: like Wilson and Healey with pax Britannica, Obama and Hagel are not believers in pax Americana, and so an ideologically congenial retreat can be passed off as a difficult but necessary budget cut. And in the vacuum of American retreat, as in the Gulf and in those Chinese ports, new powers will emerge and old powers will take advantage.
February 26, 2014
Steyn returns to the Speccie
"I don't want to be emotional but this is one of the greatest moments of my life," declared Nelson Mandela upon meeting the Spice Girls in 1997. So I like to think he would have appreciated the livelier aspects of his funeral observances. The Prince of Wales, who was also present on that occasion in Johannesburg, agreed with Mandela on the significance of their summit with the girls: "It is the second-greatest moment in my life," he said. "The greatest was when I met them the first time." His Royal Highness and at least two Spice Girls attended this week's service in Soweto, and I'm sure it was at least the third-greatest moment...
Worse than Munich
For generations, eminent New York Times wordsmiths have swooned over foreign strongmen, from Walter Duranty's Pulitzer-winning paeans to the Stalinist utopia to Thomas L. Friedman's more recent effusions to the "enlightened" Chinese Politburo. So it was inevitable that the cash-strapped Times would eventually figure it might as well eliminate the middle man and hire the enlightened strongman direct...
After midday prayers on Wednesday, just about the time the army were heading over to the presidential palace to evict Mohammed Morsi, the last king of Egypt was laying to rest his aunt...
In Enniskillen, Berlin and beyond, gassy platitudes only get you so far...
Ten years ago, along with three-quarters of the American people, I supported the invasion of Iraq. A decade on, I'll stand by that original judgment. ...
I greatly enjoy the new Hollywood genre in which dysfunctional American families fly to a foreign city and slaughter large numbers of the inhabitants as a kind of bonding experience...
From the New York Daily News:
"Snooki Gives Kate Middleton Advice On Being A New Parent."
Great! Maybe Kate could return the favor and give Snooki and her fellow Americans some advice,,,
So, on a highly symbolic date, mobs storm American diplomatic facilities and drag the corpse of a U.S. ambassador through the streets. Then the president flies to Vegas for a fundraiser.
The Eurovision Song Contest doesn't get a lot of attention in the United States, but on the Continent it's long been seen as the perfect Euro-metaphor. Years before the euro came along, it was the prototype pan-European institution and predicated on the same assumptions. Eurovision took the national cultures that produced Mozart, Vivaldi and Debussy, and in return gave us "Boom-Bang-A-Bang" (winner, 1969), "Ding-Ding-A-Dong" (winner, 1975) and "Diggi-Loo-Diggi-Ley" (winner, 1984). The euro took the mark, the lira and the franc, and merged them to create the "Boom-Bang-A-Bang" of currencies...
So how's that old Arab Spring going? You remember – the "Facebook Revolution"...
From Arab Spring to American Autumn, Weiner twitpics to federal diapers, the Pundette has compiled an excellent round-up of Mark's view of 2011
Our lesson for today comes from the Gospel according to Luke. No, no, not the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, any of that stuff, but the other birth: But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. That bit of the Christmas story doesn't get a lot of attention, but it's in there â€“ Luke 1:13, part of what he'd have called the back story, if he'd been a Hollywood screenwriter rather ...
"Useful stories" we forgot the usefulness of
The President's wretched speech in Kansas
What does America have to show for its investment in Egypt and Afghanistan?
As the Jews learned long ago, and the Copts are realizing now, Egypt has spent 60 years getting worse, and is now getting worser.
"It's the end of the world as we know it," sang the popular musical artistes REM many years ago. And it is. REM has announced that they're splitting up after almost a third of a century. But these days who isn't? The Eurozone, the world's first geriatric boy band, is on the verge of busting apart. Chimerica, Professor Niall Ferguson's amusing name for the Chinese-American economic partnership that started around the same time REM did, is going the way of Wham!, with Beijing figuring it's the George Michael of the relationship and that it's tired of wossname, the other fellow, getting equal billing but not pulling its weight.
In this anniversary week, it's sobering to reflect that one of the more perverse consequences of 9/11 has been a remorseless assault on free speech throughout the west. I regret to say that, in my new book, I predect this trend will only accelerate in the years ahead. The essay below was written as last week's National Review cover story: To be honest, I didn't really think much about "freedom of speech" until I found myself the subject of three "hate speech" complaints in Canada in 2007. I ...
HAPPY WARRIOR from National Review The other day, Abdul Qadir Fitrat, the governor of Afghanistan's central bank, fled the country. The only wonder is that there aren't more fleeing. Not Afghans; central bankers. I mean, you gotta figure that throughout the G-20 there are more than a few with the vague but growing feeling that the jig's up big time. Round about the time the Afghan central banker was heading for the hills, the Greek central banker ventured some rare criticisms of his government ...
Mark's Most Wanted
© 2014 SteynOnline