Having been born in, and living in the UK, there were two things I found very moving in the period immediately after 911: The playing of the US National Anthem at the Changing of the Guard, and the Queen joining in the anthem at the subsequent memorial service in London. You wrote an article, in the Spectator, I think, observing that there was no record of her ever having sung a national anthem before (at least since the early 1950s). Your piece captured the deep solidarity many of us in the UK felt with our brethren over the Atlantic at that time – and still do. Any chance of a "greatest hits" reprise?
MARK SAYS: Actually, it was National Review, but, regardless of where it first appeared, you can keep it permanently to hand, because it's anthologized in The Face Of The Tiger.
And don't forget, if you've a favorite column or even a favourite column you'd like us to reprise, drop me a line here.
Battle hymns of the non-republics
from The Face Of The Tiger, September 17th 2001
The foreign leader who said it best last week was the Queen, though she didn't really say a word. I have met Her Majesty from time to time (I am one of her Canadian subjects), and to put it at its mildest, for those with a taste for American vernacular politics, she can be a little stiff: the Queen stands on ceremony and she has a lot of ceremony to stand on. But on Thursday, for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, she ordered the Coldstream Guards to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" – the first time a foreign anthem had been played at the ceremony.
The following day something even more unprecedented happened: at Britain's memorial service for the war dead of last Tuesday, the first chords of "The Star-Spangled Banner" rumbled up from the great organ at St Paul's Cathedral, and the Queen did something she's never done before – she sang a foreign national anthem, all the words. She doesn't sing her own obviously ("God Save Me"), but she's never sung "La Marseillaise" or anything else, either; her lips never move.
And at that same service she also sang "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic", for the second time in her life – the first was at the funeral of her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. On Friday, she fought back tears. When she ascended the throne, Harry Truman was in the White House. The first President she got to know was Eisenhower, back in the war, when he would come to the Palace to brief her father. She is the head of state of most of the rest of the English-speaking world – Queen of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Belize, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, etc. But she understands something that few other leaders of the west seem to - that today the ultimate guarantor of the peace and liberty of her realms is the United States. If America falls, or is diminished, or retreats in on itself, there is no "free world". That's the meaning of the Queen's "Ich bin ein Amerikaaner" moment.
Don't ask me who else you can count on. The Nato declaration was impressive, but, even as the press release was coming off the photocopier, a big chunk of America's 18 allies were backsliding. Norway, Germany and Italy said they had no intention of contributing planes, ships or men. Even as purely political support, the first ever invocation of Article Five was written in disappearing ink. The Italian Foreign Minister – speaking for Europe's most conservative government – said "the term 'war' is inappropriate". "We are not at war," said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, his nation's signature on that Nato document notwithstanding. Belgium holds the current Presidency of the EU and was last seen apologizing for slavery, colonialism, etc at Durban's recent UN Conference Against Whitey, Hymie And Capitalism.
The Royal Air Force will be alongside the USAF. The Aussies will send something. The Canadians will manage a token rustbucket like HMCS Toronto, the ship we dispatched the last time things started heating up in the Gulf. And New Zealand's recalcitrant Prime Minister may yet be forced by popular opinion into showing a bit more muscle. If these are the only active participants, so be it: in a war about "values", responsible government, the rule of law and individual liberty are essentially concepts of the English-speaking world that the rest of the west has only belatedly caught up to. Just a quarter-century ago, let's not forget, most of southern Europe – Portugal, Spain, Greece – was run by dictators. These people are used to making their accommodations with history.
Many consequences will flow from September 11th. The reactions of Continental governments confirm the worthlessness of Cold War alliances. Collective security, far from binding the western world, has corrupted it: the "free world" is mostly just a free ride. America's "moderate" Arab "allies" will find their relationship with Washington shift, too. The FBI list of those involved in the four hijackings makes instructive reading: no Afghans, no Iraqis, no Iranians, but many Saudis and Egyptians. What's the point of having "moderate" "allies" among the region's dictators if it only intensifies their subjects' hatred of America? And what's so "moderate" about these countries anyway? On the news networks, the standard incantation is that Pakistan is "one of only three countries that recognizes the Taliban regime". No one mentions that the other two are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. With "friends" like these…
The worst time in the last half-century was the period when the west did everything The Guardian wanted - the years after the withdrawal from Vietnam, the years of "détente", the years when dolts like Pierre Trudeau allowed Cuban military planes to refuel in Canada en route to Moscow and military adventures in Africa, when Jimmy Carter dispatched a half-hearted rescue mission to Iran that resulted in the corpses of US soldiers being gleefully poked and prodded by the Ayatollahs on Teheran TV. The more "restrained" and "understanding" the west was, the more the Soviet Union increased its power, prestige and territory, from Ethiopia to Grenada. That period ended when the British, to everyone's surprise, retook the Falklands. They had behind-the-scenes intelligence support from the US, but otherwise they did it alone. That's as it should be. When America's attacked, it doesn't need to ask permission from Italy to strike back.
That's why I thank the Queen, a non-American but, unlike so many of America's moral relativists, not one who's uncomfortable with the emblems of the great Republic that overthrew her forebear. And so at St Paul's – symbol of British resistance during the Blitz – she sang the words written by Francis Scott Key on the last occasion the Eastern Seaboard came under sustained bombardment – by the ships of the Royal Navy.
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: