In my weekly appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Hugh and I discussed what he called "two civil wars" - one in the Republican Party, the other in Iraq:
HUGH HEWITT: Here is a fun headline from the Mail Online. "They line the streets with the decapitated heads of police and soldiers," Iraqi refugee reveals the horrors of the jihadi takeover as Baghdad vows to fight back. It has a slightly 1975 quality to it, doesn't it, Mark?
MARK STEYN: Yes, it does, and as weird as the - I mean, the severed heads are obviously more horrifying, but as telling are just the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of discarded Iraqi army and police uniforms, including some quite high-ranking ones. There's a discarded brigadier general's uniform that was just dumped in the street, where these guys, you know, heard these fellows are coming, and just stripped their clothes off and ran off to blend into the general population. You described it as a civil war. I think that's rather over-dignifying the official Iraqi state's response. It's as if the Iraqi state is simply disintegrating before our eyes.
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney expressed concern about Russia and said that he thought the Obama administration's precipitous withdrawal from Iraq was a mistake. Obama ridiculed Romney's "Cold War" mentality and claimed the Iraq skedaddle as one of his greatest foreign policy achievements.
In 1066 And All That, Sellar & Yeatman characterized the two sides in the English Civil War as "Right but Repulsive" (the Roundheads) and "Wrong but Wromantic" (the Cavaliers). The choice in the 2012 election was Right but Square vs Wrong but Cool. So naturally the latter won. What was it Mitt actually said about the Iraq war?
Romney said late last year [in 2011], in a veterans roundtable, "The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate. It's more than unfortunate, I think it's tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard won by the men and women who served there."
Crazy, huh? And how did Obama respond?
"[Romney] said ending the war in Iraq was tragic. I said we'd end that war and we did," Obama said.
Well, it's certainly proved tragic for all those headless corpses. And also for those thousands of allied dead, whose sacrifice in a "hard won victory" has been thrown away by a guy who thinks wars "end" when one party decides it doesn't want to play any more.
Following yesterday's piece on our approaching helicopters-on-the-roof moment, reader David Armour wrote to me:
I was pondering our current situation and wondering if you know of any other countries that have lost two wars in one week?
Let's put it this way: Two parties pulled off 9/11 and were responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people. The perpetrators were al-Qaeda, and their accomplices were the Taliban. The Taliban will be back in charge of Afghanistan very soon. And al-Qaeda, in the shape of its most virulent progeny, are now running large chunks of Iraq and Syria. So the bad guys won, and America lost.
Most of the places al-Qaeda and its affiliates have holed up have been Third World dumps: Nobody cares about Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, as long as they're not exporting their pathologies. But Iraq is a prize worth winning: It sits on a big chunk of the world's oil reserves and it's full of state-of-the-art American weaponry. Both the weapons and the money will be used.
Hugh Hewitt said it felt like 1975 all over again. Forty years ago, as another American client regime crumbled, the US Ambassador sportingly offered asylum to a former Cambodian prime minister, Prince Sirik Matak. His response is worth quoting:
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky. But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed the mistake of believing in you, the Americans.
So Sirik Matak stayed in Phnom Penh and was murdered by the Khmer Rouge, but so were another 1.7 million people, and in a pile of skulls that high it's hard to remember this or that individual. But there are many in Iraq and Afghanistan who are reflecting, as Sirik Matak did, that they made the mistake of "believing in you, the Americans".
Notwithstanding that Joe Biden was bragging in 2010 that the then stable Iraq would be seen as one of the great achievements of the Obama Administration, it's safe to assume that the fall of Baghdad will be smoothly transferred into the Bush column, even though it's five-and-a-half years since he left office - or the length of the Second World War. But, as I said to Hugh, it's not even worth talking about it in those terms. ISIS can't tell Bush from Obama from Cheney from Clinton:
The fellows who planned 9/11, for example, were planning it before Al Gore got into his hanging chad problem down in Florida. So they don't think about Bush or Obama. They just hate America. And if you look at it again from the point of view of people who love America, or who made the mistake of getting on the right side of America in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I was on a panel with the great Bernard Lewis a couple of years ago - actually six or seven years ago - and Bernard said that the danger here is that America risks being seen as harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend.
And if you're someone who got too close to the Americans in Baghdad, where the most expensive US embassy, the most expensive any embassy on the planet in the history of embassies, is about to fall, if you're someone who got too close to the Americans in Kabul, you're about to learn the truth of Bernard Lewis' dictum. And likewise, if, you know, the other half of that - that America is harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend - that applies to Libya, that applies to Egypt, that applies to Syria, that applies to Iraq, that applies to Afghanistan. It's a very dangerous lesson to teach the planet.
Not just for our enemies, but for our allies, too. The Brits, Canucks and Aussies have been in these wars at America's side for over a decade. They're not "allies" in the Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin sense, where you all get together and agree on the way forward. They're essentially junior participants in an American war directed on American terms. They went along because they believed it was important to show support for American leadership in the world. As John Howard said a few days after 9/11, "This is no time to be an 80 per cent ally." And the Aussies weren't. But, 13 years later, why would they want to make the same mistake as Sirik Matak of "believing in you, the Americans"? Obama isn't leading from behind, he's leaving from behind: America is departing the world stage.
And, if you're in Benghazi or Aleppo or Kandahar - or, come to that, Kiev - why would you believe the Americans over the other fellows? Unlovely and blood-soaked as they are, the other guys mean it; America doesn't.