Thanks for another week of lively letters - and thank you, too, for keeping afloat my end of the procedurally tortured but still upcoming trial of the century through your generous patronage of our exclusive soon-to-be-collector's-items Mann vs Steyn trial merchandise. If you don't like the third-rate product, our bubble-wrap is state-of-the-art:
I finally saved enough spare change and placed my order, and the other day I received the box from your store. And because we are an environmentally conscious family, every part of it has been thoroughly put to use: I've got my Viva Steyn! shirt on (by the way, thank you for making a medium woman's shirt that actually fits a medium-sized woman), I'm drinking my morning tea from my hockey-stick mug, my youngest daughter has drawn a dinosaur on the back of the receipt, two of my other children are stomping on the bubble-wrap, and my cat is sitting in the box.
Thank you from the whole family,
No, it's I who should be thanking you, Erin. There's lots of other things you could toss that "spare change" at, and I'm honored you sent it my way. I also liked your subject line: "Happier than Pharrell Williams." But I see Papillion is a smallish city, so be careful if your neighbor Jason Quick sees you wearing that shirt around town. By the way, for any other readers with cats and/or children: As part of a limited-time special offer, when you purchase mugs and other bulky items from the Steyn store, we'll throw in the box and bubble-wrap for free! The good times are on us!
I'll get to the big news of the week in a moment, but it is Father's Day and Scott Salvato is in a mood to sing along:
Enjoyed the Father's Day music essay. I've got a little bit of an unusual nominee.
Growing up in the late 70's and early 80's, I heard Harry Chapin's 'Cats in the Cradle' song quite often. Since Chapin was a fellow Long Islander, maybe I heard it a lot more often on local radio than your average American kid. It was always a bummer, a beautiful bummer, but a bummer to hear. The simple first person story of a busy father, the twangy melancholic music - but you had to listen. The song is all hook.
Ironically, as an adult, I love this song. I joke with friends and family that it only seems to come on when I am taking my kids to a park or a ballgame or for a burger. If you play your cards right, 'Cats in the Cradle' can be the greatest Father's Day song of all time!
Just make sure you're spending some time with your kids when it comes on.
Yeah, I like Harry Chapin, too, although, as a decrepit has-been disc-jockey myself, I have to say my favorite number of his is "W-O-L-D". But, re "Cat's in the Cradle", the same thing happened to me and my youngest. It would come on en route to soccer or the band concert, and it kinda lodged in his head. Initially, he liked the catchy nursery-rhyme stuff - "Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon" - but, as he got older, he got into the story, too. And so we'd ride around singing along, as a father-son duet:
STEYN JNR: When you comin' home, dad?
STEYN SNR: I don't know when
But we'll get together then, son
I know we'll have a good time then.
And then, of course, the old switcheroo in the final chorus when his boy turns out just like him:
STEYN SNR: When you comin' home, son?
STEYN JNR: I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad...
I think at one point we were going to do it for the middle-school talent show. Not sure what happened to that idea. Maybe the principal got wind of it and threatened to call Concord for the Social Services SWAT team. But me and the kid still like to sing it, so maybe we'll do it as Track One of our forthcoming CD, Duets For The Dysfunctional.
What is it they say? Victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan? Nevertheless, around the world, what's happening in Iraq is being seen for what it is: the worst humiliation for the United States in four decades. My fellow Mark writes from Florida:
"Harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend..." Pretty much, yes.
It looks like ISIS is capitalizing on the Sunni - Shia split in Iraq. Again, the story from the breathless press that an ISIS blitzkrieg of sorts is underway just doesn't make military sense. What does make sense is that Sunni civilian support for the central Iraqi government and its forces is weak at best, that the Iraqi government forces are (to say the least) poorly disciplined, and that there is much more to the collapse of Iraqi central government authority than just ISIS. See a damp spot on the wall, pull away the drywall, and find the wood beneath is thoroughly rotten - that's what Iraq seems like right now. ISIS has taken advantage of this.
Ralph Peters was on Fox Business saying that Iraq, as it is drawn on our maps right now, no longer exists. Really, it should have been handled that way from the fall of Saddam. I suppose that Turkish concerns about the Kurds and fear of fighting between the newly formed splinter states over the petroleum-rich areas of Iraq strongly influenced the decision to try to keep Iraq together (a phony-baloney, Western-created country in the first place, with laser-straight borders). More than anything, though, I think it was big-government dingbat love affairs with the idea of a "strong central government" that did it. Well, how strong does that central government look right now?
Iraq's position at the north end of the Persian Gulf, from which something like 30-40% of the world's petroleum flows, makes it strategic. The U.S. doesn't get that much of the petroleum we use from the Persian Gulf, but the economies of the western Pacific Rim are heavily (entirely?) dependent on it. Asian prosperity affects American prosperity. There is a reason why we fought the 1991 Gulf War.
It's on subjects like this that I get completely disgusted with the capital-L Libertarians here in the United States. On defense, the writers at Reason magazine are nothing but a gaggle of pajama boys. Likewise, on the American Left, I have begun to wonder what even foreign communist leaders would have thought about the milquetoast, half-wit Obama administration on matters of defense. How much mess would Stalin have taken from ISIS or al-Qaida? A lot less than Obama does.
Now, what to do? Well, we can't have an ISIS-run nation in Syria and northern "Iraq." Also, we can't have an Iranian puppet state in southern "Iraq." The possibility of an independent Kurdish nation? Fine with me. So, the U.S. should make war against ISIS and re-enter Iraq in force to counter Iranian influence there.
Of course, with this administration, I expect they'll just arrest somebody for a YouTube video.
Well, when you say Iraq is "a phoney-baloney western-created country", so are most nations in the world today, in the sense that their borders were drawn by imperialist mapmakers from a handful of European capitals. And, considering the haste with which the Anglo-French Middle East was carved up, its borders have held for just shy of a century. You're probably right that a unitary Iraq can never be put back together, and that a Kurdish north, an ISIS west, and an Iranian buffer state in the south is the most likely outcome. ISIS seem quite shrewd about knowing where their Caliphate's viable and where it isn't, which is why they'd be more likely to incorporate eastern Jordan than, say, Basra. Either way, the US is largely irrelevant. You can't drone the shape of events, which seems to be all Obama knows. He's ruled out hard power, and he's useless at soft power. Speaking of which, Todd Macler writes:
Interesting take Mark. Just keep in mind, Maliki is Iran's man and it's Iran rushing boots-on-the-ground to Baghdad. Let them defend Iraq. Maybe we should start funding these Sunnis to keep Iran bogged down in Syria and Iraq indefinitely.
As soon as we backed Maliki over Ayad Allawi in 2009 (the dumbest thing we did since hiring L. Paul Bremer), Maliki began dismantling everything the United States built up in Iraq, disenfranchising all Sunnis in the name of de-baathification, and disbanding the Sunni militias we had created to solve the very problem he faces today. In fact, I would bet 10-to-1 that many of the ISIS' ranks are filled with the unemployed formerly pro-American Sunni Awakening.
Let's not rush in to defend Iran's corner just yet…
All the best,
That's almost right, Todd. Maliki is an unlovely and unscrupulous man, but he was pliable as long as Americans were present in Baghdad. So he didn't begin "dismantling everything" until 2011, when the last Yanks left. Indeed, his first act after the US departure was to order the arrest of the highest-ranking Sunni in Iraq, the Vice-President. He'd like to have pulled that stunt earlier, but the actual presence of Americans dissuaded him. You don't necessarily need boots on the ground, but you do need tassled loafers on the ground, the equivalent of the British Residents (in the Trucial States, Qatar, Transjordan, Afghanistan, India's princely states, etc) or High Commissioners ( Egypt, Aden). When I suggest such things, I'm told that America doesn't do imperialism. But most Middle Eastern countries were never formally within the British Empire: they weren't colonies, they were "protectorates" - nominally sovereign, but de facto under a form of indirect rule. The less they did to catch London's eye, the more indirect it was. But nevertheless the Resident was there to ensure that if the Sultan got a little too big for his boots there was someone to tap him on the shoulder and explain the realities of life. When it works, you can do it with a very light touch. It's actually the "soft power" or "smart power" that Democrats are always going on about. Unfortunately, they're hopeless at it. And so every American intervention is Vietnam, now and forever, until the end of time - or the end of America. Bob Lackey:
I wonder how the South Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Israelis feel today about the US commitments to protect them.
And why stop there? Why would anyone get into bed with Washington? What's the benefit if you do? What's the downside if you don't?
I'm afraid you have hit the nail exactly on the head, and you can add Europe to the list.
Will it ever be possible to regain trust?? I rather doubt it. May God refine our gold.....
Your new but avid reader in France,
Still, Timothy Lane thinks there may be a hit title in all this:
Regarding the ISIS conquest of northern Iraq (except for Kurdistan), I hear that they've moved into Samarra now, even closer to Baghdad. Apparently they had an appointment with Obama's foreign policy there.
Indeed. In the original telling, the appointment is with Death, but Obama's foreign policy boils down to the same thing. Kevin Turner writes from my home town:
There is a certain theme to the Obama years: the problems left over by the Bush Administration simply could not be solved by anybody.
The financial crisis? Nobody could fix that in a mere two terms.
VA Scandal? Nobody has done anything about that for decades and nobody could have fixed it in two short terms.
Iraq and Afghanistan? Nobody could have turned obvious disasters into victories.
Gitmo? Nobody knows how to deal with prisoners of an undeclared war.
The amazing part is Obama voluntarily took this job on. No one forced him to run for office. It's like buying a used car that you need to get to your job. The used car you buy is missing its four wheels. Your employer keeps asking you why you're not at work and your excuse is "my car doesn't have any wheels." It is more valuable to Obama to have a way of pointing out how stupid the previous owner was for having no wheels on his car. His friends all despised that used car dealer, anyway. Plus Obama never wanted to go to work in the first place.
The idea that you own the problems of the previous administration is completely alien to him. I guess "owning" things is an outdated concept. Left over from some sort of ancient capitalist philosophy of property rights that Obama has no time for.
Good thing President Nobody is running things.
I'd be interested in repealing the 22nd Amendment just to find out how many terms Obama has to serve before things stop being Bush's fault. Four? Seven? Twelve? Perhaps not even then. There's apparently no such thing as "Obama's watch".
In the wake of the Summer Camp of the Saints scenario playing out on the southern border, Eric wonders whether things would go any differently if ISIS were massing on the Rio Grande rather than the Tigris:
With Obama's neutering of the Border Patrol, and threats to anyone who tries to detain Illegal's, who knows how many Islamic radicals with sophisticated weapons could be coming in?
It would be very possible for Muslim radicals to amass an army across the border in Mexico. Can you imagine the picture on Drudge? Thousands of Islamic radicals in very nice new Toyota pick up trucks, advancing into the US. They could bring a 100,000 man army across the border, and this Administration would supply them with maps, and aid stations. The Republicans would not stop them, because they don't want to be called racist - those Republicans are so sensitive, they do not want to have their feelings hurt.
On the runner-up for Ignominious Defeat of the Week, William R Hawkins writes:
I was happy to hear Mark on Fox over the weekend talk about how the release of Bergdahl was only the "MacGuffin" for the release of the Taliban Five. I agree. But Mark did not go far enough.
The release of the Taliban leaders has been a demand since at least 2011 as a precondition for the Taliban to enter peace talks. Obama wants such talks as cover for our troop withdrawal, but cannot just give in to enemy pre-conditions. A prison exchange was the way to meet Mullah Omar's demands. Qatar is where the Taliban opened an office in 2012 for such negotiations, so the five freed prisoners do not have to leave Qatar to get back into the fight, directing enemy operations and diplomacy.
Shades of the Paris Peace Talks! The Taliban won't quit, but we will.
In this space last week, I mentioned that Bowe Bergdahl had deserted as a private but been promoted to sergeant while in the care of the Taliban. Reed Jones comments:
Concerning Bowe Bergdahl's post-desertion promotion to sergeant, you wrote:
lf the Taliban had held on to him long enough, would he have been promoted to four-star general? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?
It seems that to rise out of the enlisted ranks and become an officer a college degree is required.
Not to worry though. I hear the religious studies program at North Waziristan State is top-notch.
Now that's a GI Bill all by itself.
Patricia Hanna writes from Iowa:
Your column today, "There is No Deal", is the most intelligent, complete and concise commentary I have read about this fiasco. I am so incensed about this episode that I called my congressman; something I am usually too busy to do given the fact that without the Senate, there is little that he and other Republicans can do. But I guess they do know that for everyone who calls there are hundreds who are of the same opinion.
Please keep writing and speaking. And thank you for the personally signed card I received in response to my modest donation to the hockey stick trial fund. With all that you do - writing and speaking and appearing on the radio and TV for commentary, not to mention guest hosting for Rush, and attending graduations with their insufferable speeches (I had to listen to the CEO of Google at Johns Hopkins last month. It's always bad when the speaker starts with "I didn't really know what I wanted to say to you today.") - despite all this you took time to sign a thank you card.
I am stunned and impressed. And I am keeping the card in my copy of America Alone.
It's the least I can do, Patricia. The generosity of SteynOnline readers has been overwhelming - literally so, which is why my bleeding stump of a signing hand is a bit behind on some of those thank-you cards. But we will catch up. Some supportive customers, though, do have a few dissatisfactions:
A few weeks ago, in support of your epic adventures against the Evil Meanies of Big Law / Big Climate / Big Bollocks / Big Whatever, I bought Passing Parade. The book is great, and I must say that, given your propensity and experience for writing for organs in all corners of the anglophone world, you usually do pretty well when explaining the little idiosyncracies in the American / Aussie / English / Scottish / whatever English languages.
In your obit of Oriana Fallaci, you mention her obsessions:
She developed (arcane) obsessions – who really invented sherbet (the ancient Romans, not the 'sons of Allah').
Ah, sherbet! I remember many an enjoyable afternoon in my youth with Sherbet Dip Dabs, hoovering up the disgusting hyper-sweet n' sour particulates with the enclosed stick of liquorice or boiled strawberry lollipop, and your offhand remark made me think: the invention of sherbet is just the sort of useless but esoteric trivia that floats my boat, but I had difficulty imagining that it could really have been invented by the ancient Romans or the Sons of Allah.
Imagine my disappointment when, upon further research, I discovered you west-of-the-Atlantic types have taken the word 'sherbet' to mean a dairy ice-cream pudding, not the delicious bag of chemicals, E-numbers and liquorice that we enjoy over here in Blighty.
A shame, as I rather liked the idea of La Fallaci bulk-buying packets of Sherbet Dip Dabs to be shipped over from the UK to Florence while she pulled an all-nighter writing her latest coruscating tirade. Maybe with a crate of blue-flavoured Panda Pops and a hundredweight of Jelly Babies as a side. And they say we Brits can't do haute cuisine.
Putting aside (with regret) Sherbet Dip Dabs or (my personal favorite) Sherbet Fountains (are they still available?), these products do have the same root as what you call the "dairy ice-cream pudding", which is actually rather fruitier. Whoever invented it, the English sherbet, the French sorbet, the Turkish şerbet and the Arabic sharbat are all etymologically related. What happened in Britain is that the powder required to make a sherbet drink became so popular in its own right that it wound up annexing the word: The means became the end, as it were. I'm not much of a jihadist, but I think the excitable lads in ISIS might have a point if they swung by your place, asked for a sharbat, and you passed round the Dip Dabs. Especially as there's something of a tradition of degrading cultural appropriation in British confectionary: compare, for example, Turkish Delight with the delicacy of the same name proffered by Fry's.
Still, I agree with you that there's something pleasing about thinking of La Fallaci face down in a Sherbet Fountain.
Finally, Yates Walker writes:
Just wanted to tell you that your songbook and singalong was a delight to my grandfather Charles Exley, an accomplished singer himself.
I just made my second purchase of After America and Lights Out. As much as I enjoy your writing and appreciate every painstaking step in the process of dismantling Mann & Co., my purchases are as much motivated by sympathy as enthusiasm. Time may eventually make defeating and publicly discrediting Mann one of your crowning achievements, but I can't imagine that it's easy to be a happy warrior throughout.
Whenever - if ever - the fight gets to you, please know that there are many like me who understand that you're not just fighting bad science, but for free expression and in defense of reason itself. I'll echo a previous reader's sentiments: Thanks for fighting my battle for me. I'll make another purchase when I can afford it.
Thank you, Yates. You're overstating my contribution, and you and many other readers like you are an indispensable part of this battle. On the Happy Warrior front, I can't tell you how dark things looked six months ago and how much brighter they are today. And that's thanks to you. Glad your grandfather enjoyed the Songbook.