On Thursday I made my weekly appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show. We'll save some of the other subjects we discussed for a little later, but toward the end of our conversation (which you can find here, somewhat unreliably transcribed), Hugh asked me about today's anniversary:
HUGH HEWITT: Now speaking of blown sky high â€“ "9/11" tomorrow. I asked Jeb Bush about this in the first hour. And the question was, fourteen years later, the first seven years of that were run by your brother and then the second seven years were run by President Obama. Are we safer today than we were on 9/12, 2001. What do you Mark Steyn â€“ Jeb Bush's answer is posted over at HughHewitt.com.
MARK STEYN: I think the problem is that we defined what we were up against in the fall of 2001, 2002 too narrowly - and I think you can see that actually at the time of the first anniversary in 2002. We are in an ideological struggle... And we've seen that that ideology is very seductive to people who hold the passports of Western nations. We are a hole, we are a vacuum - and something fills the vacuum, which is what we see in Europe and to a lesser extent over here. And you can't fight this war even with the most brilliant military in the world because it's as I said in America Alone all those years ago - it's not my line, it's from Basil Liddell Hart, the great military strategist â€“ it's not about blowing up their tanks and it's not about shooting their planes out of the sky â€“ and nobody can beat Western militaries for doing that - but if you don't understand that you're up against this ideology and you don't target that ideology, then you can never win. And that's why I find this anniversary about as dispiriting as any of the fourteen since that Tuesday morning all those years ago.
I don't know why I said that this ideological faintheartedness was evident even at the time of the first anniversary in 2002. So, after the show, I turned to The Face of the Tiger, my account of the first year of the new war. Back then 9/11 was "the day everything changed". With hindsight, very little changed, with the exception of Muslim immigration, which accelerated. So, as I said to Hugh, I find these anniversaries more dispiriting with each passing year. Here's what I had to say on September 11th 2002, all of which applies to 2015, only more so:
WE ARE BACK to September 10th 2001, at least if the National Education Association is anything to go by. Their attractive series of classroom lessons and projects for September 11th, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, begins with a little light non-judgmentalism: the NEA advises teachers not to "suggest any group is responsible" for the, ah, "tragic events". Just because Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda boasted they did it is no reason to jump to conclusions:
Blaming is especially difficult in terrorist situations because someone is at fault. In this country, we still believe that all people are innocent until solid, reliable evidence from our legal authorities proves otherwise.
So instead the NEA thinks children should:
Explore the problems inherent in assigning blame to populations or nations of people by looking at contemporary examples of ethnic conflict, discrimination, and stereotyping at home and abroad."
And by that you mean...?
Internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Arab Americans during the Gulf War are obvious examples.
Not that obvious: for one thing, the "backlash against Arab Americans during the Gulf War" is entirely mythical. But you get the gist. Don't blame anyone. But, if you have to, blame America...
President Bush has won the first battle (Afghanistan) but he's in danger of losing the war. The war isn't with al-Qa'eda, or Saddam, or the House of Saud. They're all a bunch of losers. True, insignificant loser states can cause their share of trouble when they're proxies for the great powers. But, in a unipolar world, it's clear that the most powerful enemy in this war is ourselves, and our determination to sleepwalk to cultural suicide in order to demonstrate our sensitivity... On my car radio, John McCain pops up on behalf of the Office of Civil Rights every ten minutes sternly reminding Americans not to beat up Muslims.
And, of course, let us not forget Britain's great comic figure Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thinks that it's too easy to go on about "Islamic fundamentalists":
"What I think happens very readily," she said, "is that we as western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don't look at our own fundamentalisms."
And what exactly does Lady Kennedy mean by western liberal fundamentalism?
One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I'm not sure that's true.
If I follow correctly, Lady Kennedy is suggesting that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people's intolerance. To complain about Islamic fundamentalism is to ignore how offensive others must find our own western fundamentalisms â€“ votes, drivers' licenses for women, no incentives to mass murder from the pulpit of Westminster Cathedral.
AMERICA'S had a year to wise up, but instead it's retreating to its illusions. George W Bush had a rare opportunity after September 11th. He could have attempted to reverse the most poisonous tide in the western world: the gloopy multiculturalism that insists all cultures are equally valid, even as they're trying to kill us. He could have argued that western self-loathing is a psychosis we can no longer afford. He could have told the teachers' unions that there was more to the Second World War than the internment of Japanese-Americans and it's time they started teaching it to our children.
But he chose not to...
The 90% poll numbers were always going to come down. It was just a question of where they stabilised, and what Bush would manage to accomplish while they were up in the stratosphere. By that measure, he squandered his opportunity.
In devoting his energies to the war, the President let his domestic agenda die. Even as the USAF were strafing Tora Bora, Senator Pat Leahy, a wily Vermont Democrat, continued to stall the President's judicial nominations; Ted Kennedy gutted the Bush education bill; and their fellow Democrats obstructed plans for oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At that moment, with his poll numbers in the eighties, it would have been so easy for Bush to do to Leahy what Clinton did to Gingrich. The President could have said that, with so many suspected terrorists and their accomplices in custody, we can't afford vacancies and backlogs in our courthouses and my good frien' Pat needs to stop playin' politics with the Federal judiciary. September 11th is not just an event, hermetically sealed from everything before and after, but a context. Everything that's wrong with the environmental movement, with the teachers' unions, with the big-government bureaucracies can be seen through the prism of their responses to that day...
But he ducked the rhetorical challenge. Bush has allowed the culture to lapse back into its default mode of psychobabbling self-absorption... Mona Charen summed it up in a column on the increasing pressure to pretend that September 11th 2001 was not what it was â€“ an act of war â€“ but instead some sort of unfortunate "tragedy". It is, she says, "a kind of moral disarmament of the nation. Before there can be an army, navy and air force capable of protecting us, there must be a citizenry that believes we are worth defending."
If it sounds extreme to put it in those terms, consider how far many in the west are prepared to go not to defend themselves... Five days before 9/11, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that 65% of the country's rapes were committed by "non-western" immigrants â€“ a category which, in Norway, is almost wholly Muslim. A professor at the University of Oslo explained that one reason for the disproportionate Muslim share of the rape market was that in their native lands "rape is scarcely punished" because it is generally believed that "it is women who are responsible for rape".
So Muslim immigrants to Norway should be made aware that things are a little different in Scandinavia?
Not at all! Rather, the professor insisted, "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because their manner of dress would be regarded by Muslim men as inappropriate. "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it." Or to modify Queen Victoria's apocryphal wedding-night advice to her daughter: lie back and think of Yemen...
Whether or not certain cultures are more prone to rape is a delicate question we shall explore another day. But what's interesting is how easily even this most extreme manifestation of multiculturalism is subsumed within the usual pieties. Norwegian women must learn to be, in a very real sense, less "exclusionary"...
After September 11th, a friend in London said to me she couldn't stand all the America-needs-to-ask-itself stuff because she used to work at a rape crisis centre and she'd heard this blame-the-victim routine a thousand times before. America was asking for it: like those Norwegian women, it was being "provocative". Even so, it comes as a surprise to realize the multiculti apologists do exactly the same to actual rape victims. After the OJ verdict, it was noted by some feminists that "race trumped gender". What we've seen since September 11th is that multiculturalism trumps everything. Its grip on the imagination of the western elites is unshakeable...
I believe western culture â€“ rule of law, universal suffrage, etc â€“ is preferable to Arab culture: that's why there are millions of Muslims in Scandinavia, and four Scandinavians in Syria. Follow the traffic. I support immigration, but with assimilation. Without it, like a Hindu widow, the west is slowly climbing on the funeral pyre of its lost empires. You see it in European foreign policy already: they're scared of their mysterious, swelling, unstoppable Muslim populations... The Islamists are militarily weak but ideologically secure. A year on, the west is just the opposite. There's more than one way to lose a war.
~excerpted from Mark's book The Face of the TIger