Programming note: Tonight, Monday, I'll be live with Tucker Carlson, coast to coast across America on Fox News at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific, with a rerun at midnight Eastern. We hope you'll tune in if you're in the presence of the receiving apparatus. Meanwhile, a few thoughts on the passing parade:
~I commented recently on Tucker that I preferred the Internet of a decade ago to the increasingly totalitarian social-media cartel of today: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, feels the same way:
I think that the old blogosphere was superior to "social media" like Twitter and Facebook for a number of reasons. First, as a loosely-coupled system, instead of the tightly-coupled systems built by retweets and shares, it was less prone to cascading failure in the form of waves of hysteria. Second, because there was no central point of control, there was no way to ban people. And you didn't need one, since bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs.
The Internet of the post-9/11 years already seems like a lost Golden Age. Twitter in particular seems to have no purpose other than cascading "waves of hysteria". I mentioned on air both Facebook's viral snuff videos, and the suicide of a Canadian porn actress after a Tweetstorm of homophobia accusations from LGBTQWERTY types who subsequently gloated over her passing. "Social media" plays a role in more deaths than, say, America's supposedly all-powerful "white supremacist" movement. But, unlike the latter, nobody seems bothered about the former.
~This week's Spectator contains a piece with the following headline:
Do the Americans know who they're fighting in Afghanistan — or why?
What follows doesn't really ask that question - in part because we all know what the answer is. One of President Trump's great contributions to the public discourse is that he sees people as winners (him) or losers (Crooked Hillary. Sad!), and that he would prefer America to be in the former category. That's why his decision to string along with existing Afghan policy is so unTrumpian: If there is any US strategy left in the Hindu Kush, it's to lose so slowly no one back home notices.
Jason Burke's Speccie piece is a review of a new book by Steve Coll called Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret War in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016. As old Islamabad hands will know, "Directorate S" is the secret unit dealing with Afghan affairs in Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), which itself celebrates its seventieth birthday this year. The ISI was set up by Sir Robert Cawthorne, then Deputy Chief of Staff of the fledgling Pakistani Army, and like so many bright ideas of well-intentioned men in that part of the world it jumped the tracks fairly spectacularly. But the very fact that a book about "America's longest war" is named after a malign Pakistani black-ops racket tells you something about the tenuous grasp Washington has of the situation. In his review, Mr Burke writes of Afghanistan before the US intervention:
Bagram had been captured by the Taliban, who then exercised nominal control over 80 per cent of Afghanistan.
It was reported the other day, seventeen years on, that the Taliban are now "openly active" in 70 per cent of Afghanistan. Thirteen thousand US troops remain in the country, which is an extraordinary commitment to a war with no war aims. You'll recall J R Seeley's famous line of 1883 that the British Empire had been acquired "in a fit of absence of mind". Americans are resolute non-imperialists and seem to have acquired almost as vast a non-empire in similar absent-mindedness. For example, when four US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Africa at the end of last year, Lindsey Graham, who's in favor of "boots on the ground" everywhere, professed to be entirely unaware that we had boots in Niger:
I didn't know there were a thousand troops in Niger.
Yes, he's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but c'mon, cut the guy some slack: it's difficult keeping up with all the ground America has boots on. On the other hand, of the 200 or so countries on earth, the US has some kind of military presence in three-quarters of them. So even the most know-nothing senator could just as easily guess yes re troops in Niger and have a three-to-one shot at getting it right.
On the other hand, despite momentarily confusing Niger with one of the few pieces of global real estate - the South Sandwich Islands, Kim Jong-Un's presidential palace, the Macedonian content farms - with no US military presence, Senator Graham has now got himself up to speed, and guess what?
We don't want the next 9/11 to come from Niger.
So "we've got to go where the enemy takes us". The enemy is taking us alright. To return to Pakistan for a moment, the ISI, unlike us, did have a strategy in Afghanistan:
During the late 1990s, Pakistan's aim was to use the Taliban to ensure a pliant neighbour on its western frontier — or at least to restrict Indian influence there. This goal was pursued with ruthless consistency.
From a then Pakistani point of view, this was prudent and practical: What would you rather have on your border? A Soviet client state? Or parochial theocrats preoccupied with closing barber shops and record stores? Unfortunately, the nature of the ISI has itself changed in recent decades: It is now more "Islamist" than it was. So a pro-Taliban stance for cynical, utilitarian reasons has evolved into a pro-Taliban stance for increasingly ideological reasons. That's the trouble with desultory two-decade-long unwon wars: The fundamentals change, even as your no-strategy strategy endures year in, year out.
~I clarified my own position on this existential struggle after last year's grisly 9/11 anniversary observances:
We run around fighting for worthless bits of barren sod like Helmand province in Afghanistan, while surrendering day by day some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, such as France and Sweden...
In Afghanistan, we're fighting for something not worth winning, and we're losing. In Europe, Islam is fighting for something very much worth winning, and they're advancing. And, according to all the official strategists in Washington and elsewhere, these two things are nothing to do with each other.
Thus Senator Graham - a genial fellow who's reliably wrong about everything but is consistent at least in one respect: He's an open-borders fanatic at home and abroad. He believes everyone's borders should be open to Americans in boots, and he believes all America's borders should be open to everyone. So he's latterly been the Republican frontman of so-called bipartisan "comprehensive immigration reform". Don't worry about it, because we're going to be able to "vet" everyone.
With that in mind, here's a story from Canada, re Maryam Monsef, the "Minister for the Status of Women" (whatever that means) in the Government of Canada. Ms Monsef was appointed to M Trudeau's cabinet as a drearily obvious bit of virtue-signaling by the Boy Sock Puppet. She was supposedly born in the aforementioned Afghanistan, but it has subsequently emerged that she was, in fact, born in Iran. Which means that her naturalization papers were incorrect, and that technically she can be subject to deportation.
Yeah, dream on. But it does mean that she has to go back to square one and correct the information she supplied to the passport office. So, when she Tweeted about her trip to Davos last week, Candice Malcolm was intrigued:
Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef may have travelled to Switzerland the other week using a passport with false information, the Toronto Sun has learned.
In late November 2017, news broke that Monsef still hadn't resolved the issues with her citizenship and had yet to receive a new and updated passport. At the time, Monsef's office did not respond to questions from the Sun about whether the minister had travelled outside of Canada, and, if so, what passport she used.
As a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Ms Monsef is entitled to a diplomatic passport. But a diplomatic passport has to contain the same information - ie, date and place of birth - as a regular passport. Hence Ms Malcolm's interest in whether a minister of the Crown traveled to Davos on papers known to be false.
In fact, Ms Monsef is not merely a member of the Privy Council, but a former President of the Council. That sounds like a faintly cobwebbed and honorific appointment, but its rank is high enough that it's been held by a majority of all Canadian prime ministers going back to 1867: Macdonald, Tupper, Abbott, Bowell, Laurier, Borden, Mackenzie King, Meighen, Bennett, Saint-Laurent, Diefenbaker, Trudeau and Clark have all held the cabinet position latterly occupied by Ms Monsef.
But here's my point: I don't suppose Maryam Monsef is a jihadist in deep cover*, and I don't think it makes much difference whether she's Afghan or Persian. But she's a telling example of how much weight should be attached to vital statistics from the non-functioning parts of the world. Senator Graham assures us that all these millions pouring through his open borders will be thoroughly "vetted", but, if you can't reliably vet someone who winds up as a senior cabinet minister in a G7 government, the idea that we'll be vetting every would-be hotel maid and cab driver is fatuous pap. We don't have a clue who's coming through - and that's exactly how the open-borders fanatics like it.
*Rick Henwood makes a fair point below. My own view is that, given Ms Monsef's background (whether Afghan or Persian), one would not expect her to have a principled commitment to free speech, which is not a universal value but the inheritance of a very narrow sliver of the planet. But I don't think you can say that, can you? Also one might think it rather bad form for a relatively recent immigrant or foreigner to demand the overturning of her new nation's core values, whether it's Maryam Monself on free speech or, down south, Piers Morgan on the Second Amendment.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with my analysis of the memo and the dossier: Un-Candid in Camera. In an almost as risible tale of Russo-American intrigue, I revisited Bruce Willis in The Jackal. On Sunday we enjoyed a double-bill of English versifiers: on video I marked the bicentennial of Shelley's great poem Ozymandias, and in audio I celebrated the songs of P G Wodehouse. Apparently there was some sort of American football event happening over the weekend, so, if you were too busy taking a knee or whatever, we hope you'll start your week by checking out one or more of the above.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, I'll be taking more questions live around the planet in our latest Clubland Q&A at 4pm US Eastern Time - so, if you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, feel free to shoot me a question.
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