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Jewish World Review August 26, 2003/ 28 Menachem-Av, 5763

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
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There's only one hyperpower — so everything is our fault |
Among the more comical moments of a grim week was the sight of the president of the Security Council expressing his condemnation of the terrorist attack on the UN. He was the representative of Syria. Syria is a terrorist state. Syrians have flooded across the border into Iraq to take up arms with their beleaguered Baathist brethren. It would not be surprising to discover a Syrian connection to one or both of Tuesday's terrorist strikes in Baghdad and Jerusalem. But Syria happens to hold the presidency of the Security Council, so a fellow who's usually the apologist for terrorists gets to go on TV to represent the international community's determination to stand up to terrorism.

Well, that's the luck of the draw at the UN, where so far this year Libya, Iraq and Syria have found themselves heading up the Human Rights Commission, the Disarmament Committee and the Security Council. The UN's subscription to this charade may be necessary in New York, but what's tragic is that they seem to have conducted their affairs in Baghdad much the same way. Offers of increased U.S. military protection were turned down. Their old Iraqi security guards, all agents of Saddam's Secret Service there to spy on the UN, were allowed by the organization to carry on working at the compound. And sitting in the middle of an unprotected complex staffed by ex-Saddamite spies was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the individual most directly credited with midwifing East Timor into an independent democratic state. Osama bin Laden (or rather whoever makes his audiocassettes) and the Bali bombers have both cited East Timor as high up on their long list of grievances: the carving out, as they see it, of part of the territory of the world's largest Islamic nation to create a mainly Christian state. Now they've managed to kill the fellow responsible. Any way you look at it, that's quite a feather in their turbans.

But it doesn't really matter who's actually to blame--Baathist Iraqis or al-Qaida Saudis. As far as the world's press is concerned, the folks who are really to blame are the Americans. It's the Americans' fault because:

a) They made Iraq so insecure their own troops are getting picked off every day;

b) OK, fewer are being picked off than a few weeks back, but that's only because the Americans have made their own bases so secure that only soft targets like the UN are left;

c) OK, the UN's a soft target only because they turned down American protection, but the Americans should have had enough sense just to go ahead and install the concrete barriers and perimeter trenches anyway;

d) OK, if they'd done that, the beloved UN would have been further compromised by unduly close association with the hated Americans, which is probably what got them killed in the first place.

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In other words, whatever happens, it's always evidence of American failure. That's the only ''root cause'' most of the West is interested in. Anyone who thinks Tuesday's events might strengthen the international community's resolve to resist terrorism is overlooking the fact that among the Europeans, the Canadians and New Zealanders, the British and Australian press, CNN and the New York Times and a large majority of the Democratic Party, the urge to surrender is palpable.

At the moment, there's only one hyperpower (the United States), one great power (the United Kingdom) and one regional power (Australia) that are serious about the threat of Islamist terrorism. There's also Israel, of course, but Israel's disinclination to have its bus passengers blown to smithereens is seen as evidence of its ''obstinacy'' and unwillingness to get the ''peace process'' back ''on track.'' What a difference it would make if one or two other G-7 nations were to get serious about the battle and be a reliable vote in international councils. But who? France? It's all business to them, unless al-Qaida are careless enough to blow up the Eiffel Tower. Canada? Canadians get blown up in Bali, murdered in Iran, tortured in Saudi Arabia, die in the rubble of the UN building in Baghdad--and their government shrugs. Belgium? They'd rather issue a warrant for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld than Chemical Ali.

And so on Tuesday, up against an enemy unable to do anything more than self-detonate outside an unprotected facility and take a few Brazilian civil servants and Canadian aid workers with him, the global community sent out a Syrian ambassador to read out some boilerplate and then retreated into passivity and introspection and finger-pointing at Washington. This is the weirdly uneven playing field on which the great game is now fought. Islamic terrorism is militarily weak but ideologically confident. The West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure. We don't really believe we can win, not in the long run. The suicide bomber is a symbol of weakness, of a culture so comprehensively failed that what ought to be its greatest resource--its people--is instead as disposable as a firecracker. But in our self-doubt the enemy's weakness becomes his strength. We simply can't comprehend a man like Raed Abdel Mask, pictured in the press last week with a big smile, a check shirt and two cute little moppets, a boy and a girl, in his arms. His wife is five months pregnant with their third child. On Tuesday night, big smiling Raed strapped an 11-pound bomb packed with nails and shrapnel to his chest and boarded the No. 2 bus in Jerusalem.

The terrorists watch CNN and the BBC and, understandably, they figure that in Iraq America, Britain, the UN and all the rest will do what most people do when they run up against someone deranged: back out of the room slowly. They're wrong. There's no choice. You kill it here, or the next generation of suicide bombers will be on buses in Rotterdam, Manchester, Lyons, and blowing up the UN building in Manhattan. This is the battlefield.

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn