Hollow Inside?

Chapter eight of Mark Steyn’s America Alone has so much substance that I don’t wish to demean it by trying to force it all into one post. Let’s just cover the first part of the chapter today. The title? “The Unipole Apart: America vs. Everyone Else.”

Steyn begins the chapter with this question: “Can America win its ‘long war'”? He then proceeds to offer reasons to doubt the fire within America to maintain such vigilance. Keeping in mind that he wrote this before the “surge,” and before Iraq was relegated to the back pages of the New York Times, he nevertheless hits a nerve with his analysis because the root of the problem he perceives remains.

Four months after the fall of Baghdad, America, he says, was viewed as the “strong horse.” But that changed, he believes.

It was a range of factors, from the West’s defeatist media to the Bush administration’s wish to be seen as, so to speak, a compassionate crusader. Nice idea. But to the Arab mindset there’s no such thing. So the compassion got read by the locals not as cultural respect but as weakness. And the quagmiritis diagnosed by the media from Day One suggested that a hyperpower of historically unprecedented dominance didn’t have the stomach for a body count that in the course of a year added up to little more than a quiet week’s internal policing for Saddam. By comparison, some four million people died in the Congo in the couple of years either side of the turn of the century—and how many books or TV investigations have you seen on that subject?

“America is extremely good at destroying tanks,” Steyn comments. But that seems to be as far as it goes. The enemy in Iraq was not convinced that he was “finished.” Why not? He saw the squeamishness of American policy.

Washington made a conscious choice to give every Iraqi the benefit of the doubt, including the fake surrenderers who ambushed the U.S. Marines in Nasiriyah. The main victims of Western squeamishness in those few weeks in the spring of 2003 turned out to be not American or coalition troops but the Iraqi civilians who two years later were providing the principal target for “insurgents.”

America was a Gulliver that had awesome power, but lost the willingness to use it. That type of Gulliver becomes “ensnared by more motivated Lilliputians.” Steyn continues,

Do you remember when that statue of Saddam came down? It proved to be hollow. The Islamists think Western Civilization’s like that: tough exterior, but empty inside; protected by a layer of hard steel—the U.S. military—there’s nothing underneath.

What trend does Steyn see? He says all we have to do is look at what he calls “one trivial example”:

Just before Christmas 2003, Muslim community leaders in California applauded the decision of the Catholic high school in San Juan Capistrano to change the name of its football team form the Crusaders to the less culturally insensitive Lions.

Meanwhile, twenty miles up the road in Irvine, the schedule for the Muslim Football League’s New Year tournament promised to bring together some of the most exciting Muslim football teams in Orange County: the Intifada, the Mujahideen, the Saracens, and the Sword of Allah.

That’s the spirit. I can’t wait for the California sporting calendar circa 2015: the San Diego Jihadi vs. the Oakland Culturally Sensitives, the Malibu Hezbollah vs. the Santa Monica Inoffensives, the Pasadena Sword of the Infidel Slayer vs. the Bakersfield Self-Deprecators, the San Jose Decapitators vs. the Berkeley Mutually Respectfuls.

Unbelievable? Too far-fetched? Don’t count on it.

More from Steyn in a future post.