Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Lileks and Steyn: Delightful Snarkiness

These have been linked all over, I know. But I want to get my own licks in as well.

First, if you haven't yet read James Lileks' wrap-up of 2005, please do. He loses sight of things toward the end, unfortunately, and descends into wit for the sake of wit (which is rarely insightful or funny). Along the way, though, you encounter gems like this:
Iraqis voted in record numbers in January. Actually, any number would've been a record; apart from Israel's perennial political tussles, this is the first real election in the Middle East since the Pharaoh's stone masons voted to unionize. (All were slaughtered.) Coupled with a popular headcount in Afghanistan and rumblings all through the Levant and Central Asia, it seems for a moment that democracy is on the march. This global advance will soon screech to a halt, however, when the world learns that prisoners in Gitmo are kept awake with loud Madonna music. This grave atrocity will keep some politicians busy for months, for instance in comparing American troops to Nazis. You know, the ones who blasted Lotte Lenya tunes in the gas chambers.
Pope John Paul II dies. To the horror of many, his successor turns out to be Catholic.
Darfur victims petition Janet Jackson to show up and partially disrobe, if only to get the world's attention. Alas, this works no better than their previous request to have Terry Schiavo moved to the Sudan, in the hopes of catching a reporter's ear after he's finished his hourly update on the saline levels in her intravenous bag.
Iran announces it will no longer allow inspectors into the Khomeini Memorial Peaceful Nuclear Research Facility for Hastening the Destruction of Israel. European diplomats threaten to take the matter to the U.N. Subcommittee of the Task Force for Occasionally Threatening to Issue a Strongly-Worded Report. But the group's next meeting isn't until 2007, and it must first take up the horror of Israel's security fence. Iran promises to allow inspections in exchange for 500 million Euros, payable in coins of enriched uranium. The E.U. agrees, with the condition that the interest rate on the loan will be adjusted upward if Iran makes nuclear bombs. If they actually detonate a bomb there would be an immediate balloon payment, make no mistake about it.
You see what I mean? When the guy's good, he's good.

Mark Steyn, on the other hand, is on a roll. As my colleague Daniel T. just pointed out to me, you can read some of his recent columns at www.steynonline.com, but in many ways it's easier to go to www.suntimes.com/index/steyn.html and just keep scrolling.

In his December 4th opinion piece, for example, you can find this:
It must be awful lonely being Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party these days. Every time he switches on the news there's John Kerry sonorously droning out his latest pretzel of a position: Insofar as I understand it, he's not calling for a firm 100 percent fixed date of withdrawal -- like, say, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; meet at Baghdad bus station with two pieces of carry-on. Don't worry, it's not like flying coach on TWA, you'd be able to change the date without paying a surcharge. But Kerry drones that we need to "set benchmarks" for the "transfer of authority." Actually, the administration's been doing that for two years -- setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren't in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.
He can snark with the best of 'em, that's for sure. But he can be deadly serious as well:
Toppling Saddam was worth doing in and of itself. Toppling Saddam and trying to "midwife" (in Ibrahim's word) a free society would be worth doing even if it failed. But, as it happens, I don't believe it will fail, not just because of Bush but because enough Iraqis -- Shia, Kurds and even significant numbers of Sunnis -- are determined not to let it fail.

And here's where the scale of the Bush gamble becomes clear. Islam and "the West" have a long history. And, without rehashing the last millennium and a half, the Muslim conquest of Europe and then the Crusades and the fall of Andalusia, if you take out a map of the world and look at the rise of the European empires you notice a curious thing: in conquering the world the imperial powers for the most part simply bypassed the Islamic world. They made Africa and South Asia and Latin America and everywhere else seats of European power, but they left the Middle East alone. And, even when they eventually got their hands on the region, after the First World War, they made no serious attempt to reform the neighborhood. We live with the consequences of that today.

So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East. You can argue the merits of that, but once it's underway it's preposterous to suggest we need to have it all wrapped up by Jan. 24. The Defeaticrats' loss of proportion is unworthy of a serious political party in the world's only superpower. In next week's election, the Iraqi people will shame them yet again.
(emphasis mine)

Contrast that to the antiwar rhetorical standard-bearers, such as Susan "I want to know what Iraq has done to us" Sarandon. The utter short-sightedness is breathtaking.

His December 11th piece, if anything, is even better. Go have a look.


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