EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the March 13, 2006, issue of National Review under the heading “Happy Warrior.”
We may have to change the name of this column to “Unhappy Warrior,” or “Reluctant Conscript,” or “Impending Deserter.” The last few weeks have made me consider not the possibility that we might lose this thing (which I’ve always weighed) but that we might lose it more easily than even the gloomiest of us thought. The “Cartoon Jihad” might have been explicitly devised as a scientific experiment to provoke the greatest degree of infidel capitulation for the most footling pretext.
By “we might lose,” I mean “the good guys” — and I define that term expansively. There are plenty of good guys in Australia and Poland and Iraq and even Pakistan. And I’m a little unnerved at the number of readers who seem to think the rest of the world can go hang but America will endure as a lonely candle of liberty in the new dark ages. Think that one through: a totalitarian China, a crumbling Russia, an insane Middle East, a disease-ridden Africa, a civil-war-torn Eurabia — and a country that can’t even enforce its borders against two relatively benign states will somehow be able to hold the entire planet at bay? Dream on, “realists.”
Still, in the wake of the cartoon crisis and the Hamas victory, several correspondents have argued to me that the Bush Doctrine is a crock: How can liberty save the Muslim world when Muslims are jeopardizing liberty in Europe?
Well, they’re not contradictory positions. In the Middle East, it may well be that, as the gnarled old Yankees tell tourists, you can’t get there from here. But I’d argue there’s a sporting chance of being able to get at least partway there from the here and now of the present Muslim world.
By contrast, Europe is getting there from here in the one-way express lane, and it’s not going to like where it ends up. About six months after 9/11, I went on a grand tour of the Continent’s Muslim ghettoes, and then flew on to the Middle East. . . .