Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mark Steyn? This Is What "Disproportionate" Means

In yesterday's Washington Times, Mark Steyn confessed to being confused about why the Israeli military actions in Lebanon are being called "disproportionate":

"Disproportion" is the concept of the moment. Do you know how to play? Let's say 150 missiles are lobbed at northern Israel from the Lebanese village of Qana and the Israelis respond with missiles of their own that kill 28 people. Whoa, man, that's way "disproportionate."

But let's say you're a Northwestern U.S. municipality -- Seattle, for example -- and you haven't lobbed missiles at anyone, but a Muslim male shows up anyway and shoots six Jewish women, one of whom tries to flee up the stairs, but he spots her, leans over the railing, fires again and kills her. He describes himself as "an American Muslim angry at Israel" and tells September 11, 2001, dispatchers: "These are Jews. I want these Jews to get out. I'm tired of getting pushed around, and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

Well, that's apparently entirely "proportionate," so "proportionate" that the event is barely reported in the American media, or (if it is) it's portrayed as some kind of random convenience-store drive-by shooting. Pamela Waechter's killer informed his victims "I'm only doing this for a statement," but the world couldn't be less interested in his statement, not compared to his lawyer's statement that he's suffering from "bipolar disorder." And the local FBI guy, like the Mounties in Toronto a month or so back, took the usual no-jihad-to-see-here line. "There's nothing to indicate it's terrorism related," said Special Assistant Agent-In-Charge David Gomez. In America, terrorism is like dentistry and hairdressing: It doesn't count unless you're officially credentialed.

On the other hand, when a drunk movie star gets pulled over and starts unburdening himself of various theories about "[expletive] Jews," hold the front page. That is so totally "disproportionate" it's the biggest story of the moment. The head of America's most prominent Jewish organization will talk about nothing else for days on end, he and the media too tied up dealing with Mel Gibson's ruminations on "[expletive] Jews" to bother with footling peripheral stories about actual [expletive] Jews murdered for no other reason than because they're Jews.

On the other other hand, when the leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, announces if Jews "all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide," that's not in the least "disproportionate."

When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran visits Malaysia and declares, apropos Lebanon, that "although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," well, that's just a bit of mildly overheated rhetoric prefacing what's otherwise a very helpful outline of a viable peace process: (Stage One) Please don't keep degrading our infrastructure until (Stage Two) we've got the capacity to nuke you.

Right now, Israel's best chance of any decent press would seem to be if Mel Gibson flies in and bawls out his waiter as a "[expletive] Jew."

What can we deduce from these various acts, proportionate and not so? If you talk to European officials, they'll tell you privately that the Seattle shooting is the way of the future -- that every now and then in Seattle or Sydney, Madrid or Manchester, someone will die because they went to a community center, got on the bus, showed up for work... and a jihadist was there. But they're confident they can hold it to what the British security services cynically called, at the height of the Northern Ireland "Troubles," "an acceptable level of violence" -- i.e., it will all be kept "proportionate." Tough for Pam Waechter's friends and family, but there won't be too many of them.

I wonder if they're right to be that complacent. The Duke of Wellington, the great British soldier-politician, was born in Ireland, but, upon being described as an Irishman, remarked that a man could be born in a stable but it didn't make him a horse. That's the way many Muslims feel: Just because you're born in the filthy pig sty of the Western world doesn't make you a pig.

What proportion of Muslims is hot for jihad? Well, it would be grossly insensitive and disproportionate to enquire. So instead we'll put it down to isolated phenomena like the supposed "bipolar disorder" of Pam Waechter's killer.

In the struggle between America and global Islam, it's the geopolitical bipolar disorder that matters. Clearly, from his own statements about "our people," for Pam Waechter's killer his Muslim identity ultimately transcended his American one. That's what connects him to what's happening in southern Lebanon: a pan-Islamist identity that overrides national citizenship whether in the Pacific Northwest or the Levant. Not for all Muslims, but for enough that things will get mighty "disproportionate" before they're through.

Twenty-eight dead civilians in a village from which 150 Katyusha rockets have been launched against Israel doesn't seem "disproportionate" to me. What's "disproportionate" is the idea civilian life should be allowed to proceed normally in what is, in fact, a terrorist launching platform.

I'm surprised Steyn does not call for airstrikes on Seattle, since he writes that (1) the Muslim man who shot six Jewish women in that city is part of a "geopolitical, pan-Islamist identity that overrides national citizenship whether in the Pacific Northwest or the Levant"; and that (2) "civilian life should [not] be allowed to proceed normally in what is, in fact, a terrorist launching platform." If the man's "pan-Islamist identity" overrides his American citizenship, then why should civilian life be allowed to proceed normally in the city that became a launching platform for his pan-Islamist terrorism?

But on to my main point. Since Mark Steyn is searching for a credible, consistent way to define "disproportionate," I urge him to read this short article, published in The Independent today:

It is 28 days since Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, prompting a ground and air assault on Lebanon by the Israeli army. In that time, 932 people have been killed in Lebanon, with 75 missing, presumed dead.

29 Lebanese Army soldiers have been killed. 3,293 Lebanese have been wounded. 45 per cent of the casualties have been children. 913,000 Lebanese have been displaced (300,000 of whom are children). 94 Israelis have been killed and 1,867 wounded.

10,000 Israeli soldiers are currently fighting Hizbollah in southern Lebanon. 3,000 rockets have been fired at Israel by Hizbollah. The average number of rockets fired daily by Hizbollah in the first week of the conflict was 90. Over the past five days, it has been 169.

Israel has flown 8,700 bombing sorties, destroying 146 bridges and 72 roads. Damage caused to Lebanon's infrastructure is estimated at $2bn. Up to 30,000 tons of oil have spilled into the Mediterranean since an Israeli air strike on Jieh power station.

The international community (apart from Britain and the US) has called for an immediate ceasefire. As yet, the number of UN resolutions: 0

Pay particular attention to that first paragraph, Mr. Steyn. See where it tells you that 932 Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israel in the 28 days since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers? That's disproportionate.

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