- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

I yield to no one in my disdain for the United Nations and all its works. But I did find myself warming up to UNICEF the other day. Just more than a week ago, on Belgian TV, the U.N. children’s agency premiered the first adult movie featuring the beloved (by Belgian, anyway) children’s cartoon characters the Smurfs. By “adult,” I don’t mean it was a blue movie. Only the characters were blue. But it was an adult movie in that the Smurfs were massacred in an air strike on their village until only Baby Smurf is left, weeping alone surrounded by wall-to-wall Smurf corpses. It’s the first Smurf snurf movie.

Well, I thought, say what you like about the U.N. but any organization that wants to bomb the Smurfs can’t be all bad. Not like those wimps at that British municipal council who banned Piglet the other day because some Muslim found him offensive. Why didn’t they just make a blockbuster video nuking the Hundred Acre Wood and leaving Pooh to die in a radioactive Heffalump pit?

My mistake. Apparently UNICEF made the short film as a fund-raiser to highlight how children are the principal victims of war. As Baby Smurf wails amid the shattered ruins, we see the words: “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.”

Oh, well. It’s not clear from the Smurf carnage whether their village is a sovereign jurisdiction — the ultimate blue state — or they’re merely some hapless minority within a multiethnic nation, the Kosovars to Spongebob Squarepants’ Slobodan Milosevic. But either way the warplanes come and blue body parts are exploding all over the village.

Good luck to UNICEF and all. But I can’t help thinking that, if you’re that concerned for children in war zones, you might have done something closer to real conflict in those places.

In Rwanda, Sudan and a big chunk of West Africa, air strikes are few. Instead, millions are hacked to death by machetes. Even on the very borders of Eutopia, hundreds of thousands died in the Balkans in mostly low-tech, non-state-of-the-art ways.

In 2003, Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote a fascinating column in the East African musing on the resurgence of cannibalism, after reports Ugandan-backed rebels in the Congo were making surviving members of their victims’ families eat the body parts of their loved ones. “While colonialism is bad,” he said, “the colonizer who arrives by plane, vehicle or ship is better — because he will have to build an airport, road or harbor — than the one who, like the Ugandan army, arrived and withdrew from most of eastern Congo on foot.”

Just so. If you’re to be attacked, it’s best to be attacked by a relatively advanced enemy. Compared to being force-fed Grandfather Smurf’s genitals, having his village strafed in some clinical air strike is about the least worst option for Baby Smurf.

Why would UNICEF show such an implausible form of Smurficide? Well, intentionally or not, they’re evoking the war most of their audience — in Belgium and beyond — opposes: the Iraq war, where the invader indeed had an air force. That’s how average Western “progressives” still conceive of warfare: something the big bullying Pentagon does to weak victims.

But this week we should remember there are worse things than war that “affect the lives of children.” If I were Papa Smurf, I wouldn’t want Baby Smurf to grow up in Saddam’s Iraq. I don’t mean just because we would be the beleaguered minority of Smurfistan, to be gassed and shoveled into mass graves.

Even if we were part of Saddam’s own approved class living in the Smurfi Triangle, it’s still a life permanently fixed between terror and resignation in which all a parent’s hopes for his children are subordinate to the whims of a psycho state.

That Iraq is gone now — not because of UNICEF and the other transnational institutions that confer respectability on dictatorships, but because America, Britain, Australia and a few others were prepared to go to war. Needless to say, for the media moaners, the approval of the new constitution was just the latest disaster. “For the Bush administration, the apparent approval of Iraq’s constitution is less of a victory than yet another chance to possibly fashion a political solution that does not result in the bloody division of Iraq,” wrote Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post, sufficiently rattled by happy scenes of millions voting at least to hedge his bets.

Not so Australia’s beloved comic doom-monger Paul McGeough, whose post-referendum Sydney Morning Herald dispatch was apocalyptically headlined: “Iraqi Experiment Splitting Apart At The Seams.”

Whatever. It’s not about what either we “diehards” or the media whine-hards think anymore. Peripheral though they may be to the concerns of the “peace” crowd, it is in the end about the Iraqi people. Unlike press predictions of “civil war” (now 2 years behind schedule), the American timetable has been stuck to, usually because at the 11th hour the fractious Iraqis manage to rouse themselves and get it together. Sixteen out of Iraq’s 18 provinces — including Sunni-majority ones — voted for the most liberal, democratic, federal and pluralist constitution in the Middle East. A disaster for the media, but worth a gloat from everyone else.

Whatever the Bush administration got wrong, it got one big thing right — that, if you persevered, Iraq had the potential to function as a free society in a part of the world where no such thing ever existed. That was a long shot, and much sneered at. But Washington judged correctly: Given the radicalization of the Arab world, and the Arabification of the Islamic world, and the Islamification of much of the rest of the world, in the end you have to fix the problem at source.

Sometimes war is worth it. And, if you don’t think so, look at the opening scenes of that UNICEF video — Smurfs singing, dancing, gamboling merrily — and try to imagine living in a Smurf enclave in a province that wants to introduce Sharia.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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