Here are three small news items from around the world you might have missed:
(1) An unemployed Berlin waitress faces loss of welfare benefits after refusing a job as a prostitute in a legal brothel.
(2) A British court ruled a suspected terrorist from Algeria cannot be detained because jail gives him a “depressive illness.”
(3) 17-year old Jeffrey Eden of Charlestown, R.I., has been an awarded an “A” by his teacher and the “Silver Key” in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards for a diorama titled “Bush/Hitler and How History Repeats Itself.”
A trio of itsy-bitsy little stories from the foot of Page 27 of your daily paper, if they made it at all. But they’re as revealing about the course of the war as anything going on in Iraq.
The Germans, in the bad old days when their preferred field of combat was France rather than Fraulein Helga’s government-regulated bondage dungeon, used to talk about “wehrwille” — war will. America, Britain, Australia and a select few other countries have demonstrated they can just about muster the “war will” on the battlefield. On the broader cultural front, where this war will be won, there’s little evidence of any will.
The waitress forced into prostitution by the government pimp is, at one level, merely an example of the unintended consequences that follow every legislative initiative. But at another, it’s the logical reductio of the modern secular welfare state. Like all those European utopias John Kerry wants America to be more like, Germany has a permanently high unemployment rate and, as a result, penalizes those who refuse to take available jobs — like providing “sexual services.” The welfare office in Gotha ordered a 23-year-old woman to audition for a job as a “nude model.”
As Queen Victoria is said to have advised her daughter on her wedding night, lie back and think of England. Now the welfare office says lie back and think of Germany. And why not? When you cede to the state the responsibility for feeding, clothing, housing you, for your parents’ retirement and your own health care, it’s hardly surprising they can’t see what the big deal is about annexing your sex life as well. If a welfare state were a German S&M club, the government is the S and you’re the M. The “security” of welfare is not usually quite such literal bondage, but it always is metaphorically.
When the Germans legalized their whorehouses, they thought it showed how relaxed and enlightened they were. Al Qaeda types take a different line: They think it’s a sign the West is decadent and weak and cannot survive. And they have a point: Government forcing women into prostitution is just the latest example of the modern secular state’s internal contradictions.
That British court judgment is another. SIAC, the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorist court, found in 2003 that the 35-year old Algerian man in question had “actively assisted terrorists who have links to al Qaeda.” But he was released from Belmarsh Prison because of his “depressive condition.” I would be depressed if I were a terrorist: The Afghan camps are gone, the Great Satan has liberated Iraq, and Osama re-emerges from his three-year sabbatical only to release a floppo “Vote Kerry” video recycling a lot of lame Michael Moore gags. The more Islamists in a depressive condition, the better. Maybe if they get sufficiently depressed, they’ll stop being terrorists and become trainee accountants or male hairdressers.
But this surely illustrates the impossibility of fighting terror as law enforcement operation. By Western standards, every Islamic terrorist is “depressive” — for a start, as suicide bombers, they’re suicidal. Mr. Kerry, you’ll recall, thought terrorism should be like prostitution — a nuisance. But, if these court judgments are any indication, it seems to be more like German prostitution — they’re free to do what they want, and with the full backing of the legal system.
In such a world, it’s good to know we still have the guts to finger the real bad guys. Thus, when Chariho Regional High School art teacher Lynn Norton set her pupils the task of expressing an idea three-dimensionally, Jeffrey Eden immediately thought of a diorama comparing George Bush to Adolf Hitler. You might think that should be disqualified on the grounds that characterizing Mr. Bush as Hitler is about as two-dimensional as you can get, and it’s less a diorama than the diarrhea of leftist rhetoric, as poured forth by millions of moveon.org drones and nude Marin County feminist protesters and European activist puppeteers.
But there’s always room for one more, and Jeffrey’s schoolmarm was thrilled at how he did it so cutely, draping a swastika on one side and the Stars and Stripes on the other, and putting in little plastic soldiers — Nazi and American, though who can tell the difference, right? — and then adding his own penetrating observations on both Mr. Bush (“Saddam had no affiliation with the Taliban”) and his predecessor as Fuehrer (“Hitler’s own justification was his own hatred.” Hmm. What a testament to Rhode Island “Social Studies”).
Well, Jeffrey is 17. One day, with a bit of luck, he’ll realize Mr. Bush isn’t Hitler. If he were, Jeffrey would be in the Bush Youth doing patriotic exercises in shorts every morning and singing the special Texan lyrics to the “Horst Wessel” song, and he wouldn’t have time to do dioramas of dissent.
But what are we to make of everyone else in this sorry story? The art teacher who gave him an “A.” The 15 judges in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards who awarded him their “Silver Key.” The proprietor of Alperts Furniture Showroom in Seekonk where the winning “art” work is proudly displayed. Are no grown-ups left in Rhode Island?
I am not worried about Iraq. As they demonstrated Jan. 30, the Iraqis will be just fine. The Western front is the important one in this war — the intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilization just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides. It’s not that young Eden knows nothing, but that neither his teachers, judges nor furniture showroom owners do.
But our enemies know us very well, at least in courtroom strategies and canny manipulation of the “tolerance” fetish.
It’s an open question if the West will survive this twilight struggle: Europe almost certainly will not; America might. On the other hand, the psychosis to which much of the culture is in thrall may eventually reach a tipping point into mass civilizational suicide. And then the new barbarians will inherit, and young Master Eden will end his days pining for the rosy-hued nostalgia of the Bushitler tyranny.
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.