Saturday, November 12, 2005

France’s cultural problems, and ours

The Paris intifada is disturbing enough, but press coverage about the event has largely been a disaster of another sort. Much of it has been of the “West Side Story”/Marxist variety: The rioters are “depraved on account that they’re deprived.”

Tony Blankley’s expertise about the “Islamist threat in France” (Op-Ed, Wednesday) is therefore a relief to read, though his facts are disquieting. But really, why should anyone be surprised at the current conflict?

The French are reaping their grim reward for welcoming into their communities millions of people from what has historically been an enemy culture because of a belief in leftist, multicultural dogma and postmodern pacifism.

The leaders of radical Islam in Europe see “disaffected youth” as fertile ground for terrorist recruiting. Gangs of angry young men with time on their hands are trouble anywhere, and doubly so when militants may be channeling their rage from the local mosque or Web sites around the world.

The French government may believe it is responding with appropriate moderation in order not to inflame the rioters further. However, if France looks hopelessly weak on CNN, it must also appear so to Islamist leaders. That’s bad news for all of us in America who don’t want to defend Western civilization alone.

Here at home, France’s meltdown should make Washington get serious about closing the borders and reducing immigration generally so that assimilation can begin to work again. The Hispanic gang members of MS-13 are no less disaffected than their French counterparts and are at least as dangerous. It remains to be seen whether Washington can face that much reality and develop the political will to match.


Berkeley, Calif.

The trouble with sequels

Tuesday’s election in California was memorable, but not special (“A not-so-special election,” Thursday, Op-Ed). Most movie sequels, no matter how good they are, die at the box office. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election sequel, no matter how good his intentions were, died at the ballot box. Despite this rather predictable outcome, I do believe there is time for California’s action hero to rewrite the script for 2006. The first step is to hire a new agent or new political consultants. Which one is it going to be, governor?


Laguna Beach, Calif.

Chalabi as moderator

The article “Chalabi outlines election platform during U.S. visit” (World, Thursday) notes that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi “emphasized his broad political reach and ability to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq” in a talk at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

In fact, Mr. Chalabi has contacts with so many interest groups, inside and outside the country, that he is positioned to be a power broker if he is elected prime minister after the Dec. 15 election for a permanent Iraqi parliament.

Mr. Chalabi is both the good news and the bad news — a not uncommon status among Middle Eastern rulers — but the good outweighs the bad.

Mr. Chalabi is in the unique position of moderating conflicting views both inside and outside Iraq. He has ties to Iran and denies passing secrets to the Iranians (for which he is still under FBI investigation), and he can moderate their historical antipathy toward Iraq. Moreover, he supports moderating Iraq’s attitude toward Israel. He could be poised to perhaps soften Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s expressed desire to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Mr. Chalabi also has ties to Islamic interests: He is an ally of the powerful Iraqi Shi’ite religious leader Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. Mr. Chalabi also is on good terms with the Kurds and, to a certain extent, has moderated his hard-line anti-Ba’ath Party views toward Sunnis enough to establish something of a rapprochement with moderates of this sect.

As current deputy prime minister of Iraq, Mr. Chalabi exercises powerful purview over oil, infrastructure and economy. Were he to be elected prime minister, if we swallow hard and accept him as a U.S. ally, he could be in a position to offer us a permanent base in Iraq. (He denies the accusation that he misled the United States on weapons of mass destruction before the war and has been vindicated by a U.S. presidential inquiry, although he is still under investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.)

He plays all sides against the middle, to wide-ranging support. He seems committed to a secular, democratic government in Iraq within a federal structure, which may be the only way Iraq can hang together as a state after elections.

Some naysayers believe the United States and our coalition allies are in a doomed attempt at superimposing a democratic government on Iraq. But an Iraqi official, namely Mr. Chalabi (if vindicated), holds the potential to shepherd in an indigenous Iraqi democracy, balancing Islamists with secularists; Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds; Iran, Iraq and Israel. Iraq then could serve as a Middle Eastern model for democracy — balancing interest groups, which, after all, is one of the characteristics of a democracy.



Bush’s legacy deficit

When historians examine George W. Bush’s administration, they surely will declare it to have sounded the swan song for fiscal conservatism (“Greenspan nostrums,” Commentary, Thursday).

In 1961, President Kennedy sought to foster in the American people a spirit of responsibility and self-sufficiency, passionately imploring us to ask not what our country could do for us but what we could do for our country. If anyone was listening, our attention span was short. Soon thereafter, President Johnson initiated his disastrous Great Society programs with the cockeyed belief that if the nation began a pattern of throwing trillions of dollars at people in an ill-conceived plan to end poverty, poverty would end.

Poverty did not end. Instead, Mr. Johnson’s actions created generations of new government dependents in an “entitlement society.” Mr. Kennedy would be stunned to note how far we have diverged from his noble goal. Today, we have a $2.5 trillion annual budget loaded with pork for every congressional district and every imaginable special-interest constituency; we tell Americans that there is an entitlement to a family, that one may bring as many children into the world as desired with not the slightest idea how to support them; and that what should be the parents’ responsibility will become the burden of other hardworking Americans.

Not only has our supposedly conservative president failed to balance the budget — the least we could expect — but he has vastly expanded it, using the “war on terror” and “homeland security” as excuses for profligate spending in virtually every area. Sadly, we are saddled with a new President Johnson in Republican clothing.

Whichever Democrat is nominated by the party to run for president in 2008, he or she will have enormous advantages handed over on a silver platter by a failed and flawed Bush administration. On no issue will the Democratic candidate have more of a head start than on federal spending and the deficit.

The Democrats will be able to say to the American people, “You may not share all of our priorities for spending, but could we have done any worse than the supposedly conservative George W. Bush? We presented him with a nation on the path to surplus, and he turned those surpluses into massive deficits in the twinkling of an eye.”

What Republican will be able to mount an effective defense against this line of attack? Republicans, in particular, will pay dearly for the constant stumbles of the Bush administration. The days of my Republican Party leading the nation are numbered.


Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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