Monday, September 20, 2004

Steyn: What you don't hear about Iraq

The Ranger took Hugh's advice from this morning and sent me a link to this outstanding Mark Steyn article. As it turns out, I read the article last night and I've been working on this post. It is, as I said already, an outstanding article, and I encourage you to read the whole thing, but if you only have time for seven short paragraphs, then these are it. In them, Steyn begins by comparing Iraq to what is happening in Northern Ireland and then moves on to discussing Islam's growth throughout the world. (Keep in mind this picks up in the middle of the article, but the beginning is important as well, covering the Kofi Annan comments from last week...)
Do you remember that moment of Fallujah-like depravity in Ulster a few years ago? Two soldiers were yanked from a cab in the wrong part of town and torn apart by a Republican mob. A terrible, shaming episode in the wretched annals of Northern Irish nationalists. But in the rest of the United Kingdom - in Bristol, in Coventry, Newcastle, Aberdeen - life went on, very pleasantly.

That's the way it is in Iraq. In two-thirds of the country, municipal government has been rebuilt, business is good, restaurants are open, life is as jolly as it has been in living memory. This summer the Shia province of Dhi Qar, south-east of Baghdad, held the first free elections in its history, electing secular independents and non-religious parties to its town councils.

The Kurdish North, which would be agitating for secession if real civil war were looming, is for the moment content to be Scotland. The Sunni Triangle, meanwhile, looks like being the fledgling Iraqi federation's Northern Ireland for a while to come.

That's a pity. But, if you can quarantine it, the difference between it and the rest of the country will become starker, month by month.
But the beauty of handing over "sovereignty" to Ayad Allawi is that the new Prime Minister has more freedom of manoeuvre than Paul Bremer ever had, and, as he doesn't have to give press conferences on CNN every morning, there will be fewer questions afterwards.
And, in the end, the reality is this. A few weeks ago, Prof Bernard Lewis, the great historian of the Muslim world, told Die Welt that "Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century". That seems demographically unavoidable.

Given that much of what we now know as the civilised world will be Muslim, it seems prudent to ensure that what is already the Muslim world is civilised. And, for those who say that Islam is incompatible with democracy, we might as well try to buck that in Iraq today than in France, Scandinavia and Britain the day after tomorrow.

Don't hesitate to reread those last two paragraphs. I read them many times before it was finally clear to me what was being said. Islam is spreading, and if Islam and democracy really are mutually exclusive, then we have a lot more problems than we can even imagine...