Wednesday, January 14, 2004

CONQUEST. The ineffable John Derbyshire has an article up, positing Arabs as "The Irish of the World." As the Irish are to Britain, says he, so are the Arabs to everyone else. The staying power of the IRA and the intransigence of the fanatics who plot and move against America and its allies are objective correlatives.

Of course, there are a few bugs in the analogy, Derbyshire admits:
The West never ruled the Arabs in the way, or for the length of time, that Britain ruled Ireland. I cannot think of any Western leader who dealt with the Arabs as Oliver Cromwell dealt with the Irish. Nor did Ireland ever suffer the extreme misogynist neurosis that Lawrence Wright describes in Saudi Arabia [in his recent New Yorker essay]. Nor were her rulers and people ever corrupted by great wealth that required no effort on their part to generate it ? Ireland's economic problem was not wealth, but poverty.
So aside from the near-inversion of their economic and power relations, Anglo-Irish and World-Arabs is the same thing.

Oh, one other thing -- Derbyshire can see the rectification of the Anglo-Irish impasse: " will be the prosperity and sophistication of the modern Irish republic, her ancient and peculiar sense of nationhood dissolved by globalized economics, her religious intensity vitiated by the easy hedonism of Euro-culture, her aching sense of dwelling in the shadow of a richer, stronger power dispelled by the equalization of wealth and the shrinking of distances."

Small wonder he can see it: All this is not only possible but already visibly happening. Eire is free and engages profitably with the world and even with England; the Northern Ireland of today is nowhere near the battleground it was in, say, 1973. 350 years after Cromwell, a course correction is taking place.

The remedies that would redress the imbalance between each of the two pairs of worlds Derbyshire sees have been available in the European version for some time, and despite the many remaining impediments to success even Derbyshire, no Hibernophile, sees it going the right way.

As to the Arabs, well, we all see how that's been going. " is hard to see much sign of such improvements at present," Derbyshire says. "This is going to be a long, wearying fight."

What this implies, though Derbyshire doesn't speak of it, is that the stage of relations between us and not-us taking place in the Middle East is a lot further behind than the one between the Irish and the English.

To see how far back we are, entertain this message (per Gerard of Wales) from Roderic of Connaught (Rory O'Connor) to Dermot McMurrough of Leinster, whose dispute with Roderic over the High Kingship of Ireland led Dermot to invite, perhaps superfluously, the Norman invasion of Ireland:
Contrary to the conditions of our treaty of peace, you have invited a host of foreigners into this island, and yet, as long as you kept within the bounds of Leinster, we bore it patiently. But now, forasmuch as, regardless of your solemn oaths, and having no concern for the fate of the hostage you gave, you have broken the bounds agreed on, and insolently crossed the frontiers of your own territory; either restrain in future the irruptions of your foreign bands, or I will certainly have your son's head cut off, and send it to you.
This took place in the 12th Century. Today we have a corrupt and failing Saudi government desperately working its relations with the West while its brother nations come under the Coalition's wrecking balls, and mullahs and terrorists across the region brood and plot. Our killing of the Hussein boys is just a small foray into the Borgian blood-feast, the war on sons and brothers, there regnant.

Derbyshire's mention of the "easy hedonism of Euro-culture" sticks with me. American Conservatives still turn up their noses at this easy hedonism; Derbyshire himself was thrown into a snit over the recent micromarriage of Britney Spears. "...if a customary social institution is trashed and trivialized by irresponsible buffoons, we ought to exert more control over it -- to tighten access, not loosen it," he cried. That his tut-tutting from the porch is merely a quaint appurtance of our go-go culture, rather than occasion for a warrant from the Witchfinder General, seems to show how far we've come.

Yet in some corner of our planet -- a planet seemingly vast right now, its nations unfathomably disparate, despite the impression given by our President's recent call to conquer the galaxy (as if the conquest of our own little piece of it were a settled issue) -- time has not moved so quickly.

We can only be said to deal with the Arabs as the English dealt with the Irish if the struggle of mankind out of ignorance and into the light is much more retarded than is generally supposed. This is the aspect of our current foreign relations that is most disturbing --- so disturbing that it upsets such a settled mind as Derbyshire's. It's as if the Rennaisance were only a favorably settled local by-election. Now we scour the East with blood and thunder, and our troops hand out democracy like a Chick tract, and we wait for the message to take hold.

I wouldn't advise we hold our breath.

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