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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air this Thanksgiving weekend! Yes, this is your gratefully genial host John Derbyshire bringing you a brief but penetrating survey of the week's news.
You may wonder how we have celebrated Thanksgiving out here in our Aegean island exile. Some listeners, confusing the nation with the bird, may have assumed that since the coast of Turkey forms the eastern side of the Aegean — is in fact just a morning's cruise away from our island by Taki's yacht — we should have no trouble getting all the turkeys we want.
This is a misapprehension. Turkeys are native to North America, and not much found elsewhere. With the political ructions on the Greek mainland, we were unable to get such exotic foodstuffs, and had to improvise with goatburgers and seafood. A good time was had by all, though, and we got pleasantly tipsy on ouzo and offered up heartelt thanks for being so fortunate as to live in a time and place blessed with liberty, peace, plenty, and beach volleyball.
OK, let's get started. Oh: There's a slight change of format this holiday weekend. Most of the interesting news this week concerned the Middle East. I'll give over three regular-length segments to that, then round off with some shorter items.
Since I have mentioned the nation of Turkey, I may as well start off with some news from that nation. Turkey doesn't make the news much, but it's by no means inconsequential. It's big — 17th in the world by population — strategically located, and ornery.
02 — Turkey news. The currently most important fact about Turkey is that it shares a long border — nine hundred miles — with Syria, which is in the throes of a nasty civil war.
That would be bad enough by itself. The Turks, however, like any other nation not under existential threat, are mainly interested in their domestic affairs. The biggest, most enduring, and most disruptive issue in internal Turkish affairs is a multicultural one. It goes by the name "Kurds."
The Kurds, who are Muslims but not ethnically Turkish, are only eighteen percent of Turkey's population but they're coming up fast. Ethnic Turks in Turkey have a Total Fertility Rate of 1.7 or 1.8 children per woman, down to 1.5 in the more developed regions. Kurds in Turkey have a rate at least twice that — around four children per woman.
Turks are obsessively concerned about this. If you hang around with immigration restrictionists in the U.S.A. you will have heard them moaning about Census Bureau projections that non-Hispanic whites will be a minority in America by the year 2050. The corresponding date that Turks obsess about is 2038, the date when ethnic Turks will supposedly be a minority in Turkey.
Here's a quote from Recep Erdoğan, Turkey's current Prime Minister, quote: "Our population is getting older. Right now we are proud of our young population, but if we don't pull these numbers up, Turkey will be in a difficult position by 2038." End quote. Erdoğan wants ethnic Turks to make more babies.
It doesn't help, it doesn't help at all, that there is among the Kurds a movement for independence. The actual level of support for that movement among Turkish Kurds is much disputed — as, by the way, is that 2038 date that keeps Prime Minister Erdoğan awake at night — but it has surely been enough to generate a nasty terroist movement, the PKK, and some scorched-earth reactions by the Turkish government in Kurdish regions of the country. Not many nations can boast the dubious distinction of having used the national air force to bomb their own territory in recent years: Turkey is one such nation. Even less helpful to Turkey has been the rise of a more-or-less autonomous Kurdistan across their other border in northern Iraq, giving Kurdish separatists a new surge of confidence.
What's all that got to do with Syria? Well, that 900-mile border I mentioned between Turkey and Syria includes some pretty wild country, inhabited on both sides of the border by, yes, Kurds, who are also ten percent of Syria's population.
So whose side are Syria's Kurds on in the Syrian civil war? They have no reason to love the Assad government, which has been just as beastly to their Kurdish minority as all the other nations in the neighborhood. On the other hand, while Assad's forces have been fighting the rebels, the Kurds have been able to seize a little autonomy for themselves, which they believe they will surely lose after a rebel victory.
Turkey mainly wants the Syrian civil war to stop. It is interfering with truck traffic from the Gulf, which goes through Syria, it is creating a cross-border refugee problem, and yes, it is stirring up the Kurds. Assad wouldn't take Turkey's advice, though, and the not-very-competent Syrian military has been committing cross-border violations.
Now Turkey's backing the rebels, and trying to get the Syrian Kurds to join the rebel side. Obama's State Department is taking the same line. That puts Turkey at odds with the big boys in the region, Russia and Iran, who, while making cooing noises about a peace conference, are basically backing Assad.
All in all, a rat's nest — one more illustration of the joys of multiculturalism. How it will all shake down at last, I have no idea. I'm waiting for the starship to arrive from the Galactic Federation giving every disgruntled minority in every nation, from Kurds to Tibetans, from Ulster Protestants to white South Africans, a patch of land all their own that they can govern as well or badly as they like.
03 — Another great Arab victory. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan got himself in the news another way this week, passing the opinion that Israel is, quote, "a terrorist state." Assuming that is correctly translated from the Turkish, it misses the point of terrorism, which is never a state phenomenon. States may do terrible things; and in war, every state tries to terrify the enemy government and population; but that's not terrorism. Terrorism is when nonstate actors terrorise civilians for political ends.
Why does Erdoğan say dumb things like this? Well, he's a devout Sunni Muslim, and naturally not happy about Israel bombing his co-religionists. Personally I think they had it coming, but I'm not a Muslim. Erdoğan is also, along with most Turks, still seething about Israel's commando raid two years ago on a flotilla of ships full of agitators and terrorists heading for Gaza, in which the Israelis killed eight Turks.
There's an element of calculation, too. Erdoğan wants to be one of the big boys in the region. The Ottoman Turks ruled this entire neighborhood for 600 years, remember, and Turks would like to get back some of that influence. They'd especially like to be the ones helping to direct what they see as the wave of the future: the rise of jihadist or at least strongly Sunni-Islamist regimes. This involves, among other things, appealing to the multitude by being more heroically Islamist than the Shias of Iran and Iraq.
Insulting Israel therefore looks like good policy to Erdoğan both domestically and in his region. The insults notwithstanding, he joined with Egypt and the Gulf Arabs to negotiate this week's ceasefire in Gaza.
The interesting thing about the ceasefire is that most Israelis oppose it — 70 percent in one poll. Some key members of Netanyahu's cabinet opposed it, too, and had to be talked round.
Not hard to see why. In any engagement with the Arabs, if you don't rout and humiliate them obviously and completely, they celebrate the engagement as a victory. Recall Saddam Hussein holding victory parades after his army was chased out of Kuwait in the First Gulf War. Hamas has been following this pattern since the ceasefire, joyful crowds partying among the smoking rubble in Gaza's streets, with corresponding festivities elsewhere in the Arab world; and no doubt new recruits are lined up outside Hamas offices all over.
And Israelis must be fed up with these international busybodies ringing the bell and stopping the match before they can land a knock-out punch on the people who are trying to destroy their country. Probably the lasting solution here is for Israel just to go Roman on Gaza and drive all the inhabitants out into Egypt. Why not do this? War with Egypt? The Egyptian military is in worse shape now vis-à-vis Israel's than in the wars of 1973 and 1967, both of which Egypt lost. Why doesn't Israel go for it?
Mainly because we won't let them. They depend on us for military spare parts and diplomatic support. They also want everyone to keep up the sanctions pressure on Iran; maybe they even want to make a strike at Iran; in either case they need U.S. approval. Going all Roman on the Palestinian Arabs won't play well with Americans, especially when filtered through the anti-Israel Western media. CNN and the BBC have both already been caught out showing fake pictures of Arab casualties, and no doubt the other lefty news organizations are running similar propaganda operations.
04 — Eternal recurrence in the Middle East. And so the dreary cycle goes on, in something like what Nietzsche called eternal recurrence. What are the Israelis supposed to do? Withdraw from occupied territories? They did withdraw from Gaza in 2005, repatriating several thousand Israeli settlers home to Israel, and leaving their lovingly-built settlements, farms, and workshops to the Arabs, who promptly smashed them to pieces in a frenzy of destruction. What did Israel get in return for that withdrawal? Just more trouble.
The whole region is stuck in a time warp, the same wretched stupid futile thing happening over and over, as in a nightmare. One-third of the inhabitants of Gaza are refugees, for example, living in eight huge refugee camps. What are they refugees from? From the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, that's from what.
That war was 64 years ago, sixty-four years. The world was awash in refugees 64 years ago, tens of millions of them: in China, as the communists pulled ahead in that country's civil war; in India and Pakistan, where an estimated 14 million were driven out of one country into the other following partition; in Europe, millions still displaced after World War Two.
Where are those tens of millions of refugees now? Well, they settled where they could, and got on with life. Only the Palestinian Arabs, refugees from that war which, after all, their Arab brothers started, only they are still festering in refugee camps, the welfare queens of the world, housed, fed, and medicated by the U.N.
I hope that, in the holiday spirit, you won't mind my resorting to a brief reading from my colossal 2009 best-seller We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. This is from Chapter 11, longish quote:
A couple of years ago I took my family on a vacation to Montana, to give them a look at the West. One feature of the trip was a ghost town — the town of Garnet, just off I-90 out of Missoula. Garnet was a gold mining town in the late 19th century. It had a little revival in the 1930s when the price of gold soared. The post office finally closed for good in 1942, though some inhabitants lingered on for a few years more.
The Montana Standard
And what do you think was the main headline above the fold?Jews and Arabs Accept U.N. Armistice PleaNo-o-o-o- …
End of longish quote. Not the end of this story, though. Perhaps it will have no end. Perhaps things will just go on like this for ever, with a petty war every few years. Perhaps the whole thing is just some sort of contrived make-work, outdoor relief for the diplomats of the world.
Radio Derb's position remains what it was. Israel is an outpost of Western Civilization in a sea of barbarism. We favor Western Civ. We want it defended at all its borders where there are people willing to fight and die in defense of it. The Israelis are certainly willing to do that fighting and dying. Good luck to them, and I hope the U.S.A. goes on giving them the materials and the diplomatic support they need.
05 — A song for the season. OK, enough of the Middle East and its wretched insoluble problems. Here are just a few brief snippets from elsewhere.
I noted in last week's broadcast the appointment of Xi Jinping as China's new Supreme Leader. Some listeners emailed in to chide me for not having mentioned that Mr. Xi's wife is a pop singer, who goes by her maiden name of Peng Liyuan.
"Pop singer" doesn't quite capture the nature of Ms. Peng's career. What she actually sings is political songs, songs praising the Communist Party, the military, and the blessings of Party rule. You could, without too much of a stretch, call them patriotic songs: but then you're conceding the Party's claim that they are the country, and that to oppose the Party is unpatriotic. Indeed, one of Ms. Peng's songs is the old standard "Without the Communist Party There Would Be No New China," with which I once regaled the attendees at a National Review fundraiser.
I should say, though, that not all her songs are as obnoxious as that. Try this one: a catchy little number titled "In the Fields of Hope." I hope you don't mind if I sing along nostalgically with China's First Lady. Thirty years ago I sang in a college choir in China, and this was one of our numbers. A-one, a-two, a-one-two-three-four: [Sing "在希望的天野上"]
If that didn't help your cranberry sauce and stuffing go down, I don't know what will.
06 — Jesse Jackson, Jr. jettisons job. In our post-election broadcast two weeks ago we noted the re-election of Jesse Jackson, Jr. as congressman for Illinois' 2nd District. Rep. Jackson got a decisive 64 percent of the vote, in spite of not having been seen in public since June, and of being under investigation by both the FBI and the House Ethics Committee for felony-level misuse of funds. His wife Sandi is also under investigation.
Well, the news this Wednesday was that Rep. Jackson has resigned from Congress. Formal notice of the resignation was given in a two-page letter Jackson wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner. In the letter, Jackson admitted having, quote "made my share of mistakes" and accepted responsibility for those mistakes. Quote: "None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties," end quote. That is surely true; though it is also true that not many of us end up negotiating plea deals with the FBI.
Rep. Jackson, who says he has been suffering from clinical depression, did not make a public appearance to announce his resignation. A spokesman said: "He couldn't stop crying, so he couldn't give a press conference." Well, fair enough; and John Boehner should certainly be able to relate to that. [Clip: Johnny Ray, "Cry."]
07 — The ultimate insomnia cure. Those of you catching the broadcast before Sunday should note that if you can get over to London for that day, you will be in time to attend Boring 2012, a conference described by its organizers as "a celebration of the prosaic and the mundane." The organizers further promise that the conference will will feature, quote, "nothing interesting, worthwhile or important." End quote.
This conference is, in other words, dedicated to things that are boring. Scheduled lectures have topics like: self-service checkouts, pylons, double yellow lines, shop fronts, and toast. I doubt there will be any un-scheduled lectures, or indeed any unscheduled events at all. That would make the thing too interesting.
This is the third year of the Boring conference, and it's attracted a lot of … well, I guess I can't say "interest" … a lot of attention. In fact, the thing is sold out. I was actually planning to go myself, but I have to do laundry, discuss taxes with my accountant, and change the flap valve in my toilet cistern. Next year perhaps I'll go, if nothing more boring turns up.
08 — The nation that once terrified the world. Finally, over in Germany, a chap named Tim Schmidt has been giving evidence in a court case against his former girlfriend Franziska. Herr Schmidt claims that Franziska attempted to kill him by suffocating him with her breasts, which we are told are 38 double-D.
Quote from Herr Schmidt's testimony, quote: "She was sitting on me naked and I was kissing her breasts. Suddenly she grabbed my head and pushed it between her breasts with all of her strength." End quote. Herr Schmidt managed to extricate himself from Franziska's mammary embrace and fled naked to a neighbor's house, from where he called the polizei.
Poor chap. Look on the bright side, though: this is not a nation whose menfolk will be invading Poland any time soon.
The lady has, by the way, filed a countersuit claiming that Schmidt tried to choke her to death. With what, we are not told.
09 — Signoff. That's it for our Thanksgiving weekend broadcast, ladies and gents. We hope you all enjoyed a relaxing and healthful holiday.
This wouldn't be Radio Derb, though, if we didn't introduce a sliver of darkness into our commentary. You'll recall that the Wampanoag Indians helped the Pilgrims celebrate that first Thanksgiving. It makes a nice tableau; but let's remember that while showing openness and hospitality to people coming uninvited into your country is certainly picturesque and generous, it rarely ends well.
Fifty-three years after that first Thanksgiving — well within the lifetimes of some of those present — the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims were fighting each other in King Philip's War. The word "fighting" hardly expresses the ferocity of that war, which was conducted with exterminatory intent on both sides. Towns were burned, their entire populations massacred. Of military-age men among the settlers, ten percent were killed. The Indians — men, women, and children together — suffered forty percent fatalities. Male Wampanoags who survived the war were sold to slavery in the Caribbean plantations. The last native speaker of the Wampanoag language died over a hundred years ago.
The Wampanoags not only lost King Philip's War, they lost their country to the uninvited guests.
So let's hear it for generosity and hospitality: but let's remember that it doesn't necessarily end well for the hosts.
Just a note of cautionary darkness, there, listeners. I didn't mean to spoil your weekend.
To get you back in the holiday spirit, here are the Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force Band with a snippet of my favorite among all our patriotic songs.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: "America the Beautiful"]