Roger’s Rules

Arithmetic and Guantanamo Bay

According to my GPS, we are just passing Cuba, whose green hills look lush and inviting off the starboard beam. The name “Cuba” brings to mind the delicious cigars that were circulating on the rear deck last night as a hearty gaggle of National Review “cursers”—that’s Jay Nordlinger’s affectionate term for us—gathered in celebration of a day well spent. The spectacle of Cuba slipping by my window also bring to mind Guantanamo Bay, a facility for which I take this occasion to give thanks.

Thanks? You betcha. How nice that so many of those folks whose goal in life is to murder infidels, i.e., you and me, should be segregated here, a very long swim away from the nearest Boeing 767 to say nothing of any spare boxes of Semtex.

Highlights from yesterday’s panels included Jay Nordlinger’s interview of Bernard Lewis, the eminent scholar of Islam and the Ottoman Empire, and a panel discussion, moderated by NR’s editor Rich Lowry, in which Mr. Lewis along with Andrew McCarthy (you do have his new book The Grand Jihad, right?),
the military correspondent Bing West, John O’Sullivan, Victor David Hanson, and Michael Novak.

Jay’s interview with Mr. Lewis yielded a moderately depressing if familiar litany. The twin facts of 1) massive Islamic immigration and 2) demographic reality ordain that Europe is “inexorably” on its way—well on its way—to Islamicization. Christian Europe has more or less stopped reproducing itself, Islamic Europe is a thriving maternity ward. Sooner or later there will be a reaction to this—possibly an unpleasant reaction—but, said Mr. Lewis, it will probably be too late. The next chapter for the continent known as Europe will be either “Islamized Europe or European Islam. Take your pick.

How about in the Untied States? The demography is not so depressing: fewer Muslims, higher (if only slightly higher) indigenous birth rate. Does the United States have the moxie, the cultural confidence and belief in its own civilization, to overcome the forces of disintegration that assail it? Mr. Lewis said that until a few years ago, the thought the answer was “Yes.” Now, he said, he wonders, which I suppose is slightly more encouraging than a flat out “No.”

Rich Lowry’s opening question was this: are all disputes negotiable? President Obama went to Cairo in 2009 to proclaim a “new beginning” in the relationship between Islam and the West. The key thing to remember, it seems to me, is that a relationship is a two-sided transaction. It’s pleasant to contemplate the universal comity that President Obama’s peace offerings conjure up. What trouble me are folks like Hussein Massawi, a former Hezbollah leader. “We aren;t fighting,” said Massawi, “so that you will give us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.” Rather puts paid to the idea of “negotiation,” doesn’t? At any rate, it reduces negotiation to a choice of what type of casket you’d like for yourself. “And will you be preferring burial or cremation, Madam?”

One problem, as Victor Davis Hanson pointed out, concerns arithmetic. People like President Obama keep reminding us that the majority—the vast majority—of Muslims are not violent jihadist. Noted. Most Muslims, indeed, are horrified by the gruesome antics of their co-religionists: steering airliners into skyscrapers, hacking of the heads of offending journalists, stabbing errant filmmakers: they don’t like it anymore than you or I do.

The problem—well, one problem—is that residue, that “tiny minority.” How tiny is “tiny”? A common estimate is that there 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Lots and lots of them are just folks, struggling to make the best of things for themselves and there families. But the others? Let’s look at that number 1.2 billion. First, lets give it its zeros:


Ten percent is one hundred and twenty million:


One percent—a pretty small minority!—is 12 million.


A tenth of that—not .1, not .01, but .001 percent— is still one million two hundred thousand:


What if there were one million two hundred thousand Osama bin Laden’s in potentia?

Such reflections probably explain why, despite his hopey-dopey “new beginning” “he’s-just-an-isolated-extremist” rhetoric, President Obama has quietly continued virtually all of President Bush’s initiatives when it comes to fighting the “Global War On Terror,” rebaptized as “overseas contingency operations” by the State Department but still deploying the whole panoply of Bush-era options, from renditions and detentions to the intrusive meddling of the “homeland security” department. Yesterday’s news that the 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheik Mohammed would not, after all, be tried in New York put another nail in the coffin of Obama’s misplaced optimism. What will happen now? Andy McCarthy speculated that, for the time being anyway, he will be detained without trial. If only the military commission that had been arranged for KSM had been allowed to proceed in the first first: U.S. taxpayers wouldn’t still be footing the bill for his upkeep and KSM, though he would have been shot or otherwise killed, would at least have been granted the dignity of a fair trial.

Yet another reason, don’t you think, to give thanks for Guantanamo Bay?