Monday, May 23, 2022
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Steyn and Starkey on the West’s world of illusion

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MARK Steyn’s GB News show on Thursday night featuring David Starkey’s demolition of the West’s illusion was, frankly, seminal. It must go down as one of the all-time greats of TV – certainly it was the sort we have not seen for a long time. 

Yesterday I watched it all over again, keen not to miss any of Starkey’s brutal insights, each on its own enough to burst the dangerous bubble of illusion we live in which has come to define the West.

When Steyn asked Starkey whether Putin was thinking big in his ambitions – all the way to Berlin, even – Starkey simply replied that Putin will push to the point of weakness, and given way to, he will push again. Putin, who wants to revive the Czarist empire, says he is prepared for nuclear war, but are we, asks Starkey?

Well, reality is indeed hitting us like a rocket. Any idea that international law and human rights exist independent of force, he says, are ‘mere illusions’. Will Nato prove to be an illusion? Steyn asks. ‘God help us if it is true,’ replies Starkey. ‘At least we have the nuclear deterrent – but are we prepared to use it? Will we do another Bay of Pigs? Will we be able to do what Kennedy did?’ Do we have the will to do it in a world that sees war ‘as so last century and violence so nasty, when we have really important things to worry about like the planet’?

Where has this preoccupation left us but destroying our own necessities, he asks: ‘our nuclear power, failing to develop our oil resources, failing to frack’ and so on. How did Rome end in 537? When the barbarians cut the aqueducts, comes Starkey’s stark metaphor.

The problem is that we have lost our sense of power, ‘the sense that states depend on for the ability to defend themselves’. Putin understands what we have forgotten, he says, quoting him: ‘Why do you think because you are good you can’t use force?’ Goodness, Starkey goes on to explain, depends on the ability to use force, on self-defence. Putin calculates what is in his nation’s interests while we talk as though there is ‘some type of global commons’.

They go on to discuss the decline of American power and the illusion of globalism without Wall Street and the military. Steyn asks, if the US’s 1950s-onwards world dominance is over, what is next? Starkey hits us with another brutal truth – we are seeing the revival of the competition of empires. We thought imperialism was dead: it is not. 

‘Putin looks to the west and sees only weakness and smells only decay.’

Meanwhile the West treats Putin as the guy who is out of step, Steyn remarks, when in fact it’s the West’s ‘unicorn’ leaders who are all out of step, not Vlad. 

Before the end of the programme Steyn returns to the pressing problem on the ground, of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In an interview with Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley, he asks whether what’s happening in Ukraine is worse than Yugoslavia (where Riley commanded and fought with distinction). Yes, by several degrees of magnitude comes the reply, not least because Western Europe is at its weakest since 1945. Riley doesn’t believe, however, that it will be all plain sailing for Mr Putin. Invading a country is one thing, occupying and holding it is another.  It will need about 600,000 Russian troops, he estimates. Is Putin prepared to do that? It could turn out to be a massive strategic miscalculation. If it is, the general says, it is an opportunity for the West, for ‘by heavens, we need to wake up, re-arm, re-arm physically  and we need to re-arm morally because if we don’t Putin will just do this again and again and again if he sees an opportunity . . . He has to understand that Nato Article 5 is Nato Article 5, it stands, but it only stands if the deterrence it guarantees is credible. And that credibility rests on capability and at the moment’ he says ominously, ‘our capability is pretty thin.’ 

So do we have the money to rebuild it after creating debt mountain to last years, asks Steyn. ‘I have watched the Government here squander three times the defence budget’ retorts Riley, ‘on Covid trick or treat that never worked – on protective clothes that didn’t work, on PPE cronyism that didn’t work, on grants to businesses that will never be paid back, £9million for a situation briefing room in Downing Street. I am looking at £18billion a year on foreign aid. I am looking at a space command when we can’t even secure our own territorial airspace. Please don’t tell me there is no money.’

You can watch the whole programme here – it is really worth it.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngellhttps://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/the-editors/
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @KathyConWom on Twitter.

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