2011 International Book List: Mark Steyn

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January 2, 2012

Questions for Author Mark Steyn:

1. What is the best international affairs book you have read in 2011 (Canadian or otherwise?)

At the risk of straining admissability requirements, I re-read over the summer The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth's great novel on the Habsburg twilight in the years before the Great War. As America and much of the rest of the West cheerily slide toward the cliff, we are as prone as the most complacent of Franz Josef's courtiers to the assumptions of permanence. But our music is lousier.

2. What was the biggest international event of 2011?

Undoubtedly, it was the "Arab Spring", which is best understood as part of the Western Autumn: the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist entities in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere represents the final unraveling of the Anglo-French Middle East imposed on the region in 1922 and maintained, however unsatisfactorily, by the Americans since the Second World War. Along with an assertive post-Kemalist Turkey and a nuclearizing Iran, it's part of the general retreat of the American order. 

3. Who was the biggest international influencer of 2011?

Sayyid Qutb, albeit posthumously. Rules for living that would have seemed preposterous to the vast majority of Muslims in Farouk's and Nasser's time are now the law of the land in Egypt - and being quietly accommodated by schools, hospitals, law enforcement and government in Muslim areas of Britain and Europe.

4. Who was the biggest Canadian international influencer of 2011?

The Prime Minister. At a time when the US and French Presidents and the British Prime Minister strut about as near parodic peddlers of obsolescent transnationalist mush, Mr Harper has won friends and admirers in the chancelleries of the world for clear and principled stands on difficult issues where posturing would have been the easy option. I might also add that, for anybody on the receiving end of Canadian military action, the restoration of the royal pre-nominals to our armed forces is a cool and understated reminder that serious nations do not vandalize their own inheritance.

5. What was Canada's best international moment of 2011?

The decision to be the first nation to pull out of Kyoto. Too many western nations have attitudes rather than interests. Kyoto was the defining attitude of our time. Good riddance.

6. What was Canada's worst international moment of 2011?

Actually, I'm modestly surprised by Canadian foreign policy. The warmth of Ottawa-Beijing relations makes me a little queasy, but one understands the shifting geopolitical realities. So let's go with Margaret Atwood's public support for the drum circles-for-social justice crowd at Occupy Wall Street. A novelist should know better than to play to caricature.