CARTOONS….So what’s going to be the upshot in the West over the whole Danish cartoon debacle? My honest answer, I suppose, is “nothing,” since stuff like this usually blows over eventually and everyone forgets about it. But assuming there is some long-term reaction, what will it be? Andrew Sullivan sums up the conventional wisdom on the right:

People keep talking about avoiding conflict. They are in denial. The conflict is already here. It is outrageous to be informed by a crowd of hundreds of thousands that the West must give up its freedoms in order to avoid violence. I’m relieved to see that this moment has forced some very hard thinking on the left.

That might be the case. After all, it’s pretty obvious that this entire episode is being cynically manipulated by corrupt regional leaders, and it’s entirely possible that this will galvanize Western opinion in favor of endless war against fundamentalist Islam and the governments that support it.

But there’s another possibility too: that the famous American heartland finally gets sick and tired of the whole thing and decides it’s best to let them all go to hell in their own way. Pull the troops out, let them kill each other if they want, start working seriously on energy independence, and from now on just mind our own business. This doesn’t strike me as the most likely reaction, but I wouldn’t discount it entirely.

As for the substance of the matter, there’s still not much to say about it. Of course the Jyllands-Posten cartoons were puerile and offensive, and its editor was stupid to print them. Anyone who wanted to picket Jyllands-Posten’s offices or cancel their subscription last September would have had my sympathy. Beyond that, though, we should simply misquote Voltaire and leave it at that:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.