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Keys to the Lockbox

New Republic, Oct. 8
An article warns that conservative lobbyists and pundits plan to use the Sept. 11 attacks as rationale to break into the Social Security lockbox. The GOP is pulling a bait-and-switch: They want the cash not for defense but to expand President Bush’s tax cut. Debt reduction, on the other hand, is now seen as a “silly, prewar indulgence that the country can no longer afford.” A piece argues against bailing out the airlines. Why would Congress’ $15 billion bailout include two companies—US Airways and America West—that were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before Sept. 11? An article argues that the centrality of foreign policy in national politics is a “serious problem” for the Democrats. The Dems’ new generation of lawmakers—Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, et al.—latch on to domestic policy. The hawks, like Sam Nunn, are long gone.—B.C.

Economist, Sept. 29 A series of articles, originally pegged for the now-canceled IMF-World Bank meetings, mounts a defense of globalization. An editorial contends that globalization does not equal cultural conquest because non-Westerners freely choose to eat McDonald’s and wear Nikes. An article describes how difficult it will be to cut off Osama Bin Laden’s funding. It’s hard enough to track down illegally laundered money; but tracing Bin Laden’s “clean” finances—much of which flow from individuals and charities—is a nearly impossible task.— J.F.

Atlantic Monthly, October 2001 The now-dated cover story, “Peace Is Hell,” reports on the awkward peacetime role of the American military. Specifically, the article focuses on the problems of peacekeeping in Bosnia, where even a small deployment of only 4,000 soldiers strains the entire Army by depressing morale and decreasing combat readiness. The author dubs our military woes the “Goliath syndrome”—the problem of acting in a world of nations far out of proportion to our size and power. A piece describes a set of newly unearthed documents detailing the Kennedy administration’s plans for a possible pre-emptive nuclear strike against the USSR. During the Berlin crisis of 1961, high-level meetings were held at which Kennedy and those close to him seriously contemplated the rationality of a first strike.— J.F.

New York Times Magazine, Sept. 30
A piece argues that “the main reason to worry about the economic fallout from the attack is not the attack itself, but the timing.” Before the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the U.S. economy had fallen into a slump, and the usual cures—like interest-rate cuts—weren’t working. The attack could adversely affect consumer demand and send the economy into a period of prolonged stagnation. When conventional means of economic recovery fail, the author asks, why not, for example, push the economy into a “state of persistent mild inflation”? A series of short dispatches takes stock of the world after the attacks: In Jersey City, a pregnant woman watches as the FBI arrests her husband. Two Army officers await transport to Afghanistan. Pakistani men grumble about U.S. intervention: “We all have weapons, and we know how to use them.”— B.C.

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 1
Osama Bin Laden on the covers of all three newsweeklies. Time suggests what the American military response might look like: Although hard-liners like Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz want to carpet-bomb Afghanistan, moderates led by Colin Powell convinced President Bush to zero in on focused targets. Newsweek painstakingly details 10 years of the spotty American war on terrorism. Bin Laden learned his trade through trial and error (numerous planned attacks have failed), but American intelligence matured more slowly (key players in the Bin Laden organization have repeatedly slipped through its fingers). U.S. News describes Bin Laden’s “two faces.” One acts as spiritual leader for a worldwide terrorist movement, an outer circle that gets startup money from Bin Laden but works independently. The other Bin Laden is the day-to-day leader of an inner circle that coordinates more complex attacks, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.

A Time piece explains why America is a lightning rod for Arab animosity. Many Arabs resent that America props up Israel, maintains a military presence in Saudi Arabia, and enforces economic sanctions that hurt Iraqi civilians. American world dominance also underscores Arab insecurities about seven centuries of decline. A Newsweek piece worries that a new acceptance of racial profiling and the rollback of privacy laws are reminiscent of Japanese internment camps and Lincoln’s suspension of the habeas corpus. Profiling is “alluring” because the attackers were Arab, but it’s “anathema to a just society” because 99.99 percent of Arabs have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.—J.D.

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The New Yorker, Oct. 1 A piece argues that the U.S. military, paralyzed by “institutional lassitude and bureaucratic arrogance,” is currently incapable of launching an effective anti-terror war. The supposed lessons of the Clinton years—antiseptic air strikes work (Iraq) and complex ground operations don’t (Somalia)—have created a military unwilling to risk the messy “closework” needed to conquer terrorism. An article makes the haunting observation that as airports learn security through trial and error, terrorists adjust their tactics. There are fewer hijackings now, but they are deadlier because “airport-security measures have simply chased out the amateurs and left the clever and the audacious.” A piece tracks New York’s bizarre recovery. The destruction is both too large and too small—most of the city remains standing—to comprehend.— J.D.

Weekly Standard, Oct. 1 An article optimistically points out the differences between the Soviet Union’s disastrous efforts in Afghanistan and the course the United States is likely to pursue. For one thing, the Soviets backed a totally illegitimate regime with the difficult goal of overturning the country’s social structure. A piece resents the New York Times’ unenthusiastic coverage of President Bush’s Manhattan visit. An article warns that Colin Powell’s plan to build a “Muslim coalition” against terrorism may do more harm than good. Such a coalition will probably be of little practical use and may end up destabilizing the countries whose help we are trying to enlist. The author predicts that these moderate Arab countries “will hoist the Bush administration by its own petard” as soon as they tire of war.— J.F.

The Nation, Oct. 8 An article holds that the only sure way to prevent further terrorism is to tackle its root cause. The United States ought to respond to Osama Bin Laden’s anti-American propaganda by banning Israeli use of American-made fighter jets and helicopters, removing troops from the Arabian Peninsula, and appointing a Muslim American to a high-profile administration post. Eric Alterman says that the World Trade Center tragedy “looks to be just one more excuse to try to get the US military to do Israel’s dirty work.” A piece says the WTC bombers represent “fascism with an Islamic face.” What they hate about us “is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend”—its liberal values.— J.F.