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Scare Tactics


The Economist 
The New Republic 

Economist, Oct. 20 The cover article proposes a devious motivation behind the recent anthrax scares: Osama Bin Laden is trying widen the war by making the world suspect Iraqi involvement in the attacks. An article warns not to trust those who predict that the coming (or current?) recession will be short and mild. We may be in for the worst global downturn since the ‘30s. The two main reasons this recession is likely to be so rough: All that borrowing and exuberant investing in the ‘90s created an imbalanced economy; and around the world economies are tumbling in an “unusually synchronized” way. A piece says video satellite phones are bringing about a revolution in news reporting. The lightweight devices allow reporters to go to remote areas—like, say, Afghanistan—and beam back video without a camera crew, bulky satellite dishes, and the fear of government censorship.— J.F. New Republic, Oct. 29 The “TRB”column makes the case for nation-building—a concept Bush rejected during the campaign but has now embraced. Take Somalia: After 18 soldiers died there, pols derided the mission as a failure, yanked troops and famine relief, and left the country in virtual anarchy. Now, without a U.S. presence, Somalia could provide an attractive hiding place for Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida operatives. The cover story, on the other hand, flays the State Department for trying to begin the nation-building process in Afghanistan during the war. Unable to agree on who should replace the Taliban, the administration has resisted bombing some front-line Taliban positions in the north, lest the opposition Northern Alliance advance too quickly. “The resulting elevation of Afghanistan’s best interests over America’s wartime imperatives isn’t only hubris; it’s disingenuous.”—B.C.

New York Times Magazine

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 21 The cover story catalogs an epidemic of death fasts in Turkey. To protest the country’s prison system, which places inmates in isolation, hundreds of activists have permanently forsaken food. The suffering is grim: With carefully administered supplements—sugar, salt, and water—a faster can weather pain and nausea for more than 300 days. Some say the fasters have succumbed to a cult; others say they’re anorexic women who take pride in seeing their bodies waste away. Either way, their numbers are growing: Thirty-eight “volunteers” joined the death fast this month. A piece by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg argues that Washington and its warren of bureaucratic agencies—the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon—have regained the public’s trust even as they failed to protect us on Sept.11. Why? Because “not trusting [Washington] has suddenly become too terrifying to contemplate.”—B.C.

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 22

A piece reports on the failure of American humanitarian efforts. The Northern Alliance takes most of the food at gunpoint, which leaves little for civilians. Profiteers gather some of what’s left and sell it, and those refugees who do get rations wish they had real food, not fortified crackers. An article claims that President Bush has found exactly the right tone for the moment, that of “comforter in chief.” His approval rating is above 90 percent, but with no clear endgame to the war on terrorism, he could suffer the same fate his father did when his war failed to usher in a “new world order.” A piece details the quiet efforts of banking lobbyists to block tighter money-laundering legislation that would impede both terrorist and rich bankers making offshore deals.— J.D.


Time, Oct. 22 The cover story says the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. FBI warnings about imminent terror attacks and creeping anthrax mean that Americans now must learn to live with fear for the foreseeable future. A piece imagines what sort of biological weapons Saddam Hussein has. When U.N. weapons inspectors pulled out of Iraq three years ago, Hussein had access to VX, sarin, and mustard gas, as well as anthrax and botulinum. Good news: He may lack delivery systems sophisticated enough to wage sustained biological warfare. An article describes Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s fight for the soul of his country. Until Sept. 11, he coddled the fundamentalist minority, but he views the terror attacks as his opportunity to secure Western help in the campaign to modernize and secularize Pakistan.— J.D.

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Newsweek, Oct. 22 The cover story argues that the anthrax attacks are symbolic: By striking the mail system and the media, the terrorists show they can stem the flow of ideas and information. A detailed companion piece, however, suggests that a kook is acting alone, because “one death, one easily treated rash and seven symptom-free people with anthrax spores in their noses or antibodies in their blood are hardly what experts expected from terrorists wielding a bioweapon.” A serious attack would have employed antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacterium spread through the air of an enclosed space. An article explains why the reigning military acronym is AOS: All Options Stink. The armed forces feel immense pressure to do the impossible—find Bin Laden—and its generals are terrified of having to jump into a full ground war if the terrorists launch another successful attack. The best current option: Bribe the Taliban to tattle about Bin Laden’s whereabouts.— J.D.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker, Oct. 22

An article reveals hopeless corruption in the Saudi government. King Fahd is incapacitated by a stroke, but the royals keep him nominally in power because his would-be successor has promised to rein in graft. The Saudi government, which fears a fundamentalist uprising could end its profiteering days, has been paying what is in effect protection money to reactionaries for years and is being most uncooperative with the current war effort. For the United States, the question is how to reform the profligate royals without destroying them, and thereby ushering in a Taliban-style government. A piece reports from the front lines with Northern Alliance commander Mamur Hassan, who leads a semi-autonomous force of 1,000 soldiers. A sort of liberal in a country of fundamentalists, he offers hope to Americans envisioning the future of Afghanistan. Hassan claims that with American airstrikes and military aid, the Northern Alliance can defeat the Taliban in a few months.— J.D.

Weekly Standard

Weekly Standard, Oct. 22. An article says it will be hopeless to try to hammer together a post-Taliban coalition between the Northern Alliance and Pashtuns without the leverage provided by a massive deployment of U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan. A dispatch from Boca Raton, Fla., site of the American Media Inc. anthrax attack, catalogs the many misrepresentations, errors, and reversals that government officials have doled out along with their reassurances that the public needn’t panic. But if now isn’t an appropriate time to be worried, when is? A piece introduces Anthony Zinni, a former Marine general recently appointed as a “special adviser” to Colin Powell. During the Gulf War, Zinni, who is expected to play a significant role in the current war on terrorism, was an outspoken opponent of funding Iraqi insurgents and going after Saddam.—J.F.

The Nation

The Nation, Oct. 29 The cover article asserts that, since there is a strong likelihood of more terrorist attacks, American military action in Afghanistan is morally justified. But even though a response may be legitimate, this “first truly just war since World War II” must be limited in scope and conducted with force proportional to the provoking cause. A piece laments how, in the name of bipartisanship, the Democratic leadership has acquiesced to so much of Bush’s post-Sept. 11 agenda. Had the Dems opposed the airline bailout and strongly argued for a partial repeal of the tax cut, they’d have positioned themselves well for the 2002 elections. An article claims that most of this year’s increase in military spending will be used to prop up existing programs that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.— J.F.


Economist, Oct. 13 The cover story speculates on the next stage of America’s war in Afghanistan. The piece says it would be a mistake to go after Iraq at this point, although John Negroponte’s statement to the U.N. about potentially widened war aims was thought-provoking. A series of articles looks forward to the next big thing: the mobile Internet. It won’t just be the World Wide Web minus the wires; the new medium will be as different from what we know today as the telephone was from the telegraph. An article urges governments not to coddle their airlines with subsidies, but instead to let them go under. The best solution for the industry’s recent woes would be a dismantling of regulation and a large dose of Adam Smith.— J.F.

New Republic

New Republic, Oct. 22 A piece skewers David Forte, President Bush’s adviser on Islam. Forte argues (and Bush parrots) that al-Qaida members are heretics of true Islam. But, the author argues, Forte is more interested in cleansing religious orthodoxy “of the extremist stain” than he is in getting it right. An article raps Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the Democrats’ “de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism.” Biden has the bona fides to lead: He chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, he introduced anti-terror legislation back in 1995, and he can deliver, at times, a rousing speech. But he also veers off-message at an alarming rate, bragging, shooting from the hip, or speaking in stream-of-consciousness blur. Says one Senate aide, “[Biden] is an unguided missile.”—B.C.