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The Government Teat

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.

The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 14
An issue devoted to “Love in the 21st Century.” An essay argues against love. Love, the author writes, subjugates us to a partner’s whims, sentences us to domesticity: It is the “iron dust mop in the velvet glove.” Genevieve Field and Rufus Griscom were lovers when they founded Nerve.com, a highbrow Web site about sex. When they broke up, both continued to work at the site, their desks just feet apart. Rufus even hired his new girlfriend. He explains, “If you work compulsively, it makes sense to date within your habitat.” An article profiles an unusual couple who have experienced the gamut of coupledom. Two lesbians, Debbie and Cristina, lived as partners for years. They even had a baby. Then Cristina had a sex change and became Chris. Now their infant daughter squeaks, “He’s not my daddy. He was born a woman!”—B.C.

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.

Time, Oct. 15 The cover story predicts America will fight terrorism with carrot and stick. The Sunday mission in Afghanistan coupled air strikes with food drops. George W. Bush and his advisers, fearful of widespread popular support for Osama Bin Laden among Muslims, hope humanitarian aid can “balm the anger of the Islamic world.” A piece explores efforts to encourage fissures within the Taliban. Moderates in the group think Mohammad Omar’s refusal to hand over Bin Laden amounts to “mass suicide.” Through Pakistan, the United States is offering money and guaranteed jobs in the next government to Taliban military commanders who defect, and some have accepted. An article describes the uneasy relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Officially, the Saudi royal family is committed to American policy, but its rank-and-file subjects feel kinship with Bin Laden. Saudi government, worried about the same kind of fundamentalist uprising that has America dropping rice cakes into Afghanistan, is pushing the United States to limit its strikes and downplay its support for Israel.—J.D.

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Newsweek, Oct. 15 The cover package, premised on the idea that much of the Islamic world supports anti-Western religious war, asks why Muslims hate the United States so much. Forty years ago, the Arab world looked to America as an example, but its modernization efforts failed miserably, breeding keen resentment. Now globalization pressures the entire world to modernize, giving Arabs the opportunity to express long-percolating exasperation. Fundamentalism has made itself the conduit for such anti-Western fervor by making up for a lack of political culture in Middle East dictatorships. America has to reach out to moderate Arab states, provided they stop pandering to their small but powerful fundamentalist communities. A piece runs through the political skirmishes Bush had to fight on the home front before he could start war on foreign soil. Right wingers wanted him to do more, faster, and more unilaterally. They disapproved of his narrow focus on Bin Laden and the Taliban, his expression of support for a Palestinian state, and the careful diplomacy that delayed military action.—J.D.

U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 15

The cover story examines the puritanical Islamist movement in its historical context. Islamists use religion to advance their political agenda, the creation of totalitarian states in the Middle East. However, they ignore Islam’s great history of decentralization and of vigorous, open ideological debate. A piece claims that only circumstantial evidence (a money trail, al-Qaida associations among hijackers) ties Bin Laden to the terror attacks. The big problem: There is no smoking gun since all the conspirators died in the airplanes. The good news is that the evidence doesn’t have to be air-tight: “We don’t want bin Laden on trial. We want him dead,” says one FBI official. An article warns that monstrous consensus in Washington could ruin economic recovery. Bush wants to increase spending in the short term, but to maintain his unanimous support, he may cave in to supply-siders, who want to pollute his package with slow-acting stimuli.—J.D.

The New Yorker, Oct. 15 An article collects stories of Arab-Americans in America’s biggest Arab community, Dearborn, Mich. Some have been fired, some threatened, but the worst fear is what widespread profiling and racism will do to their kids’ self-esteem. A piece profiles the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a kind of boot camp for poets and novelists held in the Vermont woods. It used to be a place where the famous (Robert Frost) got drunk and had scandalous affairs. Now it is all grasping preparation for the bleak literary marketplace. An article wonders whatever happened to highbrow culture. The Lionel Trillings and Jacques Barzuns graced the covers of magazines in the 1950s because early Cold War America thought they conveyed American cultural superiority. But when Elvis and the movies proved more popular among Europeans, the powers that be stopped propping up highbrows.—J.D.

Weekly Standard, Oct. 15 The cover article makes the case for a temporary U.N./American occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, the best things American foreign policy has produced—peace in the Balkans, democracy in Germany and Japan—were the result of a liberal, humanitarian imperialism. Writes the author, “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen.” An editorial warns against viewing coalitions as ends rather than means. By courting Iran and compromising over Israel, America could sacrifice its fundamental goal of fighting terrorism. A piece says the war on terrorism has revealed a long-standing rift in the Democratic Party between reasonable, patriotic elected officials and “the noisy group of chattering asses,” who define themselves by their adversarial attitude.— J.F.

The Nation, Oct. 22
Edward Said’s cover piece assails Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” argument that has received so much attention recently. To divide the world on the basis of vast abstractions like “Islam” vs. “the West” is, to Said, to be ignorant of the enormous complexities and internal dynamics that prevent such definitions of “civilization identity.” These sorts of monolithic labels serve only to “mislead and confuse the mind.” A piece calls new anti-terrorism security measures “a fig leaf covering significant failures by federal agencies to communicate and act within their current authority.” The editorial calls for America’s re-engagement with the world and “a new era of global Keynesianism.”—J.F.