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War Words

New Republic, Oct. 4 The editors break with Al Gore over his San Francisco speech. You have to privilege regime change above international consensus, or international consensus above regime change, but Gore just came out for both without acknowledging the potential conflict. This was “neither honest criticism nor honest opposition. … Bitterness is not a policy position.” A piece says that chemical and biological weapons shouldn’t be considered weapons of mass destruction. (Slate’s Chatterbox made this point last month.) Lumping them all together muddies the case for war, this writer argues, because the one reason for going after Saddam is to prevent him getting real weapons of mass destruction. A piece on one Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who offers a coherent argument for not invading Iraq. Levin thinks we should continue to contain Saddam until it’s clear he poses an imminent threat. Unfortunately, not many in his party can afford to take his side.—K.T.

Economist, Sept. 28 The cover package predicts rocky times ahead for the global economy. The excesses of the last decade haven’t been worked out of the system, and the growing debt of American consumers foretells a looming drop in spending. Global growth is in a slowdown, and deflation is on the horizon. Unfortunately, central bankers, dead-set on inflation as the greatest evil, are ill equipped to confront the problem. An article says the world should be reassured by the new American doctrine of pre-emption. All the United States has said is that it will act in extreme circumstances as a last resort. Hopefully the threat can be a useful deterrent. A piece says of Tony Blair: “The single-minded courage with which he has pursued his aims abroad serves only to highlight the muddle-headedness and timidity which characterize his record at home.”— J.F.

New York Times Magazine, Sept. 29
The cover article describes the challenges Afghan girls face returning to school after the Taliban’s five-year interdict. Psychologists say this is an invaluable opportunity to observe development: How will girls who have been cloistered at home respond to being in a peer group? Will they be able to catch up academically? It seems to depend on each girl’s personality and resilience, this journalist finds: Some are loving it, and some have already given up. A depressing piece on dogfighting makes you feel even sorrier for the guys who fantasize that this will be their ticket out of the ghetto than for their dogs. A special section on “Our Cars, Our Selves” will satisfy your curiosity on such matters as what Karl Lagerfield drives, how the Honda Accord became America’s favorite car, and why Times film critic A.O. Scott loves his Volvo.— K.T. Commentary, October 2002
Victor Davis Hanson explores Europe’s anti-Americanism. Europeans, especially the English and Germans, says Hanson, whine about our foreign policy, like our dismissal of the Kyoto accords and cancellation of the ABM treaty with “the former Soviet Union.”Why do they hate us? Europeans and Americans are fundamentally different species: Europe likes “multiculturalism and ‘diversity’ ” whereas Yanks prefer an “allegiance to common ideas and values.” Slate’s Christopher Caldwell defends an inflammatory book by journalist Oriana Fallaci about the dangers not only of Islamist extremists but of Islam itself. She wrote the book, The Rage and the Pride, in reaction to 9/11, and its condemnation among European intellectuals makes Caldwell wonder if the Continent’s widespread “tendency to criminalize racist attitudes is leading … to a climate of censorship and state-enforced opinion.”— S.G.

Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 30
All three newsweeklies nurse their post-Sept. 11 anniversary/impending-war hangovers with non-topical covers. Newsweek encourages people to eat organic. There’s no proof it’s any better for you than typical pesticide- and hormone-engorged fare, but it’s definitely better for the environment, which is slowly being poisoned by our agricultural system. Besides, organic tastes better. Time’s profile of Abraham, tenuously pegged to Sept. 11 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says that “excluding God,” he “is the only biblical figure who enjoys the unanimous acclaim of” Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Over the course of centuries, however, each religion has laid claim to Abraham by denying the claims of others. U.S. News reports on the century-overdue effort at the Gettysburg National Military Park (and other Civil War sites) to put slavery where it belongs, at the very center of the war’s history. One supporter of the current, whitewashed parks says, “People go to the battlefield to learn about the battle. They’re not there to learn about the economy, or women, or about slavery.” 

A Time piece suggests that Saddam Hussein may have outsmarted President Bush. Though Bush’s speech before the United Nations two weeks ago seemed to win temporary support for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, it also tied him more closely to the international community, which supports weapons inspections now that Saddam says he’ll welcome them. But they won’t work, and they’ll take forever. A U.S. News article reports that many intelligence officials think they’re finally winning the war on terrorism. First, there hasn’t been an attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, and second, the pace of arrests is actually quickening because America has a critical mass of informants in custody. A Newsweek piece claims that former GE CEO Jack Welch’s much-maligned perks-for-life deal served as a model for a new executive-coddling regime. Gouging chiefs at Honeywell, Emerson Electric, and IBM actually obtained the paperwork about Welch’s agreement from the SEC to gain leverage in their quest for mind-blowing compensation packages.— J.D. The New Yorker, Sept. 30 The books issue. A Stephen Jay Gould book review/obituary says his biggest mistakes were his most magnificent contribution to science. Though the theory he’s most associated with—punctuated equilibrium—is more or less discredited, its splashy arrival on the hoary evolutionary science scene blasted conservatives out of their theoretical doldrums and inaugurated a period of great creativity. A Seymour Hersh piece documents the tragedy of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. The evidence tying him to Sept. 11 stinks; most experts think he was a feckless would-be terrorist with tenuous links to al-Qaida. But the Justice Department has decided his execution will be the lightning rod for America’s pent-up rage, so it’s sticking to its case instead of plea-bargaining to get whatever information Moussaoui might have. Moreover, the courts are letting him represent himself even though he’s clearly incompetent to do so. The hope, says one observer, is that he will “talk himself to death,” the exculpating thrust of the evidence notwithstanding.— J.D.

The Nation, Oct. 7 The cover article builds the case against U.S. Court of Appeals nominee Miguel Estrada, who the author calls a “clone of Clarence Thomas.” A 40-year-old Hispanic with absolutist politics out of right field, Estrada is a gift to the Christian right. Democrats are justified in rejecting him on ideological grounds, especially given how right-tilted the courts already are. An investigative piece blows the whistle on the Pentagon’s George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, based in the German Alps. The school is supposed to teach Eastern European military leaders the principles of democracy, but in fact, it’s just a wasteful, negligently run resort of good old boys who don’t do much of anything. An article says we’re after Iraq for its oil. Richard Falk continues to press the magazine’s argument that war on Iraq is “contrary to international law and morality, constitutionally dubious and strategically imprudent, risking catastrophic side-effects.”— J.F.

Weekly Standard, Sept. 30 The cover piece by David Brooks says the anti-war left is “living in the fog of peace.” The peaceniks are parochial moral exhibitionists wearing blinders: They’re fixed on the evils of George Bush and imperialist America but can’t seem to see the evils of Saddam Hussein. A piece says military-to-military ties between India and America are flourishing as the two nations recognize their common interests, but politically, relations have been more skittish. If benefits like increased trade, weapons, and prestige don’t begin flowing to India, Indian critics will claim that the nations have a patron-client relationship. That would be bad news for the ruling party. An article reports that the International Olympic Committee is threatening to drop baseball as an Olympic sport. The motivation is not anti-Americanism; the IOC just wants to pressure the United States into putting together a dream team.— J.F.