- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Thought for the day
"What if [Saddam Hussein] fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? … Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."
President Bill Clinton, 1998.
Blair's real coalition
Watching the British parliamentary debate on Iraq this week made me proud of my homeland, and particularly proud of the Tory party. The Tories have been doggedly attempting to claw back some public support away from Tony Blair's Labour Party for six years now. The closest they have ever come (apart from a brief spike in support during an oil crisis a few years back) was a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Blair's Iraq stance brought his support crashing to the low 30s. If ever there were a moment for a Machiavellian opposition to put the boot in, this was it.
And yet, conservative after conservative stood up in the House of Commons this week to support Mr. Blair, many, including former Tory leader William Hague, with plenty of reason to hold personal grudges. Mr. Blair's main opposition came from his own Labor party ranks as usual.
With Mr. Blair threatening to reform public services on more market-oriented lines, moves again opposed by his party's left wing, the prime minister is essentially running a coalition government the leader-less Tories, his own cabinet and a smattering of the middle classes. If the war goes well, this coalition will only deepen. And, if Mr. Blair loses seats in the next election, it may well be among the hard left he'd be quite happy to do without.
The Abyssinia precedent
A wonderful reminiscence by my old editor, Bill Deedes, appeared in the London Daily Telegraph this week. It was about how the Western powers, stymied by yes! France, bungled Mussolini's conquest of Abyssinia. Deedes was alive and kicking as a journalist at the time and remembers it all vividly. Does this sound familiar:
"The crisis in 1935 came closest to where we are now after October 4, when Mussolini launched his attack on Abyssinia. Britain's eagerness to set in motion the machinery of the League [of Nations] against Italy ran into immediate difficulties with France. Pierre Laval, the French foreign minister, was unwilling to antagonize Mussolini. The sticking point was the likelihood of action by the League, involving sanctions strong enough to thwart Mussolini, precipitating war. Though never a strong believer in the principle of sanctions, Eden believed that on this occasion they would be effective. He wanted the League to apply sanctions including oil sanctions to bring Mussolini to the negotiating table. Without the co-operation of France, this became a farce. When I passed through the Suez Canal in 1935 en route for Abyssinia, Mussolini's ships were drawing all the oil they wanted. Financial backing for Italy, I was told, came from the Banque de France. When I came back a few months later, the same conditions prevailed."
Appeasing Mussolini and Hitler wasn't in France's long-term interests then either. Plus ca change, I guess.
The Koufax conundrum
You've got to love the following response by a gay leftist to the New York Post's recent "outing" of Sandy Koufax, the baseball legend. Michael Bronski of the Boston Phoenix writes the following:
"Maybe Koufax is secretly gay plenty of gay men have been married, many twice or bisexual, or who knows what. But at its heart, this isn't a gay story, or even a sex story it is a baseball story. Baseball fans are simply unwilling or unable to contemplate the possibility that a baseball legend might be gay. The one lesson we can all learn from the Koufax affair is that when even the New York Daily News can recycle the old Seinfeld line "not that there's anything wrong with that" about gayness, the reality is that lots of people still think there is. Otherwise, privacy and principles aside, it wouldn't even be an issue."
Privacy and principles aside?? The question is not whether Koufax is gay or not; nor is it whether disdain of homosexuals fuels opinion in the sports world. The question is simply about whether a newspaper should run blind items trashing people's private lives, and impugning their personal integrity. End of conversation. Koufax was rightly enraged, not because he was described as a homosexual, but because a clearly private man had his privacy invaded in the most cowardly way possible by blind and baseless insinuations.


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