- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

Brilliant Berlusconi

No one should give him points for propriety. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, shouldn’t have responded to some pompous and self-righteous German deputy by likening him to a concentration camp commandant. But there is something deliriously refreshing about the combination of Mr. Berlusconi’s Italian brusqueness and the gray bureaucratese and smugness that attaches itself to the European parliament and the European Union. The placards he was in part responding to, criticizing his ascension to the EU presidency for six months — “No Godfather for Europe” — were hardly PC. But you really know Berlusconi is OK when you read solemn editorials like the following in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “If the coming months are only occupied with dumb provocations and vain character assassination, it is going to be difficult to move forward the European project. Being reasonable is not everybody’s thing.” If being unreasonable means some kind of delay or obstruction in moving forward the “European Project,” then let the unreasonableness play on.

‘Bring them on’

No, I don’t think the president’s off-hand remark Wednesday — when he responded to recent attacks on U.S. troops by renegade Saddam loyalists by saying, “Bring them on” — was merely rhetoric. And I don’t buy the overheated criticism. One of the many layers of the arguments for invading Iraq focused on the difficulties of waging a serious war on terror from a distant remove. Being based in Iraq helps us not only because of actual bases, but because the American presence there diverts terrorist attention away from elsewhere. By confronting them directly in Iraq, we get to engage them in a military setting that plays to our strengths rather than to theirs. We draw them out and take them on.

Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn’t always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open. This was an implicit part of the war plan in the first place. Now, it’s becoming explicit.

Now, Bloombergt

The mayor of New York City wants the Republicans to get rid of their virulently anti-homosexual party platform. The British Tories allow an open vote in Britain on gay marriage. Lynne Cheney celebrates the end of anti-sodomy laws. Wal-Mart protects its gay employees from discrimination. The Church of England installs an openly gay bishop. The editor of National Review Online endorses some sort of civil union. Kenneth Connor resigns as head of the Family Research Council. Do I detect a tipping point here?

Displaced Vietnam

The inevitable outbreaks of violence and dissension in Iraq are obviously worth covering and important news. But there’s an undercurrent of complete gloom in news reports that seems to me to be more fueled by ideological fervor than sober analysis. Given the magnitude and complexity of the task of rebuilding post-Saddam Iraq, it seems to me we’re making slow but decent progress. The lack of a complete social implosion or exploding civil war is itself a huge achievement. And no one said the reconstruction was going to be easy. So what’s behind this drumbeat of apocalypse? I think it’s a good rule among boomer journalists that every story they ever edit or write or film about warfare will at some point be squeezed into a Vietnam prism. The modern military has denied these people the chance to be vindicated during actual combat; so they will try and present the post-combat occupation in exactly the same light.

Yes, there is probably considerable discontent in Iraq right now; yes, every death is awful; but no, this isn’t even close to being combat, let alone Vietnam. Of course, I won’t be completely certain about this until R.W. Apple writes a front-page NYT news analysis piece laying out the new consensus. Tick, tock. Or is he too busy touring Devon?

Quote for the week

“[Bushs] fiscal record is appalling — spending is out of control. The fiscal record of the Bush administration makes Clinton look downright responsible.” — Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute.

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