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Jewish World Review May 23, 2003 / 21 Iyar, 5763

James Lileks

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Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In 10 years they'll be calling the summer of '03 a crucial interval. A portentous season. The weeks when the shape of the Middle East's future became clear.

Right now, however, teasing meaning from the tangle of current events is like separating a single strand of spaghetti from a cold pile of pasta. Right now, it's all a mess.

Here's a brief survey of the overboiling kettles that are complicating planetary amity:

Missing: one irregularly shaped nation. Answers to "Iraq." Last seen in mid-March. If you have seen this nation, please call your local newspaper.

It's amazing how quickly Iraq tumbled off the front page; it's as if everyone thought the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue was the end of the story, not the beginning. The Iraqis were hit hard by SARS -- not the disease itself, but the coverage of it. A few thousand cases of a mildly fatal virus half a planet away made the American media swing its lens away from Iraq, and we haven't yet regained our fascination for matters Mesopotamian.

From some reports, the situation in Baghdad is bollixed beyond belief. Other cities are faring better, but most of them have just scrolled off the teleprompter. We no more worry about water supplies in Umm Qasr than we ponder the state of the electrical grid in that northern Afghanistan town that was so important in December 2001. Remember that town? No?

Reports on reconstruction ought to be page one, every day; the state of the occupation ought to lead the cable news, every show. Providing, of course, there have been no developments in the Laci Peterson case, and Jayson Blair hasn't claimed to have interviewed Hitler on the moon.

Al-Qaida is back, and bigger than ever! So the headlines suggest. "Experts" are warning that the network has reconstituted itself, and everyone seems to think that Osama bin Laden is alive and hale, and directing it all from a subterranean lair with a white cat in his lap. But if al-Qaida wanted to regain its former status as the fearsome Hydra-headed foe, it would have to do something big. It would bring down the Eiffel Tower. Slam a jet into Big Ben or send the Golden Gate bridge thundering into the bay. These are big-ticket items, and their destruction would jellify knees around the West again.

It takes little skill to blow up an unguarded cafe. What's more, these attacks are taking place in Arab lands, which shows that the terrorists don't care if they alienate the very cultures that shelter them. Suicide bombings, indeed.

Even if al-Qaida is crushed, it doesn't mean the war on terrorism is over. Demolish the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood of Muslims takes it place. Smash The Army of G-d, and say hello to G-d's Army. Moroccan officials speculate that the Casablanca bombings might have been the work of Salafia Jihadia, a group that sounds like it took its name from rejected automobile brands. There are dozens and dozens of these groups. As long as those pesky Jews refuse to load their pockets with bricks and hop in the ocean, there will be terrorists. As long as the West refuses to close down the cathedrals and put the crescent over all the parliament houses, we'll have to deal with these guys.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached another impasse: Israel refuses to stop the provocative practice of placing its buses on public roads. The very sight of these vehicles inflames middle-class young men, who cannot resist killing everyone aboard with nail bombs. The new Palestinian leadership has agreed to smite some wrists, one of these days. Meanwhile, the road map to peace is impossible to fold up so that it's nice and flat. Everyone ends up jamming it in the glove compartment, cursing.

Perhaps sometime in June in a lab on a campus somewhere, a chemist will look at his experiments and realize he has just synthesized petroleum from recycled Pampers. And five years later the oil revenues that fund modern madness will shrivel and cease. Could happen. The shape of the future isn't always obvious on the front page. History always finds the themes in the chaos. Sometimes the theme, unfortunately, is Chaos itself.



JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

Up

05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks