Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2001/ 7 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

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The permanent coalition


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I'M with Ariel Sharon. And so is President Bush, despite the public doubts of cushion-chair generals in Washington, DC (Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Robert L. Pollack, etc.), to the contrary. The media's strident hawks, who'd just as soon Colin Powell take a powder and write another book, are actually providing a useful service to the Bush administration.

By braying so loudly that the United States can't win the war against terrorism without the elimination of Saddam Hussein and Yasir Arafat, they're providing cover for the President as he prosecutes the "first phase" of the war in Afghanistan. It's also helpful that Sen. Joe Lieberman made the following statement last week: "As long as Saddam is there, Iraq is not just going to be a thorn in our side, but a threat to our lives."

(Not that Powell hasn't appeared soft-or to use the current cliche, wobbly-at times. When he made the absurd comment last week that "moderate" Taliban officials might be included in a new Afghan government, the only charitable conclusion is that he was horribly jetlagged.)

Given that Kristol, for example, was Sen. John McCain's right thumb last year, some might believe that he's sincerely worried Bush will declare victory by merely parading bin Laden's head on a spike on the grounds of his Crawford ranch. But Kristol's far too smart to reach such a narrowminded conclusion, for Bush has repeatedly stated that the overseas campaign will most likely take two years; no one believes that toppling the Taliban and capturing bin Laden will take that long. As Donald Rumsfeld has succinctly telegraphed (unlike his understudy Paul Wolfowitz, whose mission is to make "bellicose" pronouncements on the future of U.S. military action, incurring the wrath of the anti-Israel New York Times), to anyone who's paying attention, once bin Laden is dispatched, Iraq will be next on the agenda.

I don't think Kristol's writing partner Kagan is quite as surefooted. On Oct. 17, he wrote in The Washington Post: "When the refreshingly blunt-spoken deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, was asked for the umpteenth time on Sunday whether the United States might target any other terrorist-supporting countries besides Afghanistan, he responded with this curious formulation: If 'the coalition felt it was necessary to go after terrorist groups in other countries, this would be a matter for the coalition to discuss among themselves.' Well, thanks. Maybe when 'the coalition' finishes discussing the matter, someone will let us Americans know what they decide."

Where do you begin deconstructing such a naive opinion? First, the Bush administration is wisely not conducting military briefings with the likes of Kagan, let alone the entire country, about its strategy. Second, in this very beginning of the United States' war-just six weeks old-it's imperative to make temporary alliances with shifty leaders of nondemocratic nations.

But how clear does Bush have to be to satisfy hawks that any state that harbors terrorists is an enemy of the U.S.? He's only repeated that about 40 times since Sept. 11.

In the meantime, while American spokesmen suck it up and urge Sharon not to escalate tensions in the Mideast, even after the targeted assassination of Israeli hero and cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi, there's little doubt in my mind that Bush and Sharon are in agreement about the ultimate result of this campaign. The President has taken a lot of grief for stating a few weeks ago that he envisioned a future Palestinian state, leading alarmists to bark that Bush is retreating into Bill Clinton's feckless, legacy-driven foreign policy. But unlike Clinton, who along with Ehud Barak was willing to sell Israel down the river by giving Arafat a sweetheart deal, only to have the PLO fanatic turn it down, Bush is speaking, like Sharon, about a distant time when Arafat is either deposed or, one hopes, shot three times in the head and throat like Zeevi.

The Times, in an incredible editorial on Oct. 19, which barely scolded Arafat, said: "Mr. Sharon also needs to exercise restraint. He is under enormous pressure to respond forcefully... During the 1991 Persian Gulf war Israel wisely honored American requests for military restraint, even in the face of Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv. After [Zeevi's] killing, Israel must again summon the political strength to act wisely and carefully." You'd think the Times management, after witnessing the WTC attacks and the serial murders of Israeli citizens by suicide bombers, might not be so cavalier with its advice. But regular readers know better.

I believe that Sharon should proceed with his escalation of Israel's war against Arafat and the PLO: the United States will be right beside him. (And so will Britain's Tony Blair, once he clears up some domestic opposition, such as scuttling that antiquated "Third Way" gibberish, as well as presenting "evidence" that Saddam Hussein was complicit in the 9/11 atrocities, which ought to take about a minute.) One hopes that Rumsfeld and his military team are covertly recruiting expert Israeli commandos in the Afghanistan battle, but even if they're not, in the end it'll probably come down to the United States, Britain and Israel (aided perhaps by less farsighted European allies) to fully demolish the world's leading practitioners of terrorism. As for greedy and unappreciative states like Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to name just a few, if they don't want to cooperate it'll be their own funeral.

It's time, in the parlance of the 80s, to let Sharon be Sharon. In Monday's Wall Street Journal, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, echoed a growing sentiment of many citizens here. He said: "Would the U.S. respond with restraint if one of our cabinet ministers was murdered by a terrorist? I don't think so. George Bush should follow the mission he stated initially: to destroy all regimes that harbor terrorists or promote terrorism."

Obviously, all-out bloodshed in the Mideast will exacerbate the already tense atmosphere in the world. But it seems to me that a concentrated period of eradicating as much evil as possible is preferable to a protracted, step-by-step orchestration of the war against terrorism.

TOM BROKAW: ANTHRAX WARRIOR
No single image in the past week captured the self-absorbed media's anthrax hysteria more forcefully than the New York Post's cover of Oct. 20. A picture of Post editorial page assistant Johanna Huden, one of fewer than 50 Americans stricken by the bacterium, consumed half the front page, her bandaged middle finger raised, with the headline above reading "ANTHRAX THIS."

Inside, she wrote about her ordeal, concluding: "I had watched the World Trade Center come down from my Lower East Side roof. And now I was the victim of a terrorist act. Not the same thing. Yet, to me, very scary. But I'm on Cipro. My finger is healing. I'll be OK. Am I quitting my job? Absolutely not. I've been kicking butt in this town for 7 years-trying to make it as a journalist in the biggest and best city in the world. And I will. Too bad, Osama. You loser."

Still, that reaction was a welcome antidote to Denny Hastert and Dick Gephardt shutting down the House of Representatives last week in Washington. The Senate, to its credit, stayed open for business. It's understandable that the country's top legislators want to protect the thousands of congressional employees from the anthrax threat; but you'd think, in the midst of a national frenzy sparked by the shameless Tom Brokaw (what, has another printing of The Greatest Generation just arrived at bookstores?), Hastert and his Chicken Little colleagues could've relocated to another building in DC and not taken a snow day.

One of the more stomach-turning tributes to Brokaw, a staple of New York's party circuit, came, predictably, from the president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Speaking to The Washington Post's reverential Howard Kurtz, Robert Lichter said: "Brokaw has always been the Jimmy Stewart anchor, the straight-up, down-home, plain-spoken Midwesterner. An attack on Tom Brokaw seems like an attack on America... At times of crisis, television's role is less to provide information than to provide emotional bonding. Brokaw projects the emotions of one who feels the reality of terrorism most directly."

Thanks just the same, but I'll skip the "emotional bonding," especially if it includes Brokaw's Dan Rather-esque sign-off of "In Cipro we trust." The folksy (for a tv personality) new anchor for CNN, Aaron Brown, looks better all the time. It's because of Brokaw's grandstanding that Mike Barnicle was able to write in last Sunday's Daily News: "On Thursday, at the drugstore where I buy fistfuls of horribly expensive pills aimed at keeping my heart beating, the pharmacist told me with great disgust about the number of fools who had managed to hound their doctors into writing a prescription for Cipro. We both were wondering what will happen when flu season hits. Right now, many firefighters, EMTs and too many hospital emergency rooms are near collapse dealing with the daffy who assume a common chest cold and allergies mean they will be in the front parlor of a funeral home by dusk."


JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2001, Russ Smith