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Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Newsweeklies move on to latest menace | Poor Saddam.

He's so obviously doomed that his 15 minutes of infamy are already up.

While we wait for our massing armies to waste him and liberate the imprisoned oil fields er, people of Iraq, Time and Newsweek have moved on to a new Cover Boy of Evil.

Let's give a big, warm hello to Kim Jong-il, the incredibly goofy but dangerous dictator of North Korea. Newsweek, which aptly calls him "Dr. Evil" on its cover, shows Kim in all his Mike Myersian strangeness silly puffed-up hairdo and shades.

Time's cover takes a more ominous tack, framing Kim's mug with a clutch of ballistic missile warheads and declaring that, despite his penchant for leisure suits, platform shoes and American culture, Kim is a "nuclear menace" and possibly more dangerous to the world and the United States than Saddam Hussein.

Both magazines cover the latest foreign policy conundrum for the Bush Administration the North Korean problem, which sprang up when Kim-Bob reopened his plutonium processing facility and said he was going to resume making nuclear warheads.

Are Kim and his advanced military machine more or less deserving of pre-emptive attack than Hussein? Should we do unto North Korea what we are about to do unto Iraq? Or not do it unto either?

Only a genius such as Henry Kissinger knows for sure. But for the rest of us, Newsweek holds a mini-debate on who's the greater threat.

Michael Hirsh argues that Kim, whose subjects are mostly starving and whose swollen armies are a morning commute from Seoul, "can do more harm to more people more quickly and in more ways than Saddam."

Christopher Dickey, echoing the Bush Administration, makes the case that Hussein still deserves to have his regime changed and that it should be done before his scientists can achieve weapons as powerful as North Korea's.

Over at U.S. News & World Report, where they think Kim is goofy but crafty and not nuts, the cover story takes a global look at our always-fuzzy foreign policy picture.

"The New American Empire?" takes a thoughtful, fair-minded, historical look at whether America is, as author Jay Tolson so gently puts it, "succumbing to the imperial itch" or merely a hyperpower throwing its weight around in places it doesn't belong.

Meanwhile, don't worry about any calls for U.S. intervention in Venezuela from Mother Jones in its article on the brewing civil war that has brought six weeks of social/economic/political/constitutional chaos to the world's No. 4 oil-producing country.

Mother Jones is arguably the best of the progressive-left magazines. And although Barry Lynn's long piece about the strike of Venezuela's middle and upper classes against the government is interesting and informative, Mother Jones is too ideologically fond of Venezuela's populist left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, to see straight.

Chavez a Fidel Castro wannabe who was freely elected but is hated by the elites who've misruled Venezuela is no weapons-grade weirdo or threat to world peace like his ideological soulmate Kim Jong-il.

But as Lynn can't help but acknowledge, Chavez has screwed up the economy and generally made a mess of things. Yet these minor shortcomings are excused, because Chavez's intentions are good and he's so passionate about empowering the poor.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald