Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 2001 / 14 Kislev, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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The underminers -- THE headline on the cover of the November 12th issue of The New Republic magazine read "Losing the War," and the cover featured a caricature of President Bush in a ridiculous pose, and with a ridiculous expression on his face, winding up to throw missiles. This issue appeared just before the series of stunning victories in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, The New Republic was not unique. Many in the media have been busy predicting a quagmire in Afghanistan or scurrying around to focus on collateral damage from American bombing or repeatedly asking when it would all end, much like the proverbial child on a trip who keeps asking, "Are we there yet?" Do these people know that World War II was more than three years old before the Allies won a single major battle on the ground against the Germans or the Japanese?

More than ignorance is involved here, though there is plenty of that. Whether in war or peace, many among the intelligentsia are in a permanently adversarial stance against this country and its institutions. Wartime just makes this stand out in more stark contrast with the feelings of most other Americans.

You can find American flags flying in affluent communities or in lower income communities, in black communities and in white communities. But you can drive through literally miles of Berkeley, California, without seeing a single American flag flying from a single home. Fire engines in Berkeley were explicitly forbidden to fly American flags, for fear of setting off the campus hooligans there -- until a public outcry caused this order to be rescinded.

While we are rightly concerned about thousands of suspected terrorists allowed into this country under our loose immigration laws, we should never forget our vastly greater numbers of home-grown underminers and potential defeatists or worse. In case we needed to be reminded, Jane Fonda was recently included in a list of the 100 most influential women of our time.

American prisoners of war in Vietnam, some of whom were beaten mercilessly for not cooperating with her propaganda visits there to show her solidarity with our enemies in wartime, are not likely to forget her.

Why are people who have been blessed more than others so often in the vanguard of those hostile to American society and Western civilization? Partly it may be because those who are far beyond needing to be concerned about having their material needs well taken care of can only aspire to ego gratifications, such as being one-up on those around them.

In a History Channel documentary, for example, ABC anchorman Peter Jennings said that Americans in Franklin D. Roosevelt's time were so "naive" that most of them did not know that their president couldn't walk and was in a wheelchair. In reality, virtually everyone in the country knew that FDR was stricken with polio and was reminded of it every year during the March of Dimes campaign to fight this disease. The fact that the media of that day had the common decency not to make his private affliction a public spectacle had nothing to do with being "naive," despite Peter Jennings' smug ignorance.

Anything that can show America or Americans in a bad light is irresistible to large segments of the intelligentsia. Such moral one-upmanship is the norm on campuses across the country -- at least among the faculties, many of whom are 1960s radicals who have never had to grow up, thanks to being sheltered in the womb of academic tenure. The sharp split between students and professors about our current war against terrorism reflects a larger split between the American people and the self-righteous anointed in general.

During World War II, we understood that such self-indulgent vanity had no place when we were fighting for our survival. Today, when the likes of Saddam Hussein may be a few short years away from having nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the survival of civilization itself is at risk. In that larger context, our early victories in Afghanistan may turn out to mean no more than our early defeats in World War II.

The time is long overdue for everybody to grow up.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate