Crank Watch: Fresh Out of Friends
In the beginning our enemy in the War on Terror was very specific. It was bin Laden and the Taliban, skulking in Afghanistan. Then we connected the dots to bin Laden's shadowy international support network, Al Qaeda.
Then President Bush named among our enemies an "Axis of Evil" comprising Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. These states were named because they were repressive, hostile states that possessed, and/or aggressively sought, weapons of mass destruction.
Gradually more nations were named as a sort of Axis of Evil auxiliary. In a May 6 lecture at the Heritage Foundation, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton proposed Libya, Syria, and Cuba as WMD-terror-states-to-watch. "We call on Libya, Cuba, and Syria to live up to the agreements they have signed," said the under secretary. "We will watch closely their actions, not simply listen to their words."
This is already an impressive list. But pundits from big media to the blogosphere are dissatisfied with its thoroughness, and have proposed still more rogue states to be dealt with.
Mike Moran at MSNBC lists three "targets" for military action in Somalia, Algeria, and the Philippines. Also, "Other nations known to harbor terrorists who escaped the State Department's public stockade include Yemen (where the Pentagon wanted to be able to refuel its ships); Lebanon (whose isolation is regarded by State Department diplomats as counter-productive) and, most importantly, Pakistan (a nuclear-armed nation and now a key 'ally' against terrorism)."
Then there's Saudi Arabia. While the Bush Administration has been treating that oiligarchy with kid gloves, pundits such as Michael Barone are already drawing up war maps. "It may not be prudent yet to speak the truth out loud, that the Saudis are our enemies," says Barone. "But...it is increasingly clear that we must have regime change in Saudi-ruled Arabia as well [as in Iraq]."
In the face of this comprehensive Axis-plus, one would expect America's most strenuous defenders to speak well of those countries not suspected of homicidal intention toward us. On the contrary:
Europe as a whole is frequently targeted for abuse at National Review Online. This was the case before September 11, but it got considerably worse afterwards. Jonah Goldberg, in a pre-WTC screed, allowed as how "Most Europeans are honest, well-adjusted, and decent people." But by November he was declaring that "Europe has so thoroughly bought into anti-European propaganda that the continent is now thoroughly anti-Israel...there's pretty much not a nation on the European continent that has the right to lecture us about human rights or how to conduct our foreign policy." "Europeans have shown a new type of amorality," seconded Goldberg's colleague Victor Davis Hanson in February, "in some ways every bit as pernicious but far more insidious than their past creed of imperialism and colonialism." ("Let us remember," Hanson later added, "that Germany, Austria, France, and England almost ruined Western culture between 1914-18.")
At other sites Europe-bashing is occasionally supplemented by condemnations of other sub-standard states, such as Venezuela ("Never have I encountered a national character that is so feckless, and so indolent, as the Venezuelan one"--Opinion Journal).
Some warbloggers, ever adventuresome in the pursuit of new people and places to insult, have been talking smack about Canada. Sometimes the anti-Canucks express their feelings with funny pictures. Others complain that Canada has been soft on terrorists. There are even some Canadian warbloggers who might be called self-hating. As the Right's big media outlets pick up on this trend ("Canada Turns Into Terrorist Haven"--Insight), it can only be expected to flourish.
In the early days of the war, we did hear some kind words for England, particularly from expat Andrew Sullivan. But these have grown faint. Even Sullivan now prefers to speak of "the fusty, trendy condescension of the Blair generation, the former student radicals whose anti-Americanism is as ingrained as their addiction to pop-cultural ephemera."
"The current national mood," Daily Pundit wrote in January, is that "a large part of America is fed up. These people don't intend to take it any more. 3000 dead are enough, and it ends now. Whether the rest of the world likes it or not, George Bush was speaking for much of the American public when he said, 'You're either with us, or against us.' And this, history teaches, is probably one conflict where being against us may well be a mistake. A fatal one."
That same month, in a Newsweek article called "How Politics Changed on 9-11," Howard Fineman wrote, "the old pendulum swings between isolationism and engagement seem over now, probably forever." The question remains as to what direction the pendulum leaned toward when it stopped.
June 7, 2002