Idiocy of the week

Sheryl Crow, brain-dead peacenik in sequins.

Published January 15, 2003 11:45PM (EST)

Doesn't it sometimes get a tad bit embarrassing being on the left these days? I'm not talking about legitimate left-liberal beliefs -- that income inequality is wrong, that corporations are evil, that governments are better judges than individuals about what's good for the world, etc. I'm talking about the way in which otherwise legitimate left-wing causes tend to get embraced by, well, the intellectually challenged.

I mean actors and celebrities and pop stars and others not exactly known for being the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree -- almost all of whom seem to drift into the camp of the knee-jerk left. I mean people like Barbra Streisand, who doesn't know the difference between Iraq and Iran, and who at this point must have done more to discredit Hollywood liberals than an entire bookshelf of National Reviews. I mean Sean Penn, another man who just helped Bush win more support for war. I mean, well, Sheryl Crow.

Yes, I know this is the proverbial cold-blooded vertebrate in a round wooden tub. But what are you gonna do? Ms. Crow showed up at the latest public relations exercise for the music industry, the American Music Awards, dressed in a sequined T-shirt with the message "War Is Not The Answer" blazoned across it. One word: Sequins? Here is a fabulously wealthy, famously cute singer, telling the impoverished men, women and children tortured, gassed and abused by one of the most disgusting dictators of all time that any attempt to rescue or liberate them is "not the answer." And she expresses this message in sequins. She couldn't afford diamonds?

One is also required to ask: If war is "not the answer," what exactly is the question? I wonder if, in her long interludes of geopolitical analysis, Ms. Crow even asks herself that. Perhaps if she did -- let's say the question is about the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists -- we might have an inkling about what her "answer" might actually be. Mercifully, Ms. Crow provides us with what she believes is an argument. Are you sitting down? Here it comes:

"I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

Let's take this bit by bit. "War is based in greed." Some wars, surely. The pirate wars of the 17th century. Saddam's incursion into Kuwait. Early British forays in the Far East and India. But all wars? The United States' intervention in the Second World War? The Wars of Religion in the 17th century? Many wars are fueled by nationalism, or by ideology, or by expansionism. And many wars have seen their protagonists not enriched but impoverished. Take Britain's entry into the war against Nazi Germany. It would have been far more lucrative for the Brits to have made a deal with Hitler, to preserve their wealth and empire. Instead, they waged war, lost their entire imperial project and ransacked their own domestic wealth. Where would that fit into Ms. Crow's worldview?

And then there's the concept of a just war -- wars that have to be fought to defeat a greater evil. Wars of self-defense. Wars of prevention. Wars against tyrants. Ms. Crow's remarks seem to acknowledge no such distinction. Does she believe that removing Hitler from power solved nothing? That preventing further genocide in the Balkans solved nothing? That ending 50 years of Soviet tyranny meant nothing? Apparently so. There's only one word for this kind of argument: Asinine.

Then we have this wonderful insight: "The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies." Wow. Like, wow. Like, war. It's bad. Bad karma. But, ahem, what if you have no choice in the matter? What if an enemy decides, out of hatred or fanaticism or ideology, simply to attack you? I'm not sure where Ms. Crow was on Sept. 11, 2001. But the enemy made its point palpably clear. Does wishing that these crazed religious nuts were not our enemies solve any problems?

I'm taking her too seriously, of course. I should ignore her. But the "antiwar" movement (I put it in quotation marks because any kind of appeasement this time will only make a bloodier future war inevitable) is happy to use celebrities for its own purposes. And so their presence in the debate has to be acknowledged, if only to be decried. So let's decry this moronic celebrity convergence. The weak arguments of the appease-Saddam left just got a little weaker. And the karmic retributions are gonna be harsh, man. Way harsh.

By Andrew Sullivan

Salon columnist Andrew Sullivan's commentary appears daily on his own Web site.

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