Right Hook

Coulter says Bush didn't need an Iraq plan; O'Reilly blasts the liberal Reagan trashers at CBS; the Weekly Standard gloats at the impotent rage of the "urban and urbane, with-it, refined" Bush haters.

Published November 12, 2003 8:33PM (EST)

Although President Bush long ago declared major combat over in Iraq, the U.S. occupation has been in a state of low-grade chaos for several months, with guerrilla attacks against U.S. troops and civilian targets steadily increasing. That instability has led to severe criticism of the Bush administration's postwar planning. But Jewish World Review contributor Ann Coulter says a plan that would make all the problems go away was never possible -- especially considering that we're dealing with "Islamic lunatics" who "enjoy blowing things up."

"The Democrats' incessant demand for a 'plan' tends to suggest that there is something called 'The Plan,' which would magically prevent bad things from ever happening -- especially something as totally unexpected as violence in the Middle East. Violence in the Middle East constantly comes as a bolt out of the blue to liberals.

"Bush said deposing Saddam Hussein and building a democracy in Iraq was an essential part of the war on terrorism. He did not say that invading Iraq would instantly end all Muslim violence and rainy days that make liberals blue. We're at war with Islamic lunatics. They enjoy blowing people up. What further insights do liberals have to impart about this war?"

In an odd burst of pop-culture-laced bluster, Coulter explains why in war, the best-laid plans are pointless.

"A war is not as predictable as, say, a George Clooney movie (although generally more entertaining). Historian Stephen Ambrose described Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's genius as a soldier, noting that 'he often said that in preparing for battle, plans were essential, but that once the battle was joined, plans were useless.' Transforming a blood-soaked police state dotted with mass graves and rape rooms into a self-governing republic might take slightly longer than this week's makeover on 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'"

And why should liberals whine about the troops being killed in Iraq, Coulter goes on, when their bleeding-heart policies toward blacks have resulted in more ghetto murder victims than troops killed since May 1?

"The U.S. military has had considerably more success in turning Iraq around than liberals have had in turning the ghettos around with their 40-year 'War on Poverty.' So far, fewer troops have been killed by hostile fire since the end of major combat in Iraq than civilians were murdered in Washington, D.C., last year (239 deaths in Iraq compared to 262 murders in D.C.). How many years has it been since we declared the end of major U.S. combat operations against Marion Barry's regime? How long before we just give up and pull out of that hellish quagmire known as Washington, D.C.?...

"Needless to say, the Democrats have no actual plan of their own, unless 'surrender' counts as a plan. They just enjoy complaining about every bombing, every attack from Muslim terrorists, every mishap."

Those terrorist attacks have been widely publicized, but Brendan Miniter, assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, says there's a success story in Iraq that has gone unreported. The media, he says, has skipped over a string of U.S. military victories in capturing and killing the enemy.

"Just about every media organization seems to have gotten the message that it should report the good news along with the bad in Iraq. So along with every report of an American soldier killed, we can now expect the obligatory quote from an administration official pointing out that there are plenty of positive developments in Iraq. Yet one positive story that gets little media attention and consequently leaves many Americans wondering how well the war is going is what happens after American soldiers are attacked. Why aren't retaliatory strikes reported more prominently?

"Virtually every attack on American soldiers has drawn a response from coalition forces. The world is seeing that now -- after the downing of three American helicopters, including a Black Hawk -- with the strikes by F-16s with precision guided 500-pound bombs. Iraq hasn't been the scene of such massive American firepower since April. The enemy is being made to pay a hefty price for each and every attack."

Miniter offers a laundry list of that enemy toll and spanks the "lazy" media for missing it.

"The death of an American soldier is front page news, while the death of his attacker is buried deep inside the paper, if reported at all. But there's another reason why the response to attacks are rarely reported. The military judiciously applies force, which means there's often no big explosion to show the viewing public back home. The enemy blows up civilians, while coalition forces use precision strikes to remove enemy combatants. But more to the point, the media are a lazy beast and, it seems, the Pentagon hasn't been doing a good job feeding it."

Tom Donnelly of the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute sees holes in the Pentagon's latest troop-rotation plan for Iraq. With the U.S. facing a long-term struggle there, in Afghanistan and possibly elsewhere, Donnelly warns of already thin U.S. military resources and raises the prospect of reinstating the draft.

"The Pentagon's 'plan' to reduce troop strength in Iraq from the current 132,000 to 105,000 by next May is not so much a reflection of the military requirements of occupation as an expression of inadequate resources: Absent full mobilization (a new military draft or something like it), this is all the ground force the United States can muster.

"A quick look at the rotation plan -- "Operation Iraqi Freedom 2," the Pentagon calls it -- shows just how bare the cupboard is..."

Donnelly wonders about too much reliance on the armed forces' reserves, which may provide the necessary numbers but still not be up to the task. And he sees coming election-year politics as a real threat to long-term military success.

"For all that the reserves can deliver, their basic structure is a relic of the Cold War. Designed for mobilization in the event of another world war, the reserves are one of the least reformed elements of the defense establishment. In Iraq, these units will undergo trial by fire. Not only will the tours be longer, exacerbating tensions in families, hometowns, and workplaces, but the duty is far more dangerous than, for example, the Balkans missions of the 1990s...

"Rotation will begin at the same time as the American primary season and will last about as long. So, just as the winds of politics really pick up, decisions on how to provide for the next rounds of rotation will be made. The preferred course will likely be to simply extend our current underwhelming commitment in Iraq. Our military strategy will continue to be determined by force-structure decisions made decades ago. After all, the Defense Department still refuses to accept the connection between Iraq and the larger war. It also pretends to believe that the current level of operations is just a temporary spike when it clearly marks the beginning of a new norm.

"Last week Sen. John McCain observed, 'The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives.' Noting the rising number and increasing sophistication of guerrilla attacks and the pitfalls of hasty 'Iraqification,' McCain tried to tell the Pentagon and the president what senior military leaders say in private, but are too cowed to say out loud."

Let Ronald Reagan die in peace
Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly says it's too soon to put Ronald Reagan in the movies again, especially if it makes the former president look bad. In his latest column, he skips over the main controversy surrounding the yanked CBS production of "The Reagans" -- whether the story was wrong to include fictional homophobic statements by President Reagan. O'Reilly insists the whole thing is not about the First Amendment, but rather the media wars. Donning the cap of independent-minded media watchdog, he proceeds to blast the "left-wing" cabal at CBS.

"It is simply astounding that some people are spinning this Reagan movie controversy as a censorship issue. The usual left-wing suspects are screaming the 'conservatives' forced CBS to abandon the project...

"The truth is that the Reagan movie demeans a dying President and the wife who is caring for him. Ten years from now, this Reagan film could run all day long, and most of the public wouldn't really care."

O'Reilly casts himself as the defender of good old American "folks":

"I have often stated that the media is not looking out for you, because it doesn't understand you, nor does it care about you. The 'folks' are seen as ratings points -- dollar signs.

"You might think that a movie about the Reagans written by a liberal, produced by two liberals, directed by a left-winger, and starring the husband of Barbra Streisand might have raised a red flag or two. But not in the hallways of CBS Entertainment. That kind of roster is common in show business, so why would anyone question it?...

"Do you think CBS would have financed a movie about the Gores written by Rush Limbaugh? Of course not. Anyone pitching that would have been mocked and scorned. But it's okay to carve up the Reagans? More hypocrisy?

"In the end, this is another victory for the folks, not for the political ideologues. CBS could not care less if a few million conservative zealots object to a program. But when the wind shifts and the fire of indignation starts taking hold in the minds of everyday Americans who value fairness, then CBS and every other media outfit must care."

"Pacifist Europeans have short memories"
In time for Veterans Day in the United States, columnist Mark Steyn, writing in the London Daily Telegraph, says dovish Europeans don't understand that high-tech weapons are both necessary and humane:

"A couple of months back, I found myself in the company of a recently retired Continental prime minister and mentioned what a chap in the Pentagon had said to me about how the Europeans really needed to invest in new technology or they'd no longer be able to share the same battlefield with the Americans.

"I thought I was making a boring, technocratic, NATO-expenditure sort of point, but he took it morally and visibly recoiled. 'But why would we want to have such horrible weapons?' he said, aghast. 'In Europe today, it is just inconceivable to possess such things.'

"You can't help noticing that it's the low-tech weapons that are really horrible. In Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Congo, millions get hacked to death by machetes. Even on the very borders of EUtopia, hundreds of thousands died in the Balkans in mostly non-state-of-the-art ways until the Americans intervened.

"According to the latest estimates, the mass graves in Iraq contain the remains of at least 300,000 people, but we're still arguing about whether the war was 'justified.' The pacifism -- or, more accurately, passivism -- of Europe does not seem especially moral."

Steyn believes an identity crisis among Europeans is to blame. They don't see it, he says, nor do they grasp the eternal responsibility of the West to do battle around the globe:

"The EU has done a grand job of trumpeting its weakness as strength, but the fact remains that there's something hollow at the heart of European identity...

"When you say as much to Euro-grandees, they say, Ah, but you wouldn't understand, here on the Continent we have seen the horrors of war close up, the slaughter of the Somme casts long shadows. I'll say. In the New Statesman last week, Philip Kerr managed to yoke 'All Quiet on the Western Front' with Joan Baez and John Lennon, and unintentionally underlined just how obsolescent the Sixties folk-protest canon is. 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?' would have made a great song for the First World War, but not for Afghanistan or Iraq or anything we're likely to fight in the future.

"In our time, mass slaughter occurs only in places where the West refuses to act -- in the Sudan or North Korea -- or acts only under the contemptible and corrupting rules of UN 'peacekeeping,' as at Srebrenica. In Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere, technological advantage changes the moral calculus: it makes war the least worst option, the moral choice. At the 11th hour of the 11th day, we should remember those who died in the Great War, but recognize that it could never be 'the war to end all wars' and never should."

Love thine enemies
A number of conservatives have tried to figure out what makes the Bush haters tick, but Noemie Emery, contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, gets gleeful just egging them on:

"I love George W. Bush. I worship the man. I wake up every morning glad he is president. When annoyed by small things -- traffic, the weather, an overcharge -- I say to myself, 'President Bush,' and at once feel better. I like his worldview. I like his dogs and his wife and his mother. I think he looks cool in his shorts and his t-shirts. But it isn't these things that make my heart flutter: It's that he drives the people I hate the most nuts.

"The Germans created the word schadenfreude to describe the pleasure one might feel at the woes of one's allies, but no one has yet coined a word for the happiness that can come to a person when those who annoy him complain. Open the paper, and there they all are: the hard-faced women who refer to abortion as 'choice,' the soft-faced male writers who look a little too pampered, the actors, the artists, the faculty hotshots, the with-it, the urbane and the urban, the concerned, the refined, the sincere.

"They are enraged that someone unlike them has power; enraged because they think he is dumb, and he always outsmarts them...

"Above all, they are enraged that they can't sell their wrath to the rest of the country, which calmly remains unenraged...

"And in them I find a perverse satisfaction. If, as Churchill maintains, it is exhilarating to be shot at and missed, it is also enlivening to have your opponent empty both barrels, to more or less meager effect. I read Sidney Blumenthal's mournful account of the Florida recount. I read junior writers at policy journals proclaim with no proof they are smarter than Bush is. I read them all, and I wickedly grin."

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Read more of "Right Hook," Salon's weekly roundup of conservative commentary and analysis here.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Ann Coulter Bill O'reilly Cbs Fox News Iraq Middle East National Security Ronald Reagan