For a healthy bit of schadenfreude, take a look at this blog post from Katha Pollitt, a columnist for the Nation. It is a plaintive letter begging Cindy Sheehan (the well-known anti-war activist) not to challenge Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress.
The appearance, in a major political weekly, of an earnest plea for a flaky anti-war activist not to run against the Speaker of the House may seem journalistically unserious. But this race would not, to put it kindly, help the image of the Democrats nationwide; Pollitt is doubtlessly aware of this. “Instead of showing the Democrats how strong is the threat from the Left, it will show them how weak it is,” she writes. But if someone as nutty as Sheehan did relatively well—say, winning over 30 percent of the vote (hardly an impossibility in San Francisco)—it would look rather bad for the Democrats, and not just for the hard Left.
Pollitt’s lamentations are most amusing because the Nation, after all, has been Sheehan’s most full-throated supporter. Here’s one typical paean to her, published last year. And here’s a piece Sheehan herself wrote for the magazine, in which she tells of her “meeting with the families of children murdered in George Bush’s War of Terror against the world,” and celebrates “being toasted by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston.”
So it would be ironic to see a Sheehan candidacy that the Nation itself unwittingly launched. No matter how well Sheehan did, such a candidacy would be a lose/lose situation for the different wings of the anti-war Left. But, as the old song goes, “You dance with the one that brung ya.”
Ross Douthat, one of the bright lights of the rising generation of young conservatives (boy, it makes me feel old to write that!), professes himself dissatisfied with my forthcoming COMMENTARY article, “How Not to Get out of Iraq.” On his Atlantic blog he pounces on my admission that “the surge might still fail in the long run if Iraqis prove incapable of reaching political compromises even in a more secure environment.”
“This is not satisfactory. . . .” he writes. “[I]f we are to continue on our current path, we need to have less talk about the dangers of the alternative military approaches, and more talk about our options on the political front.” Unless we can come up with a good political solution, Douthat suggests, we might as well pull out. “As bad as admitting defeat would be, it’s preferable to asking thousands more Americans to die for what ends up being judged a mistake.”
Parliaments the world over have attempted to emulate Westminster, the mother of modern Western democracy. Clearly, Westminster’s aura and glory have more to do with its enduring legacy as an institution than with the men and women who rotate in and out of its austere hall. Nevertheless, those men and women will, sooner or later, contribute to Westminster’s reputation. Indeed, a few weeks ago, when one of their committees released a report on the Middle East peace process, the Lords did their share to tarnish the credibility of their unelected house. Not to be outdone, the Commons have now produced their own report. A selection of its recommendations does little to honor its compilers.
The State Department has designated Fatah al-Islam, a self-declared al-Qaeda affiliate of Sunni Muslim extremists based in northern Lebanon, a “terrorist” group.
Back in March, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, explained that this outfit, consisting of a relatively small number of fighters but heavily armed, was actually a creature of the United States. In line with a reorientation of U.S. policy to bolster Sunni Muslims in the growing contest with the Shiites of Hizballah and its controlling hands in Iran, the U.S. had covertly joined with Saudi Arabia to support the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam.
Here was Hersh in May amplifying his point on CNN:
Key player are the Saudis, of course, and [Saudi Prince] Bandar. What I was writing about was a sort of a private agreement that was made between the White House, we’re talking about [Vice-President] Dick Cheney and Elliott Abrams, who is one of the key aides in the White House, with Bandar. And the idea was to get support, covert support—money, from the Saudis to support various hard-line jihadists, Sunni groups, particularly in Lebanon, who would be seen in case of an actual confrontation with Hezbollah.
• “Once or twice in a generation—if that often—a very wise person writes a very pithy book that compresses everything that needs to be said about a given topic into the briefest of compasses. The Road to Serfdom, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, The Abolition of Man: books like these are made to be given to puzzled friends. They change minds, and lives.”
That was how I heralded, in National Review eight years ago, the publication of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s One Nation, Two Cultures. Roger Scruton’s Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged is no less concise—and significant. Like One Nation, Two Cultures, it is a small masterpiece of lucid compression that appears at a timely moment, and my guess is that its brevity will cause it to be read by a great many people who might not otherwise choose to grapple with a book by a philosopher.