War and Peace, Friday Version; Odds and Ends; The Sweatiest Pic, Round V

by Jonah Goldberg

WAR AND PEACE, FRIDAY VERSION
Well, my education continues. Let’s see, on Wednesday I was for opening a fresh can of whup ass on Slobodan Milosevic. On Thursday, I was a reluctantly in favor, fretting over the lack of an exit strategy. Today, well, today, I just don’t know. I’ve been calling around Washington; I’ve gotten into terrible arguments with my staff (the fridge is a huge isolationist); I’ve been pulling books off the shelves I had consigned to “just for show” status a long time ago, trying to figure this out.

In principle, I’m still for bestriding the globe like a moralizing Colossus imposing our white, Western, bourgeois values in every hamlet in every corner of the world…. Just kidding! I just know how much that talk peeves my “you-should-shut-the-hell-up-you-one-world-Clinton-loving-draft-dodging-hypocrite-and-what’s-with-that-music-you-kids-listen-to?-you-can’t-even-understand-the-words” readers. Seriously, in principle, I am for doing what’s right when you can. But, two things are leading me to the conclusion that this is not one of those “when you can” moments.

The first is simply practical. The Gulf War was the first instance in a generation where military strategists thought an air war might be successful without ground troops. The weather was always clear. The surface was wide open desert. And after 45 days of brutal bombing, the generals came to the conclusion that the tanks still had to go in. Well, in the first place, Yugoslavia was designed by God to fend off attacks from the air. The country is all mountains, forest, fog, and cities. There is no way NATO will ever or should ever bomb a European nation along the lines of Iraq. If it does, then the peace will be worse than the war.

There is simply no way we can send troops and tanks into Yugoslavia. The Germans sent hundreds of thousands in there and the partisans came out picking their teeth with little Iron Crosses. And while Milosevic is a first rate thug, the Kosovo Albanians aren’t exactly saints either. And Kosovo isn’t a foreign country. (Those of you have written me yelling much of the above will find it familiar).

But there’s a second reason for reluctance — which has nothing to do with principles or practicalities. It has to do with the fact that our Commander in Chief has about as much moral authority as Al Gore has rhythm. As one reader wrote me, if Clinton “is fer it, I’m agin’ it.” Surprisingly, therein lies wisdom.

The president opposed the B-2 bomber throughout his career, but now he boasts about its effectiveness. In his budget, he asked for no new cruise missiles, but now he’s tossing them around like his wife with a stockpile of lamps (leaving none for the real threats out there). In his televised speech announcing the attack, he bemoaned that earlier in the decade “many people believed nothing could be done to end the bloodshed in Bosnia.” But he didn’t finish that sentence by saying, “and one of those people is wearing my pants and talking to you right now.” Bill Clinton wrote off the bloodshed in Bosnia so he could focus like a laser on his zipper, I mean the economy. And remember that Bill Clinton never had a nice thing to say about men in uniform when he wasn’t bossing them around. When he was at risk of having to put on a uniform, he called the military a hateful institution, split for Oxford, and didn’t inhale.

Then there is the pesky issue of the Jews. No just kidding again, it’s just fun to write that sometimes. But there is the pesky issue of the timing of all this. When we bombed that pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, I refused to believe the wag the dog scenario. When we went to war with Iraq for nothing new, I refused to believe. But the evidence in retrospect looks ever more credible. Let us not forget that the release of the Cox Report was the pressing issue on the political horizon. Now it is largely buried.

As I wrote yesterday, I think the president is largely motivated by the desire to embellish his legacy. And as morally tacky as that it is, it is not unusual. Presidents often do the right thing for the wrong reason, i.e., because they want history to remember them fondly. The problem here is that all things considered, it is just as likely that the president is doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. But the wrong thing will be easier for him to spin.

ODDS AND ENDS
Today is supposed to be C&C Friday, but since I have been correcting and clarifying myself every day, there’s not much left to address here. For the last three days, I’ve been doing my Hamlet act over Kosovo. And I still don’t know where I am. So I will take the weekend and ponder further.

As I mentioned Tuesday, I totally butchered identifying pretty much every one of the Commie-symps who refused to applaud for Elia Kazan, except for Nick Nolte. I hope none of you mobbed the misidentifieds’ homes and beat them senseless. That would be unfortunate, although I’m sure they did something wrong, so don’t feel too bad if you did.

And today is the last round of nominees before the “sweat off” finalists next week. And on Monday we announce the definitive list. Please stop sending me more nominations. You don’t know what it is like to check your e-mail and find “SWEATIEST MOVIE” or “SWEAT FILMS” in a hundred different subject headers and not have a single one be porn.

The Jonah Poll What is the sweatiest movie ever made? Round V
Gallipoli
Towering Inferno
In the Heat of the Night
North Dallas Forty
King Rat

Thanks to all of you who wrote me about the fact that Crossfire had a replacement host who wasn’t me again. I think that ship has sailed. So be it. Between my blood donations, can-collecting, 18 hours a day of Matlock re-runs, and gum-wrapper origami businesses, I just don’t have time anyway. No, wait, watching TV isn’t a business. But it should be and I’m too tired to fix that sentence.

I would also like to wish a loyal reader a happy birthday. Happy Birthday Robert J. Kurland! (His friends call him Bob). His daughter asked me because “he’s such a fan” and it would be a real treat. I was reluctant to do it. My reluctance wasn’t because I’m a cruel and vicious person who takes joy in denying fathers “treats” or because he has yet to send me a pile of cash. But I’ve learned that precedents in this space tend to make work for me. And, well, you know how I feel about work. And this precedent could be really bad — I could turn into the right-wing cyber version of Willard Scott from the Today show. “Hi, everybody! Molly Greenbaum is 100 today. She hates Bill Clinton, thinks the Rosenbergs got off easy, and — even though she has no teeth — she still eats solid food because she imagines it’s the flesh of Paul Begala.”

So please, keep requests of this kind to a minimum.

And, if I missed anything I should have corrected, I’m sure you’ll let me know.