Politics & Policy

You’Re in It, So Win It; Corrections & Clarifications, Early Edition


I am filing without benefit of seeing the morning papers, er, I mean without the ability to contact my sources. The news tonight is reporting that a U.S. patrol is missing. Since the American soldiers haven’t appeared on TV yet, I’m hoping they’re simply hiding. One has to think the Serbs would be dragging them on CNN if they could.

As anyone who has read my recent columns knows, I have agonized over this, the first hot European war the U.S. has been involved in since WWII. I think the president is a geopolitical bungler and moral solipsist. I think he never expected that Milosevic wouldn’t stick to the Sunday-show news cycle.

But I also think the U.S. has the right — and often the obligation — to do what it believes is the morally right thing. If it’s the right thing, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the U.N., the World Court, the Flat Earth Society, or anybody else.

But all of that is academic. The United States is in a war. When the United States is in a war the first objective must be to win. We are in a situation. We are not arguing in a dorm room by the light of a lava lamp about hypotheticals. We are one month prior to the fiftieth anniversary of NATO. If we walk away now, we will have declared that the coalition which beat Hitler, Tojo, and the heirs of Stalin was beaten by a two-bit thug who by all rights should have become a bouncer in a Belgrade disco when the Cold War ended.

This is not a “U.S. Right or Wrong” argument. Even great democracies are capable of unjust wars. But our stated war aims are noble, and so are the sentiments expressed by the American people. We are not invading a country or acting out of greed. So, to some extent, who cares what Clinton’s motives are if the nation’s are honorable? Our credibility is on the line. The choice now is between accepting defeat in the eyes of the world or seeing it through. John McCain has it right; if you’re in it, win it.

What does winning mean? It could mean liberating Kosovo as a separate state. It could mean killing Milosevic. It could mean a declaration of surrender by the Serbs. But I don’t think it means “degrading their military.” That’s like defining victory in a football game as keeping the spread low.


I am not filing tomorrow because I will be in New Orleans spending money I don’t have. So Correction and Clarification Friday is coming a little early. My one regret is that I won’t be able to deal with the president’s comment this evening that he was “honored” by his opportunity to defend the Constitution during his impeachment trial.

The feedback this week was pretty average in volume but remarkable in the diversity of quality. On Monday I wrote about Tim Russert’s double standard when it comes to the competing racists Louis Farrakhan and David Duke. In that column I asserted that: “For the last 20 years, from the Supreme Court down, we have sanctioned the idea that black politicians should represent black people exclusively.” It just happens that my faithful friend Daniel Troy is also a faithful reader. No problem there usually. But he outlandishly disagreed with me that the Supreme Court sanctions such thinking. The thin reed upon which he based this bone of contention (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?!) was the fact that he argued and won the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court which ruled, 5-4, that pure racial representation was unconstitutional.

If Dan wants to serve up such thin gruel (on that thin reed) for the normally intellectually rich fare served in this space, who am I to quibble?

While most people agreed with my take on the Meet the Press topic (and surprisingly most readers seem to agree that Russert is an all right guy), a small minority were upset about my treatment of Duke. One or two actually don’t want to read my column anymore because of my harsh attitude towards the former sheet-wearer. To these people I say: Don’t let the cyber-door hit your ass on the way out. But others are right when they say that some of Duke’s arguments resonate with decent Americans. But that is an argument for opposing Duke all the more. His “moderate” arguments are Trojan horses (or thin reeds or gruel) for a reprehensible agenda. If he is accepted as just another “right-wing politician” then the Left will have newfound credibility when it says that “welfare reform” and “merit” are just racist code words.

Yesterday’s column got virtually no response. I think this was because it was so far ahead of its time.

The last controversial issue was, of course, the war over there. I’ve got nothing new to correct or clarify since I just wrote about it. But I should say I am impressed every day with the quality of the arguments I get from readers on both sides of the issue. It seems that for the first time in a while the New York Times and MSNBC are right; conservatives are deeply divided over foreign policy. Who’da thunk it?

But as controversial as the subject is among conservatives, we should bear in mind that Yugoslavia is no Vietnam. As a matter of fact, Viet Nam wasn’t even Viet Nam. If memory serves, a professor named Sol Tax of the University of Chicago did a study which ranked Vietnam the fourth most controversial war in American history (it might have been the seventh but I’m filing from New York, and all my books are in D.C., and my couch won’t answer my research questions by phone). Obviously the Civil War was number one. But we actually had West Point grads fighting for the wrong (or in their view, the other) side during the Mexican American War.

Lastly, many people are writing me to say how much they liked my mother’s piece in the current issue of Slate and how much her writing style resembles my own. I recommend that everyone go check it out for themselves. On Monday, I will finally explain the real etymology of “scrotal toque.” How many columns have plugs like that?


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