March 9, 2003

FIFTH COLUMN ALERT: Andrew Sullivan writes:

What, after all, is the difference between this and the 1990s? Nothing. But somehow we all knew it would come to this, didn’t we? The Times has been campaigning for appeasement of Saddam for over a year. The hawkish pirouettes in between were diversions. What this editorial is really about is the first shot in the coming domestic war – to undermine this military campaign once it begins, to bring down this administration, and to advocate the long-term delegation of American power to an internationalist contraption whose record has been to facilitate inaction and tyranny. The Times, in campaigning against war, has actually fired the opening shot in the coming domestic war. Hostilities have begun.

I guess this would matter more, if the editorial positions of the Times mattered more.

UPDATE: I guess it wasn’t clear, but the post above was supposed to be archly indicating that I think Andrew is a bit over the top with this point. “Domestic war?” And against the Times? I guess it was a little too arch, though, since neither Josh Chafetz nor Arthur Silber read it that way.

I think we’re quite a ways from “domestic war.” I do think that there are people in positions of influence who would rather see us lose this war. Some are honest about it, like Chrissie Hynde, and some aren’t. And some are just positioning themselves to take advantage if things go badly, but don’t otherwise care. Is that a “fifth column?” It’s enough of one that I think Andrew has won that point over the people who said he was over the top when he originally used the term.

But it’s not “domestic war.” And I don’t know whether the editors of The New York Times fall into this category. While they clearly have an irrational dislike for President Bush, my sense is that they want what’s best for America — however misguided their views on that subject might be — and aren’t calling, after the fashion of Chrissie Hynde, for America to be given “what it deserves.”

With regard to the latter group, though, I tend to agree with Susanna Cornett.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew responds, noting that:

By domestic war, I simply mean a deep domestic fight over the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. That’s a wrenching experience I hope won’t happen. But in many ways, it already has. To take one simple example: has there ever been a case when a former president has actually publicly undermined a sitting president at a critical time in U.N. diplomacy, essentially advising critical foreign governments to balk at America’s requests on the eve of a war? If someone knows of a precedent for Jimmy Carter’s op-ed, please let me know.

Good point. Imagine if Gerald Ford had been writing op-eds criticizing Carter’s handling of the hostage crisis, even as the negotiations were going on.

Then again, it could hardly have turned out worse. In fact, much of our problem with radical Islamism today is because of Carter’s weakness and ineptitude nearly twenty-five years ago.

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