The Long View 2004-06-22: Al Qaeda's Candidate; Missing Cicadas; Transitory Opposition

John J. Reilly, snark from beyond the grave

John J. Reilly, snark from beyond the grave

Thanks to Mark Steyn for linking to yesterday's The Long View re-post. John Reilly's been gone four and a half years, but even in death he manages to keep up with current events.

Here in June of 2004, John expresses some doubts about the existence of WMD in Iraq. Would that he had paid heed to that niggling suspicion.


Al Qaeda's Candidate; Missing Cicadas; Transitory Opposition

Every living soul in the United States knows that al-Qaeda hopes to stage a terrorist attack close to election day that will turn the incumbent administration out of office, on the model of the entirely successful train bombing in Madrid in March. Despite the fact everyone knows this to be the case, the Kerry Campaign must at least have some talking points that suggest otherwise. Talking points need not be persuasive; they are just things to say in answer to awkward questions. The state-of-the-art talking points in this regard may be found in a upcoming book called Imperial Hubris, which The Guardian mentioned on June 19. It was written by the most prolific of all authors:

Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

"I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said.

"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

It's not John Kerry's fault that the Islamist network hopes for his election, but there you have it. A Bush defeat would demonstrate to the governments of Muslim countries that there is no reliable support for them in the West. Though a Kerry Administration would no doubt eventually drop the Powell Doctrine when the roof fell in, President Kerry would almost certainly return to a diplomacy of process for several years. He would turn the question of the use of force over to an international security system with a record of masking the growth of threats, and he would make strategy with allies who are irresponsible or hostile. This would not buy peace. It would just mean war a little later, on worse terms.

* * *

Like many people all over the world, I remain troubled by the failure to find stocks of WMDs in Iraq. Like many people in the Mid Atlantic states, I am also worried by the failure of the cicadas to appear. For many months now, The New York Times in particular has been taunting its readers with predictions about the deafening emergence of Brood X. In New York itself, however, the spring season saw an almost perfect dearth of noisy horrible green insects, or at least of any that are not familiar residents. Yesterday, the Times came clean:

If you haven't seen your Brood X cicadas by now, you probably aren't going to for another 17 years.

Complaints should be directed to the bug experts who predicted that a biblical swarm of periodic cicadas, Brood X, would sweep like a curtain of white noise across the Middle Atlantic region in June. Or at least that is how it sounded to the swarms of reporters who breathlessly predicted that the bug storm of the young century was headed for the region's windshields...The Ohio River Valley, Baltimore and the Washington area are still agog with cicada talk, cicada cocktails and cicada chocolates on turned-down beds in hotels. Here in Princeton the racket was so great that university music directors chose baccalaureate music in more or less the same mystic key as the cicadas.

But from Princeton north, according to Rutgers University extension service horticulturalists, the bugs have emerged only in spots moving up the Delaware River and across parts, but far from all, of Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris Counties.

"Complaints should be directed to the bug experts," should they? Once again, the Times has put itself in a position where an apology is in order. I am tempted to write the paper's new ombudsman: was Jayson Blair ever on the bug beat?

* * *

Someone should organize a blog for people who no longer read Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, to make it easier to keep track of all the commentary they no longer read. When I look in (and no, I no longer read him regularly, either) he is often commenting on the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger mail he gets about the amount of space he devotes to gay issues. His apparently settled conviction that he cannot support the reelection of George Bush, because of Bush's support for the Defense of Marriage Amendment, has done little to improve the tone of his inbox.

Anyway, the flaw in Sullivan's position can be seen in this entry from June 17:

I wrote that "[t]his president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance. Gay people will now regard it as their enemy for generations - and rightly so."

There aren't going to be "generations" of gay people, not in the sense of the organized and self-conscious pseudo-ethnic group that we see today. The chief characteristic of gayness is that it does not reproduce itself. It is an expression of an unsettled period in the cultural history of the larger society, a period that is necessarily transitory.  

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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