Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Bush: 'We will not fail'," Oct. 20, 2001

TARGET TAIWAN? With Americans focused on the Mideast, wouldn't this be a great time for China to invade Taiwan? "Nothing is unthinkable," remarks columnist George Will. "Such surprise and ruthlessness may seem far-fetched-as far-fetched as the idea of using commercial aircraft as bombs to level skyscrapers would have seemed a month ago, had anyone imagined it." Citing an admittedly improbable analysis by Richard L. Russell of the National Defense University, Mr. Will notes that as time passes, Taiwan becomes stronger and a more difficult conquest. Two big issues are that China could have such a war almost won before the West could mobilize-and that China could use tactical nuclear weapons against Taiwan. "As for the price China would pay for international disapproval of such ruthlessness, Beijing may be willing to pay the price because it would be transitory," Mr. Will concludes. "Just 12 years after the Tiananmen Square violence was telecast to the world, China was awarded the 2008 Olympics." WEST IS BEST: When Silvio Berlusconi told his country's parliament that Western civilization is superior to Islamic culture, Europe's cultural elite shrieked in horror. The Italian premier soon apologized, saying, "We are aware of the crucial role of moderate Arab countries" in the fight against terrorism. Here in the United States, Don Feder wonders what's so wrong about loving the West? He calls Mr. Berlusconi "a bright light on a continent of dim bulbs" who said something "obvious to all whose minds aren't locked in a prison of political correctness." The columnist notes that the freedoms, prosperity, and "diversity" that Europeans enjoy were forged in their own civilization. "Democracy is as alien to the Islamic world as Jimmy Dean's pork sausage," Mr. Feder remarks. The rights, freedoms, and toleration Americans and Europeans take for granted today scarcely exist in the Islamic world. "When America went to war with Nazism and Japanese militarism, it was with the unshakable conviction that Judeo-Christian culture was superior to these throwbacks to the Dark Ages," he writes. "Those who would defend civilization must first acknowledge that it is preferable to the alternative." OLD AGENDAS, NEW HOOK: Even with war and recession, why should the government bail out struggling businesses? That's what Michael W. Lynch asks in Reason. He notes that the word stimulus is on the lips of various industries from insurance to rental cars to aerial photography. "For some," he writes, "the attack's aftermath serves as a new hook on which to hang old agendas." During this war, certain strategic spending may be necessary to protect the home front. But politicians should "avoid the seductive path of relying on public policy to prop up failing businesses while trying to manage a failing economy with expansionary fiscal policy-that is, by spending more taxpayer money," Mr. Lynch concludes. "That's the Japanese model of the last decade. And it doesn't work." IGNORANCE BREEDS PEACENIKS: The latest war brings a new generation of peaceniks. This new crop lacks the intellectualism of its forebears, notes Mark Steyn in Canada's National Post. The catchphrases of the day follow the same formula: X-problem breeds Y-problem. Mr. Steyn's column lists various renditions: "Poverty breeds instability," "instability breeds zealots," "injustice breeds hopelessness," "desperation breeds resentment," "despair breeds pestilence" and "hate breeds hate." All this is part and parcel of the never-ending quest for the "root causes" of the world's ills. "The breed screed," he says, reveals a "weird Orwellian boomerang": Instead of showing compassion for the dead, the peaceniks dehumanize them into an abstraction. "Why do some people look at a smoking ruin and see lives lost-the secretary standing by the photocopier-and others see only confirmation of their thesis on Kyoto? ... To deny them their humanity, to reduce them to an impersonal abstraction is Stalinist. Bill Clinton at least claimed to 'feel your pain.' The creepy, totalitarian boilerplate slogans of the peace movement can't even go through the motions." PROGRESSIVES VS. LEWIS: Are the Chronicles of Narnia racist, misogynist, and "poisonous"? Gregg Easterbrook reports in The Atlantic Monthly that C.S. Lewis's classic faces "the dubious honor of corporate marketing" from HarperCollins on one hand and denunciations from the literati on the other. Mr. Easterbrook writes that a swarm of British critics seem eager to trash the tales. Philip Hensher called them "ghastly, priggish, half-witted" attempts to "corrupt the minds of the young with allegory." Children's author Philip Pullman complained of a "sneering attitude to anything remotely progressive in social terms or to people with brown faces."

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