Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Caution: Wide Left Turns

For those of you with the common sense to have missed Mary McGrory’s column on Sunday, I offer the following recap of what has to be the most morally bankrupt and confused ruminations I’ve read in some time. The title of the piece speaks volumes: "Unequal Opportunity for Tyrants," a title which is supposed to reflect her thesis that the White House is inconsistent in its treatment of Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.

The article begins inauspiciously enough by referring to the "warlords" in the White House, whom she refers to as being "as clueless as the frustrated police pursuing the shooter who has been rampaging through Washington’s suburbs . . . ." For this sentence alone, Ms. McGrory earns the moral equivocation award of the week. How on earth can anyone believe that ousting brutal dictators and using military force against terrorist cells is the same as the petty tyranny of warlords? It is not long before the metaphor has left her, and she is claiming that Bush has done "a credible imitation of Alexander the Great conquering the known world" until North Korea entered the world stage with its recent statements regarding a nuclear weapons program. First, a little piece of writing advice for Ms. McGrory: try to pick consistent allegations. Being a warlord is not even remotely similar in scale with being a world conqueror like Alexander the Great. Second, try to make allegations that you can support with even a scintilla of credible evidence. I know that this one is tough, but readers have been known to expect it. To date, Bush has responded militarily only in Afghanistan, has suggested action in Iraq to respond to violations of UN resolutions, and has suggested that the U.S. does not rule out the possibility of essentially defensive military actions against regimes that aid and abet those who took hostile actions against the U.S. This is hardly the stuff of either a warlord or a world conqueror. By contrast, Clinton utilized force in more places during his tenure in office--but I seem to have missed Ms. McGrory’s denunciation of what must have been for her a dreadful tyranny.

Ms. McGrory then makes the case for why Kim Jong Il is a very bad man. On this point we agree. Her suggestion from here, however, is that his being arguably worse than Hussein demonstrates some sort of bias or hypocrisy on the part of the White House, because the White House has chosen to pursue Iraq but not North Korea. But it is quite apparent that what she wants is not equal treatment for tyrants, but equal appeasement of tyrants. Indeed, to support her view on appeasement of Iraq, she offers proof from the Wellstone campaign that the public really doesn’t want the war, given that Wellstone has not paid a price for voting against the war. Yes, and he is running in Minnesota, where he was able to make the calculation that the Iraq vote would not hurt him politically. Were he running in, say, South Dakota, or Missouri, or Colorado, however, he would be packing his Washington bags to move home by now.

Leaving aside this homage to appeasement, McGrory’s argument fails to make a none-too-subtle distinction: it is not inconsistent to take less costly action to stop a rising power, and not to take more costly action to stop a more developed power. By her reasoning, America would have been helpless to have responded to any tyranny in the world during the Cold War unless we were willing to attack the U.S.S.R. and China at the same time.

For the final paragraph, McGrory simply loses it. For those who suffer from high blood pressure, I don’t recommend it. For all others, I reprint it in full:

But as we barrel down the road to war with Iraq, maybe we ought to quiz our unilateralist president about why it is necessary for us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq while North Korea gets the striped-pants treatment. Is it because North Korea has a million men under arms? Is it because Kim Jong Il never threatened to kill Bush’s father, or because he has no oil, or is not a Muslim? Maybe we should ask the advocates who dreamed for 10 years of invading Iraq. Do Richard Perle, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz believe in equal opportunity for tyrants? Their leader seems to be pointing the other way.

There are so many problems here, it is difficult to begin. How many countries must join the U.S. before it is no longer a unilateral action? Perhaps Ms. McGrory should look up the meaning of the word unilateral before she misuses it so badly again. The other accusations--in particular the anti-Muslim bias argument--are the sort of shameless race-baiting that could earn her a position in the Cynthia McKinney campaign. The President has done an admirable job of trying to restrain religious or nationalistic animosity by referring to those who committed terrorist acts as betraying their religion, and the accusation is therefore the worst sort of demagoguery.

If this is the best that the left has to offer, then they better get ready for a sharp right turn by the voting public.

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