March 09, 2003

Howell's Running Out of Room

Howell's Running Out of Room

The New York Times really puts on a full anti-war-in-Iraq press today. First, the seemingly interminable series of tortured mastheads (aka "Hamlet on the Hudson" for the endless should we or shouldn't we ruminations) finally appear to be reaching a (predictable) conclusion per today's lead. Then we have Maureen, Friedman and Jimmy Carter all arguing against war at the present time. Howell did leave a smidgen of space for a piece on the Broadway strike, however, lest anyone think he turned the whole Sunday editorial page over to the anti-war-in-Iraq crowd.

The Carter op-ed is particularly interesting, not for its "just war" musings, but because of its transparent attempt to dissaude Dubya from going to war by referencing wide opposition among religious figures. The subtext is that, for a man like Dubya for whom religion is an important component, such opposition in the Church might just help dissuade him from his folly. It's none too subtle a tactic. Yet it gets more interesting. Carter goes on to, in effect, query Dubya's real motivations for going to war by alluding that he might be captive to those holding radical Baptist views (unlike, of course, good God-fearing mainstream Baptists like Jimmy). So the increasing Euro-trend of depicting Dubya as a theocratic nut now gets support from a former President in the prestigious forum of the Sunday Times. And to add insult to injury, Carter enlists the opposition of religious figures from the comme il faut precincts to persuade Dubya to step back from his supposed apocalpytic eschatologicalism. Am I being hyperbolic? How else to explain the below language:

"As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards. This is an almost universal conviction of religious leaders, with the most notable exception of a few spokesmen of the Southern Baptist Convention who are greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology."

For more on Carter's piece, the good folks over at Oxblog have a thorough Fisking of Carter's piece up.

I'd instead like to discuss today's masthead a bit more. Given what I write above, you might think the NYT has finally chosen whether it is pro or anti war in Iraq. Well, not really. They are pretty much opposed but just might be in favor in the future, provided bien sur, that we only go in with "broad international support." (I guess support from important countries like Italy, Spain, Poland, Australia and the U.K constitutes narrow support). Put simply, the NYT's has adopted the French position. Not only because they are calling for a beefed up inspections regime and more time, but also, because their definition of broad international support essentially means the U.S. shouldn't go to war without the French on board.

I don't know about you, but the endless Gallic posturing looks set to continue even if a videotape of Saddam bathing in botulunim toxin emerged and got passed around the Quai D'Orsay. As Powell must endlessly argue to the French, Resolution 1441 is about full, unfettered Iraqi cooperation. They should be pro-actively bringing the inspectors to the various WMD-sites and helping destroy the WMD. And no, I'm not talking about the al-Samoud "toothpicks" (Blix wanted a good soundbite didn't he?). That is an ancillary issue of little importance. It's about a stockpile of biological and chemical weapons that Saddam is hell-bent on concealing and won't give up without, sadly, the U.S. leading a coalition to forcibly disarm him.

But Saddam is about to make Dubya's job easier. Always a crafty survivor, he has nevertheless proven himself to be a strategic blunderer (witness failed conflicts in Iran and Kuwait). Miscalculating the discord in the UNSC (and the depth of his support from other member states), the Iraqis are now (incredibly) making their own demands of the U.N. Believe it or not, Saddam has chosen the present juncture to demand sanctions relief! Even Joshka and Dominique won't go to bat for him on this one. I suspect Powell will be able to ratchet up the vote count on the second resolution given such 11th hour machinations by Saddam--even in the Alice in Wonderland world that is Turtle Bay.

Note: Several readers have E-mailed asking me about the reference to "Howell" in the title of this post. For those less obsessed with the New York Times (and therefore, doubtless, happier personages) it's a reference to Howell Raines the head editor of the NYT editorial page.

Posted by Gregory at March 9, 2003 02:58 PM
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