HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

October 29, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


I learned this week that Chuck Norris has swung his support behind Mike Huckabee for president. I don't know whether I should let that influence my political thinking or not. I suppose it should convince me that Mr. Huckabee would pursue a muscular foreign policy. But it could be that muscularity is not exactly what the United States needs at the moment.

Roger Cohen, who I thought for a time was a fairly sensible thinker about foreign policy, has decided that he wants the Germans in Afghanistan to kill more people and to get more of themselves killed too, the latter as a symbol of their commitment to all things good in the world. Vigorous killing seems to appeal to him, at least in Afghanistan, as the only way forward.

The Sacred Order of the External Mind has been much on my mind this week, after I read a long article saying that the internet needs to be revamped so that everybody can watch a movie on his laptop at the same time. I suppose it would be convenient to have the internet and television combined. It's a thing we've been promised for quite a while, but I've noticed that electronic transformations, which are said to be just around the corner, often take their time in arriving.

Paul Krugman reminded me that it would be a good thing if we would have a discussion about the existence of Islamofascism. Is there such a thing? I've heard quite a few crazy people talking about it recently without -- as is their wont -- defining it precisely. What do you think? When crazy people talk about something, does that mean it's not there?

There's a reasonably provocative article in the current Atlantic by Paul Elie about a resurgence of regard for the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr. In the interest of honesty, I should confess that I have generally thought of Niebuhr as an interesting thinker but not the intellectual dynamo some people have held him to be. Anyway, Elie says that fresh concern with his work should have been a source of clarity and intelligent perspective. But that hasn't been the case. Rather, it has been a source of the bizarre and the perplexing. Elie is right but I don't think we can say that's Niebuhr's fault.

Thinking of Niebuhr, who was seen in the past as a great champion of political realism, reminds me that I'm sick of hearing people say that Bush's plan to remake the Middle East was an exercise in idealism. Using "idealism" in that way is a travesty.

I learned by watching the McLaughlin Group that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world, and that the central government there is about to fall apart. Musharraf may be losing his grip, and if he falls, the influence of al Qaeda on the government will be much enhanced. I doubt that things are quite that dire, but it's not a place I would go on vacation right now -- even though I do like Pakistani food.

I watched Bionic Woman for the first time and discovered that the main character longs for romance and love like any normal girl, but finds that having the power to smash any potential lover to bits gets in the way of ordinary amour.   It may be that regular guys wouldn't be drawn to the condition.

On Real Time, I heard about two searching questions Andrew Sullivan would like to put to the current batch of Republican candidates for president.
If, when Osama was in the womb, would you have aborted him? And, if you could prevent a terrorist attack by having sex with a man, would you do it? I confess, I would enjoy watching Mitt Romney respond to those.

The Red Sox won the World Series. I thought they would, but I wish it hadn't been quite so easy.

Next week, I'll be in Florida. So, then, I can report to you how things are going in the real world.


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