"(O)ur international problems are utterly intractable, and the sooner we recognize this, the better. ... We should figure out clever ways to declare victory at the first decent opportunity and remove our troops (from Afghanistan)."
Yale law professor
(from New York Times column dated Nov. 6, 2001)
Insistent that victory abroad was impossible -- one week before Kabul fell -- Professor Ackerman breezily invited Bush to engage in a hapless caper of putting Osama bin Laden on trial: "By all means, bring Osama bin Laden to justice and weaken or destroy the Taliban."
He instructed that "we should satisfy ourselves with limited victories abroad" because "our domestic problems are manageable." But "ridding the world of terrorism is quite another matter."
Using the strategy of a drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost (he didn't lose them there, but the light's better), Ackerman recommended that the Bush administration leave al-Qaida alone and concentrate on anti-choice extremists here in the United States.
Thus Ackerman explained: "We should be seriously engaged in anti-terrorism efforts at home. ... (O)ther attacks may well occur -- perhaps committed by homegrown extremists." Of course, other attacks may also well occur -- perhaps committed by Yale law professors. Getting al-Qaida will be tricky, but locking up Ackerman is doable.
Feigning objectivity while trying to demoralize the country, Ackerman wrote: "Even if we catch and kill Osama bin Laden, others will take his place."
It is a commonplace among men -- and I do mean men -- that civilian troops culled from a liberal democracy will always prevail over barbaric mercenaries with daggers between their teeth. But liberals have no confidence in a free nation. They are invariably mesmerized by the self-advertised brutality of savages.
Not surprisingly, many Times columnists subscribed to Ackerman's two-part war strategy for America: 1) SURRENDER NOW! and 2) focus on anti-choice extremists at home.
After ceaseless warnings of a "quagmire," the cover story on the Times' Week in Review section the week after Kabul fell was titled: "Surprise: War Works After All."
Point Two of the Ackerman war strategy has been championed most earnestly by Times columnist Frank Rich, providing continuity with his typical NARAL press-release style. In October, Rich was denouncing the administration's ham-handed approach to the war on terrorism on the grounds that Attorney General John Ashcroft had doggedly refused to meet with Planned Parenthood representatives after the anthrax mailings.
This, strangely, was despite the fact that anthrax has never been sent to an abortion clinic, and therefore Planned Parenthood could be of absolutely no help in tracking down the source of the mailings. But as Rich interpreted it, Ashcroft had "gone so far as to turn away firsthand information about domestic terrorism for political reasons."
According to Rich, abortion clinics had plenty of experience with "such homegrown Talibans as the Army of God." Planned Parenthood could have provided leads on "the convergence of international and domestic terrorism."
The "Army of God" turned out to be one guy: a bank robber-cum-anti-abortionist who was already on the FBI's most-wanted list. Since his escape from prison on bank robbery charges, he had been sending harmless white powder to abortion clinics.
Nonetheless, Rich blathered on, proclaiming that Planned Parenthood had "marshaled the medical and security expertise" to combat terrorism. Demonstrating some of that hard-earned expertise, the "director of security" for Planned Parenthood laughed at "the sight of Mr. Ashcroft and other federal Keystone Kops offering a $1 million reward for anthrax terrorists." It showed how "little grasp they have of the enemy."
About one month later, the "Army of God" bank robber was caught, thanks to Ashcroft and other federal Keystone Kops offering a different $50,000 reward on widely circulated wanted posters.
The SURRENDER NOW! strategy was given early moral succor by Maureen Dowd's pre-war columns in which she repeatedly accused Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of being out of touch. In August 2001, for example, she said "the urgent question" was "just how conscious of the world around him Rip Van Rummy is."
Amid a lot of (similarly hilarious) sneering, Dowd snipped that Rumsfeld was "clueless about the press." (If Dowd ran the Department of Defense instead of killing terrorists, it would be issuing catty press releases on Britney Spears' underwear and the collapse of Talk magazine.)
Dowd was exultant. "I guess we can close the book on W.'s contention that the best way to run government is with the wisdom of corporate chieftains," she said. In a ringing peroration, she declared that Rumsfeld -- as well as Vice President Dick Cheney -- do "not know anything about how the world works." The "most striking thing is how out of touch they act."
Al-Qaida must dearly wish it were so.