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Wednesday, March 4

Fareed Zakaria's next cover story for Newsweek: ALIENS KIDNAPPED MY DOG AND I HAVE THE PICTURES TO PROVE IT

When I checked my email a while ago my eye was caught by one that was titled: "Cover of Newsweek says we must live with radical Islam"

I thought, 'Huh. Must be Fareed shilling for advertising dollars again. Don't you dare waste your time on that.'

I don't know how you get along with yourself but I hate it when I boss myself around. So I clicked open the email, just to see if my hunch was right about the author of the piece. I was right but now here I am, trying to figure out how to justify the time I wasted falling once again for that rag's supermarket-tabloid tactics.

Remember last year? Remember all the outrageous Newsweek covers?(1) The magazine was so in the tank for Barack Obama, and so determined to foment class warfare in the USA, that their covers had a ghoulish lure. But reading the stories that went with the covers was like giving into the temptation to read about the two-headed woman who gave birth to a healthy one-headed baby; once you get it out of your system, you're supposed to spend your time in the checkout line in more productive ways.

I'm happy to report that Newsweek, as we know it today, is going out of business this year. Their readership tanked and their owner, The Washington Post Company, can't carry the dead weight anymore --- not in the magazine's present format. Couldn't happen to a more deserving editorial board.

What will rise out the newsmagazine's ashes is planned to be -- I kid you not -- a “thought leader" aimed at an "elite" audience. I don't know what kind of elite enjoys being thrown up on:
“I think a weekly magazine is a standing dinner date, or the fourth person in your bridge game,” said Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek. “Sometimes they’re the most delightful person in the world, sometimes they get drunk and throw up on you. But enough times in a year, when something happens, that’s the first place you want to go to hear what they have to say.”
I venture that sensible people take the view that if you throw up on them once, you'll never get the chance again.

Already aware that their rag was headed for extinction, Newsweek's editors spent 2008 petulantly throwing up on their American readers. The topper was Fareed's cover story, lifted from his book The Post-American World. Not since Clare Booth Luce announced that Harry Truman was finished politically has a prediction been so wrong, as the present economic crisis demonstrates. The reality is that when the United States gets a bad cold, the rest of the world gets double pneumonia.

Miffed, perhaps, that reality snubbed their editorial viewpoint, Newsweek's cover story this week by Fareed ("Radical Islam is a fact of life. How to live with it.") suggests that the magazine intends to spend its final days in an orgy of regurgitation.

I seem to recall that in 2005 Charlie Gasparino did great reporting on the Hurricane Katrina crisis for Newsweek. The magazine's been around a long time; it's a shame they're going out with no dignity left.

The next incarnation of the rag will attempt to compete with The Economist, which is becoming popular among American news readers. I doubt the British publication is quaking at the thought.

Beneath The Economist's heavily ironic tone is a fiercely nationalistic outlook, which editorial boards for major U.S. news publications don't have in their DNA.

No matter how much The Economist might criticize their government's policies, their writers project the certainty that the British way is best for the world. The certainty is the reason for the magazine's enduring transnational appeal. No matter whether you agree or disagree with their views, you always know from reading The Economist where the British stand.

In place of certainty, America's major news publications have the desire to be fair, with the result that America's way of doing things is read as a blank slate, on which its enemies write anything that suits them.

As for Fareed's titillating cover story this week -- I don't know what he wrote. I ain't gonna be suckered again into reading another Newsweek article. But the opening segment of Fareed's "GPS" show last week for CNN was a teaser for the article. It was the first time I'd seen the show.

Fareed brought together Christopher Hitchens, Asra Nomani, Bernard-Henri Levy and Fawaz Gerges to "argue if the international community should have the same policy for the Taliban as it does al Qaeda."

Here's the link to the video of the segment.

Fareed and Gerges took the position that the U.S. has to make a distinction between Islamic fundamentalists who are simply cruel to each other and ones who threaten transnational terrorism. Levy was having none of the hair-splitting. He said they were all a bunch of fascists and as such represented a serious threat to civilization.

Gerges kept talking over him and even grabbed his arm in the attempt to restrain him long enough to get in more of his own argument. It was hilarious. But Levy had one point, and by gum he wasn't going to let it get buried by sloppy reasoning. There's nothing like a French philosopher on a tear against fascism.

Gerges and Fareed got their facts on one point. They used the U.S. command's cooperation with Iraqi Sunnis to shore their argument that the U.S. in Afghanistan might find cooperation among the Taliban if they would stop lumping them with al Qaeda.

True, the U.S. military made great progress in Iraq when they stopped treating the Sunnis as the enemy. But those Sunnis are 'traditionalist' tribal Muslims, not fundamentalists; indeed it was their disputes with al Qaeda's brand of Islam that started the rift between the two groups of insurgents. The Sunnis became horrified by al Qaeda's atrocities against other Muslims in the name of the Islam.

In the same manner, the Taliban's brand of fundamentalism is not 'indigenous' to Afghanistan's Muslim tribes. The Taliban are a Cold War creation of Pakistan's ISI with help from the Saudis and with American encouragement.

So while none of this was brought up during the debate, Bernard-Henri Levy was correct to dismiss the argument that the Taliban's fundamentalism could be accommodated as a means to help the U.S.-Nato efforts in Afghanistan.

If Gerges and Fareed want to revise by saying it's possible to peel away from the Taliban those Afghanis who joined because they hate Karzai's faction and/or want the foreign troops out at all costs, that would be another story.

Yet the real story in that part of the world is not Islamic radicalism. In Afghanistan we're facing not so much the classic insurgency we found in Iraq as a mix of tribal rivalries, stateless actors, and a fabulously lucrative illicit drug industry that's global in reach.

In other words, in one of the world's most 'undeveloped' regions, we're up against the cutting edge of the modern 'black' or 'deviant' globalization phenomenon that Nils Gilman has talked about. As if to underscore that, the people recently caught smuggling heroin from Afghanistan, via Pakistan, via India, are not Afghani, Pakistani, or Indian. They're West African.

Black globalization is the nut that General Petraeus and his team have to crack; doing so could require an approach that differs considerably from the 'social workers with guns' one that racked up successes in Iraq.

1) RBO has dug up some of those covers for their crosspost of this entry.
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