The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, July 17, 2002  

Neoconservative Puppy Says “Wag the Dog”

We really have to start reading the New York Post more often than we already do, at least on the days the paper publishes John Podhoretz.

As if the “Destroy Iraq” chorus weren’t already singing loudly enough, Podhoretz the Lesser, writing in yesterday’s Post, calls for an “October Surprise,” that being, of course, the eagerly anticipated war against Saddam Hussein that President Bush now needs so badly to divert attention from financial scandals and an invisible domestic agenda.

“Go on, Mr. President: Wag the dog,” Podhoretz urges. “It would be good for the world, it would be good for America and it would be good politics as well.”

“You’re in some domestic political trouble, Mr. President,” he continues. “You need to change the subject. You have the biggest subject-changer of all at your disposal. Use it.”

We’re not making this up. And it gets worse: “There’s a luscious double trap in starting the war as soon as possible, Mr. President. Your enemies are delirious with excitement about the corporate-greed scandals and the effect they might have on your popularity and the GOP’s standing in November. . . . Your enemies will hurl ugly accusations at you, Mr. President. And at least one of them will be true -- the accusation that you began the war when you did for political reasons.”

And Podhoretz, who is neither an experienced military strategist nor a war veteran, is absolutely certain this war will be fought and won flawlessly. “[The accusation] won’t matter. It won’t matter to the American people, and it won’t matter as far as history is concerned. History will record that you and the U.S. military brought an end to a barbaric regime on its way to threatening the world.”

Would the world be better off without Saddam Hussein? Absolutely. But is going to war with Iraq really a good idea? We’re far from convinced. Could such a conflict grow dangerously out of control? Possibly. Would we face years of dangerous and deadly after-effects such as escalated terrorism here and abroad? We think so.

Presumably the right people in the administration are analyzing the matter far more thoroughly than we -- or Podhoretz -- could ever hope to. On its face, that’s a good thing. But this administration is populated with far too many people that share the Podhoretz mindset (he calls the prospect of war “delicious”) that we are inclined to believe the internal debate about this impending conflict is dangerously one-sided.

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