The war against Islamic terrorists has made strange bedfellows out of right-and left-wing pundits, most of whom, regardless of ideological stripe, support the current U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
To be sure, antiwar clarions still sound from the left. Three-and-a-half weeks into the offensive, some were still calling for a police response rather than military action: "Go to the U.N., proceed on the basis that Sept. 11 was a crime," Alexander Cockburn, writing in his online newsletter Counterpunch (motto: "The left according to Cockburn"), put it most succinctly.
But other leftists, including Harold Meyerson in the ever-nuanced American Prospect (motto: "We may be left, but Goldurnit, we're part of the national dialogue"), conceded that a Gore response would have looked about the same as the Bush/Powell effort.
And even entrenched doves allowed that war resistance threatens to render the left irrelevant in a nation stung to action by the terrorist attacks and convinced of the Taliban's role in aiding Osama bin Laden: "At this point, whatever we propose is most unlikely to have any impact," Adolph L. Reed Jr. wrote morosely in The Progressive (motto: "War! What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing.") "This situation underscores the pitiable weakness of the left in this country."
An unlikely, if contemptuous, defense of liberals was mounted in the pages of FrontPageMagazine, the online publication of irrelevant-leftist-turned-irrelevant-conservative David Horowitz, (motto: "Fighting the battles of the '60s well into the next millennium").
"Don't count the left out yet," contributor Bruce Thornton wrote. "Like Rasputin, it may have been poisoned, shot, stabbed, and thrown bound into the Neva River, but the hands are still wriggling."
Other right-wing pundits took potshots at their adversaries for expressing anguish over mounting Afghan civilian casualties. "What about all those civilians that died [on Sept. 11? Do the 'John Lennonites' remember them? Apparently not," said Bonnie Chernin Rogoff, writing in Rightgrrl, a conservative women's zine (motto: "For the woman who hates Bill Clinton but hates Hillary more").
You've got to admire conservative commentator Anne Coulter's resilience. Weeks after being bounced from National Review Online (motto: "America's premier website for bombastic conservative prose") for inflammatory statements against Muslims, she's back at it in FrontPage, trashing the New York Times' Maureen Dowd in particular and women in general. "Women--and I don't mean to limit that to the biological sense--always become hysterical at the first sign of trouble," she writes. "They have no capacity to solve problems, so instead they fret. But despite the fearful fifth columnists whiling away the war naysaying America's response, we will win this war. You just stay warm, girls...the men are fixing the car.
Conservative liberal-bashers made an exception for leftist Christopher Hitchens, whose bitter repudiations of the antiwar crowd earned him accolades, including top billing on the National Review Online's "Surprising Good Guys List." (But then, the Review's Jonah Goldberg, traveling with a bomb-sniffing Golden Retriever at the World Trade Center wreckage, also wrote in praise of man's best friend, the dog.) Hitchens, in typically perverse fashion, responded by jumping back into the left camp with a snipe in The Nation (motto: "Motto? We think not.") at his old nemesis, Henry Kissinger.
"It was utterly nauseating to see Kissinger re-enthroned as a pundit in the aftermath of Sept. 11, talking his usual 'windy, militant trash,' to borrow Auden's phrase for it," Hitchens wrote. "I caught him talking to John McLaughlin and looking on the bright side by saying that the mass murder had strengthened something called the Western alliance. Say what you will about our Henry, he can find the joy in any nightmare."
In an interesting side debate, the right questioned whether Islam is the real enemy. National Review editor-at-large William F. Buckley continued to push for a "holy war" against the religion of 1.8 billion people worldwide (roughly the same as the number of Christians). But David F. Forte, writing for the National Review Online, insisted that blanket religious denunciations had fatally compromised U.S. Middle Eastern policy. "We operated on a stereotype, namely, that Islam was by nature intolerant and violent," Forte wrote. "And by so doing, we assisted in the legitimization of radical extremists within the Muslim world. At the same time, we incurred the resentment of moderate Muslims who opposed both the extremists and the autocratic governments the United States was seen to be supporting."