Monthly Archives: September 2010

What Would JFK Do?

Philip Terzian takes on JFK hagiographer Ted Sorenson’s contribution to the longstanding effort to rewrite history and turn Jack Kennedy into a post-1960’s leftist:

…Sorensen has repeated, with emphasis, his simple, three-part formula for understanding modern American history:


His latest essay—’When Kennedy Met Nixon: The Real Story’ (Sept 26) about the 1960 presidential debates—follows Sorensen’s usual pattern of retelling events as he would like them to be remembered, and as such things go, it is one of his less offensive pronouncements. While maintaining his standard posture that John F. Kennedy was a man of uncommon intelligence, charm, grace, wisdom, and magnetism, he is more contemptuous of Richard Nixon this time than abusive. Indeed, all goes relatively well until the last two sentences:

“Though it seemed at the time to be a battle between two opposing worldviews, the truth is that the two candidates did not vastly differ in that first debate. And while Kennedy would probably find a home in today’s Democratic Party, it is unlikely that Nixon would receive a warm welcome among the Tea Party.”

Oh? The Richard Nixon of 1960 may or may not get a friendly reception from the Tea Party of 2010—however that is defined—but is Sorensen serious when he suggests that the John Kennedy of 1960 “would probably find a home” in the party of Eric Holder, DailyKos, Keith Olbermann,, Barbara Boxer, and Alan Grayson?

Kennedy, who abstained from the Senate’s 1954 vote of censure against Joseph McCarthy, ran against Nixon on a mythical “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union, complained that the Eisenhower administration had “lost” Cuba to the communists and was inadequately defending Chiang Kai-shek’s Formosa against Red China. As president he was decidedly lukewarm in his support of the civil rights movement—much to the consternation of most activists—and not only sponsored a bigger tax cut than the Eisenhower White House ever contemplated, but retained J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI, sent thousands of military “advisers” into South Vietnam and Laos, furnished material support for a premeditated invasion of Cuba, and appointed Gen. Curtis LeMay as Air Force chief of staff.

What Ted Sorensen’s boss would have thought of gay marriage, cap-and-trade, racial quotas, Bill Ayers, and nationalizing General Motors, we can only speculate.


The Well-Educated, Literate and Irrational

Liberals are doing their best to portray “Tea Party” types as irrational – another instance of the right-wing, American “paranoid style.” A good example is Jane Mayer’s piece in the New Yorker. And here’s another from CBS’s show CSI.

Bret Stephens reminds us of what the left believes and it ain’t pretty:

…The University of Maryland’s World Public Opinion surveys have found that just 2% of Pakistanis believe al Qaeda perpetrated the attacks, whereas 27% believe it was the U.S. government. (Most respondents say they don’t know.)

Among Egyptians, 43% say Israel is the culprit, while another 12% blame the U.S. Just 16% of Egyptians think al Qaeda did it. In Turkey, opinion is evenly split: 39% blame al Qaeda, another 39% blame the U.S. or Israel. Even in Europe, Ahmadinejad has his corner. Fifteen percent of Italians [!] and 23% of Germans [!] finger the U.S. for the attacks.

Deeper than the polling data are the circumstances from which they arise. There’s always the temptation to argue that the problem is lack of education, which on the margins might be true. But the conspiracy theories cited earlier are retailed throughout the Muslim world by its most literate classes, journalists in particular. Irrationalism is not solely, or even mainly, the province of the illiterate…

What Ahmadinejad knows is that there will always be a political place for what Michel Foucault called “the sovereign enterprise of Unreason.” This is an enterprise whose domain encompasses the politics of identity, of religious zeal, of race or class or national resentment, of victimization, of cheek and self-assertion. It is the politics that uses conspiracy theory not just because it sells, which it surely does, or because it manipulates and controls, which it does also, but because it offends. It is politics as a revolt against empiricism, logic, utility, pragmatism. It is the proverbial rage against the machine.

Chances are you know people to whom this kind of politics appeals in some way, large or small. They are Ahmadinejad’s constituency. They may be irrational; he isn’t crazy.

A perceptive piece by Victor Davis Hanson.

On Barry’s ideology:

…The answer to every challenge is to found a new program, borrow billions to run it, hire millions more loyal to the progressive gospel of public employment, and demagogue any who oppose it. The public is starting to see that the president’s ideology is really a mixture of the Ivy League, the left-wing of the Democratic Party, the tired canards of the black caucus, extremist residuals from Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers, and twenty years of university multicultural, utopian pacifist, and moral equivalent indoctrination. His Democratic Party is not one with half the House Democrats and does not appeal to liberal independents. He’s the sort of progressive professor whom the proverbial new student comes home at Thanksgiving to quote to a shocked parent..

On his alleged eloquence:

…The president himself suffers from three rhetorical liabilities. He simply cannot leave the teleprompter — even for a second. To do so means that “like a dog” petulance immediate spews forth. Second, the divergence from his sort of nerdy Harvard Law Review wonk-talk and his Rev. Wright black-church preaching is simply too wide to suggest that he is just modulating Hillary-like for audiences. Instead, the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde deliveries infer not just patronizing, but something far more disturbing: Mr. Obama does not seem to know himself quite who he is. Third, he cannot leave the campaign mode. So all his lectures are rehashes of hope-and-change, Bush did it, I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my — spiced with the now tedious “Let Me Be Perfectly Clear” and “Make No Mistake About It,” as if we are inattentive school children and he the headmaster at the front of the room clamoring for our attention. The result? He is overexposed to the point that eyes roll and backs turn when he drops his g’s and starts in on “they” and “them.”

And on his supposed “team of rivals”:

…We heard all this fluff last year about “Team of Rivals” as if our new Lincoln was going to collect brilliant and ambitious contrarians, and by sheer force of brilliance brew administrative excellence. He never read anything other than Ms. Doris Kearns Goodwin apparently. Lincoln finally had to fire the duplicitous Chase and Cameron. Stanton was a loose cannon who slurred the Union hero Sherman. Half the Lincoln cabinet was trying to do him in during the dark days of August 1864, as Lincoln himself dumped his VP Hamlin and in desperation tried to find a military icon before settling on the so-so Johnson. Lincoln succeeded despite his errors in selecting such a witch’s brew, not because of it. Take away Sherman inside Atlanta in early September 1864, and have him end up instead bogged down in Georgia like Grant in Virginia — a wrecked army and no capture of a key enemy city — and Lincoln would have lost to McClellan.

Orszag, Summers, and Romer are going or have gone. Geithner will leave too. Emanuel will be out — and leak to the world that his pragmatic “genius” was rejected. The so-called centrists like Gates and Jones will leave soon, before the reckoning of a Carter 1979 year comes due. I doubt Hillary will stay unless there is a rebound back over 50%. The more Bill bites his lip in praise of Obama, the more we know what’s coming. All presidential teams implode at some point; few at so early a juncture and fewer with an entire economic team leaving in the midst of the chaos they helped to further…

Not Funny


Why do people think this is funny? Click here and prepare to cringe.

The “Quiet Desperation” Racket

Yet another scourge of the bourgeoisie

It never fails to amaze me: the way big-shot novelists and intellectuals have for centuries peddled fantasies about the supposedly soul-deadening nature of middle class life to the hosannas of their oh-so-hip fellow sophisticates. Charles Krauthammer once called it “defining deviancy up” where lower and intellectual class deviancy like drug abuse, violence and anti-Americanism are considered “healthy” while middle class virtues like self-discipline, patriotism and the desire for a more comfortable life are considered unhealthy.

David Brooks takes on the latest of these immortal works of “épater le bourgeoisie” genius: Jonathan Franzen’s latest brick:

…[Franzen’s novel] tells us more about America’s literary culture than about America itself.

Sometime long ago, a writer by the side of Walden Pond decided that middle-class Americans may seem happy and successful on the outside, but deep down they are leading lives of quiet desperation. This message caught on (it’s flattering to writers and other dissidents), and it became the basis of nearly every depiction of small-town and suburban America since. If you judged by American literature, there are no happy people in the suburbs, and certainly no fulfilled ones.

By now, writers have become trapped in the confines of this orthodoxy. So even a writer as talented as Franzen has apt descriptions of neighborhood cattiness and self-medicating housewives, but ignores anything that might complicate the Quiet Desperation dogma. There’s almost no religion. There’s very little about the world of work and enterprise. There’s an absence of ethnic heritage, military service, technical innovation, scientific research or anything else potentially lofty and ennobling.

Richard is an artist, but we don’t really see the artist’s commitment to his craft. Patty is an athlete, but we don’t really see the team camaraderie that is the best of sport.

The political world is caricatured worst of all. The environmentalists talk like the snobbish cartoons of Glenn Beck’s imagination. The Republicans talk like the warmonger cartoons of Michael Moore’s.

The serious parts of life get lopped off and readers have to stoop to inhabit a low-ceilinged world. Everyone gets to feel superior to the characters they are reading about (always pleasant in a society famously anxious about status), but there’s something missing…

One-Way Multiculturalism

Glenn McCoy

Mark Steyn returns:

…Too many people in the free world have internalized Islam’s view of them. A couple of years ago, I visited Guantanamo and subsequently wrote that, if I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new copy of the Koran in each cell: To reassure incoming prisoners that the filthy infidels haven’t touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Korans are hung from the walls in pristine, sterilized surgical masks. It’s one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it’s hard to see why it’s in the interests of us infidels to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry. What does that degree of prostration before their prejudices tell them about us? It’s a problem that Muslims think we’re unclean. It’s a far worse problem that we go along with it.

Take this no-name pastor from an obscure church who was threatening to burn the Koran. He didn’t burn any buildings or women and children. He didn’t even burn a book. He hadn’t actually laid a finger on a Koran, and yet the mere suggestion that he might do so prompted the President of the United States to denounce him, and the Secretary of State, and the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, various G7 leaders, and golly, even Angelina Jolie. President Obama has never said a word about honor killings of Muslim women. Secretary Clinton has never said a word about female genital mutilation. General Petraeus has never said a word about the rampant buggery of pre-pubescent boys by Pushtun men in Kandahar. But let an obscure man in Florida so much as raise the possibility that he might disrespect a book – an inanimate object – and the most powerful figures in the western world feel they have to weigh in.

Aside from all that, this obscure church’s website has been shut down, its insurance policy has been canceled, its mortgage has been called in by its bankers. Why? As Diana West wrote, why was it necessary or even seemly to make this pastor a non-person? Another one of Obama’s famous “teaching moments”? In this case teaching us that Islamic law now applies to all? Only a couple of weeks ago, the President, at his most condescendingly ineffectual, presumed to lecture his moronic subjects about the First Amendment rights of Imam Rauf. Where’s the condescending lecture on Pastor Jones’ First Amendment rights?

When someone destroys a bible, US government officials don’t line up to attack him. President Obama bowed lower than a fawning maitre d’ before the King of Saudi Arabia, a man whose regime destroys bibles as a matter of state policy, and a man whose depraved religious police forces schoolgirls fleeing from a burning building back into the flames to die because they’d committed the sin of trying to escape without wearing their head scarves. If you show a representation of Mohammed, European commissioners and foreign ministers line up to denounce you. If you show a representation of Jesus Christ immersed in your own urine, you get a government grant for producing a widely admired work of art. Likewise, if you write a play about Jesus having gay sex with Judas Iscariot.

So just to clarify the ground rules, if you insult Christ, the media report the issue as freedom of expression: A healthy society has to have bold, brave, transgressive artists willing to question and challenge our assumptions, etc. But, if it’s Mohammed, the issue is no longer freedom of expression but the need for “respect” and “sensitivity” toward Islam, and all those bold brave transgressive artists don’t have a thing to say about it.

Maybe Pastor Jones doesn’t have any First Amendment rights. Musing on Koran burning, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer argued:

[Oliver Wendell] Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater… Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?

This is a particularly obtuse remark even by the standards of contemporary American jurists. As I’ve said before, the fire-in-a-crowded-theatre shtick is the first refuge of the brain-dead. But it’s worth noting the repellent modification Justice Breyer makes to Holmes’ argument: If someone shouts fire in a gaslit Broadway theatre of 1893, people will panic. By definition, panic is an involuntary reaction. If someone threatens to burn a Koran, belligerent Muslims do not panic – they bully, they intimidate, they threaten, they burn and they kill. Those are conscious acts, at least if you take the view that Muslims are as fully human as the rest of us and therefore responsible for their choices…

More importantly, the logic of Breyer’s halfwit intervention is to incentivize violence, and undermine law itself. What he seems to be telling the world is that Americans’ constitutional rights will bend to intimidation. If Koran-burning rates a First Amendment exemption because Muslims are willing to kill over it, maybe Catholics should threaten to kill over the next gay-Jesus play, and Broadway could have its First Amendment rights reined in. Maybe the next time Janeane Garafolo goes on MSNBC and calls Obama’s opponents racists, the Tea Partiers should rampage around town and NBC’s free-speech rights would be withdrawn…

As I said in America Alone, multiculturalism seems to operate to the same even-handedness as the old Cold War joke in which the American tells the Soviet guy that “in my country everyone is free to criticize the President”, and the Soviet guy replies, “Same here. In my country everyone is free to criticize your President.” Under one-way multiculturalism, the Muslim world is free to revere Islam and belittle the west’s inheritance, and, likewise, the western world is free to revere Islam and belittle the west’s inheritance. If one has to choose, on balance Islam’s loathing of other cultures seems psychologically less damaging than western liberals’ loathing of their own.

It is a basic rule of life that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. Every time Muslims either commit violence or threatens it, we reward them by capitulating. Indeed, President Obama, Justice Breyer, General Petraeus, and all the rest are now telling Islam, you don’t have to kill anyone, you don’t even have to threaten to kill anyone. We’ll be your enforcers. We’ll demand that the most footling and insignificant of our own citizens submit to the universal jurisdiction of Islam. So Obama and Breyer are now the “good cop” to the crazies’ “bad cop”. Ooh, no, you can’t say anything about Islam, because my friend here gets a little excitable, and you really don’t want to get him worked up. The same people who tell us “Islam is a religion of peace” then turn around and tell us you have to be quiet, you have to shut up because otherwise these guys will go bananas and kill a bunch of people.



Bob Gorrell

An interesting and revealing discussion on Fox News last night. Mort Kondracke referred to Tea Party candidates as extremists. His poster girl for top extremist was Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharon Angle, one of whose positions is that the Department of Education, among others, should be abolished.

Mort considered this egregiously dangerous because, he believes, we need this bureaucracy now more than ever given that American students are near the bottom in math and science. Mind you, the Education Department was founded in 1979 by, not surprisingly, Jimmy Carter, so it’s been in business for 31 years, during which American students’ math and reading scores have plunged to the bottom and stayed there.

On Fox News, another panelist wondered whether test scores and students’ math and reading skills were better during the two centuries we managed to live without a federal education bureaucracy. I’d bet on it.

So this is where we are: In Obamaland, you’re an extremist if you propose getting rid of a wasteful ineffective bureaucracy.

The Strange, Optimistic Country

British writer Janet Daley explains Americans to “the world”:

Anti-Americanism has a new pin-up. “Pastor” Terry Jones, whose congregation may number as many as 50 on a good week, is holding the world in thrall with his on-again, off-again Koran-burning stunt…

Hello? Has anyone noticed how utterly ridiculous this is?…

That this absurdity became [such a phenomenon] suggests that the world (and not just the Muslim parts of it) must be very eager indeed to find a plausible excuse for casting America as a cartoon country whose heartland is dominated by bigoted know-nothings. Never mind that this is the same America which, only two years ago, was being hailed by ecstatic European liberals for having elected a black president, whose father and stepfather had been Muslims. I remember saying at the time that the victory of Barack Obama would provide only the most fleeting respite from the dominant anti-American mythology which is so essential to European self-regard….

The failure to make any serious attempt to understand the United States and its political culture is now more than smug, stupid and cynical (although it is certainly all those things). The perverse ignorance which allows the British liberal establishment to caricature America’s obsessive concern with its constitutional integrity as simply a front for bigotry (note the BBC’s derisive treatment of the Tea Party movement) is beyond silly: it now presents a real threat to the common cause which the nations of the Enlightenment must make if they are to see their way through the present danger.

So let me have a go at explaining why Americans are not kidding when they talk about the intentions of the nation’s founding fathers, and why their reverence for and constant appeals to the Constitution are not an excuse for prejudice, but the precise opposite.

The British, particularly – who feel that, for historical reasons, they should be in a better position to understand America than anyone else – find it almost impossible to believe that ordinary, not particularly well-educated, US citizens could be genuinely concerned about fidelity to an abstract notion of freedom embodied in a document that underpins their concept of government. (And no, Magna Carta is not the same thing: that was a deal between a king and a posse of feudal barons, not a legally binding social contract between a nation and all of its people.) But other countries – France, for example – have 18th‑century republican models of government, too, and their peoples do not seem to have elevated their constitutional nature to such sacred status.

What is unique about the US – and indispensable to the understanding of it – is that it is a country of the displaced and dispossessed: a nation which invented itself for the very purpose of permitting people to reinvent themselves, to take their fate into their own hands, to be liberated from the persecution and the paternalism of the old cultures they had left behind. Almost every American either is himself, or is descended from, someone who made a conscious decision to pull up his roots and take his chances in a land he had almost certainly never seen and which, until quite recently, offered no protection or security if the gamble failed.

And what a terrifying gamble it was: I had not realised until I visited the Ellis Island Museum that one of the conditions of entry to the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries was that the immigrant did not have a pre-arranged job. This was presumably to ensure that cheap labour gangs could not be imported to undercut indigenous workers. But the effect was that everyone who came to America had to be willing to take the risk of starting with nothing and making his own way in the world.

Can you imagine what the character (and the desperation) of these people must have been? To travel 3,000 miles in steerage, with all your worldly possessions on your back, to an unknown future – and all to escape from the demonic power of a state which had oppressed or demeaned or maltreated you? Not only is hatred and suspicion of over-powerful government embedded in the consciousness of ordinary Americans, it is inscribed in the Constitution, which provides, probably more than any document in human history, a literal embodiment of political values and a bond between disparate people which gives them a sense of national identity.

Perhaps the failure of understanding is incurable. America, they say, is an optimistic country because that’s where the optimists went. And most Europeans, after all, did not go. This is, indeed, a strange nation: its citizenry has been almost entirely self-selecting (apart from those who were taken there in chains, whose descendants have had such significant social problems). To be pessimistic or defeatist in the US is a sin against the Holy Ghost: an unforgivable waste of the opportunity which the country has offered you.

I wonder if the Obama liberals – in their eagerness to turn the US into a European country, complete with paternalistic interventionism and bourgeois guilt – realise what is in the rest of that package: passivity, resignation and the corrosive cynicism that makes it impossible for Europeans to believe that ordinary people can use words like “freedom” and “justice” without smirking, and are not prepared to give up on the attempt to reconcile their ideals with the difficult realities of human behaviour.

“The Voice of Reason Incarnate”

Michael Ramirez

The New Yorker Magazine’s George Packer tells us why hardly anyone listens to Obama anymore – We’ve taken leave of our senses:

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up…

This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia…

The Islamaphobia Racket

Gary McCoy

Today, the network talk shows devoted much time to discussing the “Islamaphobia” that allegedly is gripping the country.

Christiane Amanpour hosted an “exclusive” interview with the Ground Zero imam and then a discussion from which you would naturally conclude that there really is a wave of terror being waged against Muslims in America.

However, amidst all this alarmism, Amanpour did note that of the roughly 1600 religion based “hate crimes” committed in 2008 (the last year statistics were available), 7 percent were directed against Muslims while 70 percent were directed against…Jews!

Of course, playing the victim is an integral part of the Islamic political strategy, but the Democratic media needs to stop enabling them.

It’s The Money-Grubbing Jews, Stupid!

Victor Davis Hanson on Time Magazine’s Jew-baiting:

I know it’s commonplace to read in the latest issue of Time or Newsweek that Obama is a god, that Islamophobic Americans are collectively prejudiced against Muslims, that the response after 9/11 was overblown and unnecessary (over 30 subsequent terrorist plots have been foiled, and, for some reason, renditions, tribunals, Guantanamo, Predators, intercepts, etc., have all been embraced by the Obama administration), but the recent Time piece on Israel by a Karl Vick is probably the most anti-Semitic essay I have ever read in a mainstream publication.

Among Vick’s interviewees is Heli Itach, a modern-day Shylock who brags about the money to be made selling condos in Jerusalem (“‘Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!’ says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk”). The accompanying photo shows carefree Israelis on the beach.

In fact, Vick argues, the Jews are so obsessed with making money that they don’t much care what happens in the future: “The truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.”

You see, Vick has discovered that the rather worldly Israelis, after stealing their land from Arabs, don’t much care for the hard negotiations that the Obama administration is now engaged in (“big elemental thoughts”), not when it is a matter of — yes, making money: “With souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia.”

And this near-suicidal, clueless Jewish preoccupation with money-grubbing has got Vick pretty upset: “But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity? Well, not exactly.”

Finally, at the end of Vick’s piece, we discover why this is all so. Jews, we are told by interviewee “Eli,” can’t help it; it’s in their DNA. They like making money at the expense of everything else, from peace to justice”…

And Bret Stephens:

…Mr. Vick’s essay draws on the testimony of a pair of real estate agents, a columnist for a left-leaning newspaper, and a few others to explain that Israelis are too blissed-out by the fruits of their economic prosperity to pay much attention to the subject of peace, much less whatever sad things may transpire among their neighbors in Ramallah and Gaza. “We’re not really that into the peace process,” says Gadi Baltiansky, a peace activist quoted in the story. “We are really, really into the water sports.”

It’s hard to say what to make of this, since the article concludes by contradicting its central thesis: “For all the surf breaks, the palms and the coffee, the conflict is never truly done, never far away,” Mr. Vick writes.

Indeed it isn’t: Nearly every Israeli has a child, sibling, boyfriend or parent in the army. Nearly every Israeli has been to the funeral of a fallen soldier, or a friend killed in a terrorist attack. Most Israeli homes and businesses come equipped with safe rooms or bomb shelters; every Israeli owns a gas mask. The whole country exists under the encroaching shadows of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran. How many Americans, to say nothing of Europeans, can say the same about their own lives?

Yet when it comes to scoring cheap shots against the Jewish state, Time is not the sort of magazine to allow the obvious to disturb a prejudiced hypothesis. Can the magazine point to equally pointed cover stories about internal Palestinian affairs and what, perchance, they mean for the peace process? I checked: It last did so in April 2002 with a largely sympathetic portrait of Yasser Arafat “All Boxed In” by an invading Israeli army.

Please note that Hanson and Stephens are writing about liberal Time Magazine, not some right-wing, fascist, born-again, Christ-loving rag.

And N. M. Guariglia on Fareed Zakaria’s fatuous claim that we “overreacted” to 9/11:

Fareed Zakaria has written a very strange piece for Newsweek, asserting, amongst other things, that the United States overreacted to the 9/11 attacks. Zakaria’s usually way off — read his views on Iran — but these new and particularly bizarre claims deserve a response. His article begins:

“Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that Al Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat? Since that gruesome day in 2001, once governments everywhere began serious countermeasures, Osama bin Laden’s terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe. While it has inspired a few much smaller attacks by local jihadis, it has been unable to execute a single one itself. Today, Al Qaeda’s best hope is to find a troubled young man who has been radicalized over the Internet, and teach him to stuff his underwear with explosives.”

Notice the sleight of hand. Zakaria whitewashes radical Islam and its international network spawn, and reduces al-Qaeda to a few hundred cave-hoppers bowing around Waziristan. The reality is more multifaceted: “al-Qaeda” is the head of the jihadi snake, the epicenter of the global Islamist insurrection. It has offshoots in Algeria, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines –– and perhaps forty other countries. And that’s just “al-Qaeda.” There are many terror groups.

No attacks in Europe? The Madrid attacks and London bombings immediately come to mind. In the United States, there was the Long Island convert who tried to blow up Penn Station. An al-Qaedist in Arkansas attacked a military recruitment center in Little Rock, killing an American soldier. An Islamist in Illinois tried to take down a federal building in Springfield. A jihadi from Chicago set his sights on a Danish newspaper and assisted the gunmen in the Mumbai attacks. An Afghan national targeted Manhattan landmarks. A Jordanian national tried to topple a Dallas skyscraper. There was the massacre at Fort Hood. And this was just last year.

The “troubled young man” that tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day was trained in an al-Qaeda camp in Yemen. He would have killed nearly 300 people had it not been for passenger heroics. In May, a Pakistani-trained al-Qaedist tried to set off a bomb in Times Square, the most densely packed area in Manhattan. He failed, but had he succeeded the carnage would have trumped the Oklahoma City bombing. I was in Times Square that afternoon. Had the detonation gone off properly, giant shards of glass from the surrounding buildings — dozens and dozens of stories worth — would have plummeted to the streets, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.

And around the world? Last week alone, there were more than 300 casualties in Lahore, Pakistan; there were more than 200 in Quetta. In Sudan, al-Qaeda-linked Islamists murdered 74 people. Sixteen people were killed in Baghdad, four in Mosul, three in Yemen, two in Tajikistan, and one apiece in Thailand and Azerbaijan. Next week beckons…