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December 30, 2002
Recovering From Christmas

So we're back from Christmas vacation. One downside of having my name on this website is the fact that many people I know read it. So I'll be cryptic. Here's a nice rule to follow: if you have small children and you plan to spend time with other people who have small children, and further, one of your small children has a bad cold, it is common courtesy to warn the parents of the other small children.

In other words, much of our Christmas week involved wiping snot from our little guys. This is not as much fun as one might think. And of course they still want kisses, which means now I have it.

Oh, the indignity of it all. I'll spare you more details.

A friend from my grad school days once remarked that, unlike other professions, we political scientists are afforded no deference at the family dinner table when the talk turns to our area of expertise. If the subject is, say, a severe hematoma of the upper left quad, then Aunt Jill the physician is the person everyone listens to. If the topic is stocks, then everyone listens to Uncle Mort the investment banker, who is joining you for Christmas dinner via speakerphone from his minimum-security prison cell.

But when the talk turns to politics, do they listen to the political scientist? No. As I think back on the people I went to school with, I must conclude that this is a good thing.

So over dinner, several family members get into the inevitable Iraq/War on Terror conversation. To give you a flavor for the discussion, a few quotes selected primarily to make the part about me below sound especially good:

"We aren't the world's policeman."

"No wonder people over there hate us."

"The Europeans are sick of us meddling."

"We're just doing it for oil."

And so on. I kept my mouth shut. That's right. I kept my mouth shut. For this reason, I shall be abstaining from any sacrifice during the 2003 Lenten season.

A day or so later, my mother-in-law, bless her soul, asked me what I thought about the conversation.

"I'm no expert on foreign affairs," I demurred. I'm shy that way; can you tell?

"C'mon, Tony, I want to know what you think."

"Well, since you asked, we aren't the world's policeman, until the world goes and gets itself in another bind, usually involving the Germans directly or indirectly, and requiring some sort of rescue of the French, during which they will try to overcharge us for amenities. Come the wet-ass hour, to quote Al Pacino, we are everybody's daddy. So no, the Europeans don't want us involved, because they are too busy having fun pretending, now that we've defeated the U.S.S.R., that somehow they can manage their own safety without actually having armies, and while selling technology and weapons to terrorists and communist China. About the time they have their fat heads in a noose, made of rope they've sold at EU-subsidized prices to their executioners, then they'll start carping about how isolationist and hard-hearted we are. So the Europeans can bite me. And another thing -- it may be fashionable for liberals whose sole source of education is the E Channel to deride Ronald Reagan as an idiot, but he is a hero, that's right, a hero to millions of East Europeans, because he had the moral courage to call the Soviet Union what it was -- an Evil Empire -- while the slack-shouldered agnostics ladling out second-rate education in our nation's colleges were too busy sipping cappuccino and banging co-eds to recognize that communism is responsible for more state-sponsored murder than ten Nazi holocausts. So to answer your question, no, we aren't the world's policeman, but when there are people out there who want to kill me and my children, and they are actively seeking the means to do so, then my personal philosophy is that you kill them and everything within a ten-mile radius of them, post freaking haste. And if the U.N. doesn't like it, they can pack their louse-filled bags and hold their busy little seminars on gender inequality and structural racism on somebody else's dime. Since you asked, I mean."

This website may not change the world, but by golly, it sure makes me feel better.

Posted by Woodlief on December 30, 2002 at 05:08 PM


A - freakin'-men!
You know the amazing thing about Christmas is not that a cute little baby was born; but that the antidote to all evil has come and invaded the earth. If that doesn't get your blood going, what will.
Thing is, we get so sleeply that we forget to identify evil for what it is. Christmas is over, not let's go to work!

Posted by: Jason at December 30, 2002 5:50 PM

Woodlief, have I mentioned that I love you?

Posted by: Sekimori at December 30, 2002 7:02 PM

I agree!

Posted by: Gray at December 30, 2002 8:33 PM

Ah, yes, family together time and politics. Finally had the blow-up re: Jimmeh C after Christmas dinner. Went as follows:

Dad: Jimmy Carter was one of the greatest statesmen of the century! (This after a snide remark by me--I started it, I admit. I am not as good a man as you are, Gunga Woodlief.)

Me: Sure, if by great you mean "signs worthless pieces of paper with liars who ignore them and build nukes anyway."


Uncle Sonny: (ex-USAF Captain) smile

Next time, I'll just cut and paste your mini-rant on poster board and prop it up at the head of the table.

Posted by: Tracey at December 30, 2002 10:15 PM

Hear, hear, Tony. You done said it just right!!!!
Amen, brother!!!

Posted by: sid at December 30, 2002 11:08 PM

You are certainly not the only one made happy regularly by your website. That was an extremely cathartic rant to read. Can't imagine how good it felt to write it.

Posted by: Cis at December 31, 2002 2:39 AM

Like a hot steamy bath in a smooth porcelain tub, topped with creamy bubbles and infused with the rich scent of lavendar.

How's that for knowing my customers?

Posted by: Tony at December 31, 2002 8:15 AM

Amen, Tony, and pass the ammunition!
It's on to Victory in 2003--with warbloggers like you, we'll win the battle for Hearts and Minds for sure!
(and I had similar experiences giving my opinions at a Christmas gathering,too--it's a post 9/11 "I've got religion" thing!)
Happy New Year and Courage, mon brave.

Posted by: Jennie Taliaferro at December 31, 2002 1:05 PM

You should have kept your mouth shut.

Posted by: Nick O Teen at December 31, 2002 1:10 PM

Very well put, Tony.

My brother is a lovely guy but he has spent the past 4 years in law school in New York and we tend to have those same kinds of conversations over the holidays. I had to officially ban my father and brother from talking about politics on Christmas day.

I'll be adding you to my blogroll. Keep on!

Posted by: Rick Stinson at December 31, 2002 1:20 PM

Ok, I'm going to tell you upfront - I'm memorizing this sucker and spending all of 2003 passing it off as my own. YOU RULE! Oh, and happy new year too

Posted by: grayp at December 31, 2002 1:26 PM

4 years in law school? But its only a three year curriculum . . .

Posted by: T. Hartin at December 31, 2002 1:27 PM

Tony, I stand in awe of you. As always.

(Well, actually I'm sitting down typing, but you get the point)

I feel left out anyway. Everyone at my Christmas dinner table agreed with me. I think even my almost-3-yr-old niece would say "scorched earth policy" if asked what Bush should do in Iraq...

Posted by: susanna at December 31, 2002 1:36 PM

You go, guy! That is one superlative rant, and right on all counts. I bow down in awe (if one can bow down while standing shoulder to shoulder with you) - scorched earth indeed!

Happy new year to us (u.s.) - to hell with the islamafreakazoids.

Posted by: Barbara Skolaut at December 31, 2002 1:46 PM

E! television just had a great little peice on the superiority of simplistic, narrow-minded responses to complex issues.
I better start watching another channel.

Posted by: Brian at December 31, 2002 1:56 PM

Excellent. I am an American married to a Canadian. The hostility toward the U.S. that I must endure during any and every family gathering is almost unbearable. I keep my mouth shut but I wish I could articulate my thoughts as you have done here. Thank you.

Posted by: Kay V. at December 31, 2002 2:00 PM

No Brian - I think the E! Television piece was about half-wits who believe that everything in the world is just too darn complicated to be able to grasp or see with any clarity - so rather than think and reason on their own - they turn to the superior wisdom of France and Sean Penn. I think that's what that E! piece was all about.

Posted by: Davey at December 31, 2002 2:05 PM

What a slam-dunk of a, shall we say, "spirited analysis" (aka, "rant with a degree"). As good as anything Victor Davis Hanson has put out. Kudos.

Posted by: Jeffersonian at December 31, 2002 2:18 PM

Wild thing...You make my heart sing.

Posted by: Sisyphus at December 31, 2002 2:33 PM

Congratulations, but don't leave us Brits in the lurch when it comes to it. We're not about to forget you guys, so don't forget us when the balloon goes up.
Happy New Year, and, again, great article.

Posted by: James Hamilton at December 31, 2002 2:40 PM

Ah yes, Brian, simplistic and narrow-minded. Say those magic words and you don't have to say anything else, because it shows you're thoughtful and open-minded. That wonderful ability that we humans have to reason and make moral distinctions should never, ever be used, especially when an issue is complex. What's the old adage about open-mindedness? Something along the lines of "It is great to be open-minded, but you shouldn't leave your mind so open that your brain falls out." Simplistic, I know, but the best my narrow mind could come up with on short notice.

Posted by: Jeff at December 31, 2002 2:48 PM

Davey, calling me a half-wit because I don't agree with you and every other person on this page, and in the same breath saying I can't think and reason on my own? Really? Maybe you should ask some of your friends to help explain to you the concept of irony...

Posted by: Brian at December 31, 2002 2:52 PM

To clarify for T. Hartin, my brother spent three years in law school and then an additional year earning an LLM. I just lumped them all in there together. He also has a Masters in Tax, is a CPA and passed the bar in New York.

Smart boy, my brother.

Posted by: Rick Stinson at December 31, 2002 3:12 PM

Brilliant Tony...I must add that I missed your common sense, acute insights, and pithy style during your deserved Christmas hiatus, but it made for some lonely days here as I was forced to troll over to idiotarian sites and prosecute the WOT--til of course I was banned.

Re: Ronald Reagan and his heroic stature among those who have been subjugated and now benefit from his unerring vision and integrity. I feel this is an opportune time to share an epiphany I experienced in Kabul, thanks to RR.

I was seated at a banquet on a rooftop cafe in Kabul one evening recently, surrounding by the usual British leftwing scribes and various UN bureacrats (sorry, but I don't believe Fisk was there...but many of his odious colleagues were in abundance) when the ineviatble subject of Ronnie came up. After the usual bashing had taken place, our dinner host, a prominent Afghan businessman and former mujahideen finally had enough of this idiocy. He launched into an eloquent tirade, shaming his European 'allies,' with an Afghan history lesson and concluded tearfully with his view that Reagan had delivered the single most beautiful oratory he ever witnessed--Reagan's noble farewell to the world...the former President was telling us he had Alzheimers and was retiring from public life. Mr. Faizi said he had then wept and now his eyes were once again brimming with unabashed tears. To our utter amazement Faizi had committed some of Reagan's speeches to memory (Afghans prize oral recitation as the highest art form) and now qoted lengthy passages in rebuke to his unconfortable European guests. There was hardly dry eye in the house from the gathered Afghans--many former mujahideen-- who had pressed around our table. Then a prolonged silence broken only by a spontaneous outbust of cheers and embraces from the natives, while the Brits squirmed uncomfortably.

Reagan was--and continues to be--a hero to the Afghans (as well as the East Europeans,) In their long war against the Soviets, Reagan never blinked. To the Afghans, he was one of them, a principled man who put honor (their highest virtue) and a fierce unequivocable defense of that honor above all. He spoke the truth and defied his enemies--never wavering from his vision. As an American visitor I have long benefited from the extraordinary hospitality and good will proferred by the Afghans as a tribute to the memory of the deeds of this true American--a warrior, cowboy, outdoorsman, and fighter just like themselves. It was clear to me that the British were more than a little jealous-and felt insignificant and marginalized in Afghanistan, a country they could never subdue....resentments linger. It's not that they just hate Reagan wo much as the fact that his powerful charismatic leaderhip is a constant reminder of how far they have fallen on the world stage...to the point of complete irrelevance. Reagan emergence merely became a measurement tool whereby they might finally guage their utter eclipse and their foolish accomodation with world socialism--Reagan exposed that completely and permanently. Their love of Clinton (and his own ludicriously infllated respect for their opinon) emanated from Clinton's ignorance of the world) whih allowed them both to exend the pleasant fiction that Britain still mattered.

Posted by: John at December 31, 2002 3:59 PM

In my department are many Russians and Bulgarians. I know their appreciation and admiration of Reagan firsthand--the first words out of one Bulgarian's mouth were, "That Reagan, he accomplished something. He was a great friend to us."

He freed them. I don't know if some people can conceptualize that but his will and determination freed millions of people from totalitarianism--they tend to be grateful for things like that.

Posted by: addison at December 31, 2002 4:06 PM

Yeah, I remember on my first trip to Russia, wandering around Ekaterinburg in February, how his words about the FSU being an 'Evil Empire' kept echoing around in my head. What simple eloquence. That was replayed again while in Ashkhabad.
It’s funny how Warsaw cabbies have a better understanding of history than our ‘elite’.
It is amazing how his ‘Evil Empire’ and ‘Tear down that wall’ statements resonated with the people.

Posted by: urania at December 31, 2002 4:58 PM

Well, I did it. I gathered my friends together (both of them) so they could explain irony to me. They told me that irony was when people who harvest all of their opinions from Dan Rather, Noam Chomsky and the pages of the New York Times - which is one and the same - call others simplistic and narrow-minded. Because you know, you never get tired of the "narrow-minded" moniker being cast about like a fly fisherman slinging about for trout. It's enough to make a guy call someone a name, sorry to say.

Posted by: Davey at December 31, 2002 5:21 PM

Here in Germany, I can observe anti-Americanism all the time. In my opinion, it has little to do with specific U.S. policies.

First, anti-Americanism has been going strong at least since the 70s and through media and education is now self-perpetuating - similar to anti-Semitism, which exists even in countries where there are no Jews.
Second, regarding the current world crisis, Europe hasn´t been able to offer any workable alternative policy. Fact is, our leaders don´t want that responsibility anyway - much better to sit on the sidelines and blame America for diplomatic or domestic advantage (which is what Chancellor Schroeder did to get reelected).
Third, quite a few people here simply do not feel threatened by Middle Eastern dictators, nuclear proliferation, or terrorism. No wonder they think U.S. involvement is the real problem. We can call this the "Shire mentality".

So our political and media elites have settled on America-bashing, in equal parts out of ideology, convenience and ignorance. The U.S. cannot do right and will be equally criticized for "meddling" as for inaction.

This failure of our political culture is extremely worrying. Some may console themselves that diplomatic relations behind closed doors are much more normal, but in appealing to the anti-American instinct, our elites are playing with fire. In splitting the western world, they also encourage our common enemies.

Posted by: Werner at December 31, 2002 5:32 PM

Amazing: Werner's grasp of English and grammar is vastly superior to most college graduates in America.

Posted by: addison at December 31, 2002 8:41 PM

Addison: What's so amazing about it? Aside from being an intelligent and lucid gentleman, Werner has the advantage of never having been subject to the American (dis-)educational system...

Posted by: David Paglia at December 31, 2002 9:46 PM

Modern liberalism lauds FDR for bringing US out of Depression and winning the war (WW2). All RR did was save the world by clearly demonstrating the utter futility of central planning and the totalitarian state.

Posted by: drew at December 31, 2002 11:32 PM

That was possibly the single most hilarious and accurate thing I've read in some time. Excellent job.

Posted by: Max at January 1, 2003 5:15 AM

Ahhhhhhhh. Thank you. You are now on my daily list of must-reads.

Posted by: Dee Bates at January 1, 2003 7:32 AM

Thats a rant up there with the best of them.

Just to clarify though the American army didnt actually save the day in WW2. You probably saved quite a few western european lives, but the Eastern front was where the bulk of the German force was laid out and defeated by the russians, whose sacrifices and losses in this war made those of United State still significant but most certainly not the "daddy" saviour of the war.

Posted by: Tom at January 1, 2003 8:05 AM

Thankfully, my immediate family is on the same political page. However, I ran into a friend who has been living in Paris and Luxembourg. When she said, "Bush is just trying to go after Iraq because he doesn't want to deal with the economy..." I lost it. I said, "I'm not going to even dignify that comment with a response it is so beyond the pale."

I had tried to educate her by making references to even Christopher Hitchens stand, etc., but she obviously hadn't done any reading on the subject. She was just mouthing the normal European reactions.

Is there anyone else who just hates reading articles about the "Arab street" blowing up? What about the "American street?" I'm sick to death of thinking twice about going on an airplane or going to a major event. Well, this member of the "American street" wants the whole terrorism structure taken down piece by piece, and if it includes bodies (theirs, of course)... so be it.


Posted by: Katherine at January 1, 2003 10:03 AM

Wow, the responses to the post are as good as the post itself!

I'm also puzzled why no one is concerned about the American Street. Considering that the American Street has the most power over it's government that the majority of other countries...

BTW, the full post isn't showing up anymore. Some sort of counter icon has deleted half of the post.

Posted by: ErikZ at January 1, 2003 11:21 AM

David Paglia,

Touché, good sir.

Posted by: addison at January 1, 2003 2:04 PM

Tony, I agree!

And thanks to some of you other posters for sharing how well-loved Mr. Reagan is...

Oh, and Tony, I understand your feelings at the family gathering - I have a dear friend who deeply admires Mr. Clinton, whom she sees as brilliant and compassionate (what he does on his own time is nobody else's business!), and who thinks that Mr. Bush is a dangerous sociopath, who is trying to stir up trouble in Iraq only to distract people from the terrible economy (She also swears that Mr. Bush used to beat his wife, and is out to destroy the middle class, and that we wouldn't have to depend on foreign oil if the oil companies would release the patents they control that would provide clean, efficient alternative trasportation...). Nearly everyone else in our little group agrees with her, so I always feel hopelessly outnumbered whenever the talk turns to politics...

Posted by: Liz L at January 2, 2003 2:33 AM

Oh yeah - she also says Mr. Bush is complete moron, whose limited vocabulary makes her cringe -she'd have to take happy pills before she'd ever listen to him...

Posted by: Liz Le Mond at January 2, 2003 2:36 AM

I am a fan.
For whatever that's worth.
Keep writing... at your original pay scale.

Posted by: D.V. Dawe at January 2, 2003 6:54 AM

Uh, Tom? We WERE everybody's daddy in WW2. While Russia's massive losses and eventual push-back of the Germans is laudable, imagine Germany fighting Russia without any second front at all. Without the US, even Russia might have fallen - Britain would have been long gone along with large portions of Africa, and Germany could have devoted itself to the the battle with Russia.

In short, yes, we did save the day - and that's without even mentioning the other half of the globe, where we almost single-handedly took care of Japan, which, as you may recall, was busy taking over the entire Pacific.

Basically, for the last hundred years, the US military chooses the winning side of any conflict it's involved in (even Vietnam - unfortunately, we chose the other side because we were idiots and didn't prosecute the war like a war - here's hoping we don't make that mistake in the War on Terror!).

As to the post itself, excellent job, Tony, as always.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 2, 2003 10:27 AM

Here's to another Christmas on the wrong side of the political fence...I would print these out and give it to dear old dad, but that would start something I try to avoid.

Saving the blog...


Posted by: Catherine at January 2, 2003 11:55 AM

Of course we were the big Daddy of WWII. Russia would be speaking German if not for the tens of thousands of jeeps, tanks, airplanes, artillery pieces, and other war materiel that we sent over by the boatload. They may have been brave fighting men (and women), but tossing rocks at tanks does not win a war.

Posted by: Mike at January 2, 2003 12:46 PM

Wait wait wait.

This post is by and large dead-on, but the accusations that Europe is selling the bullets to its assassin while the U.S. is blameless disregards some important points:


It's not like the blood is only on the hands of Europeans.

Posted by: Seth D. Michaels at January 2, 2003 7:32 PM


First, let me wipe a tear from my eye. Wonderful post (won't call it a rant). Now that I have added your blog to my must read list, I can move on.

You start off with your mother-in-law asking ""C'mon, Tony, I want to know what you think."

"We aren't the world's policeman." - done.

Still waiting for your thoughts on:

"No wonder people over there hate us."

"The Europeans are sick of us meddling."

"We're just doing it for oil."

... and I am as giddy as a schoolgirl in anticipation.

Posted by: irabk at January 3, 2003 12:01 AM




Posted by: Anonymous at January 13, 2003 4:59 PM