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By Russ Smith | Posted 7/13/2005

It’s not surprising that one of the dumbest comments following the murders in London last week was issued by Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone. Wenner is a canny businessman, a baby-boomer entrepreneur who parlayed his idolatry of rock ’n’ roll stars into wealth and celebrity, but his understanding of politics has always been naive. His first question for a RS interview to newly elected President Bill Clinton in the summer of 1993 was “Are you having fun?”

Contributing to the blog The Huffington Post on July 7, less than 24 hours after al-Qaida bombs took the lives of more than 50 Londoners, Wenner wrote the following.

    Amid all the optimism surrounding Blair, Bono & Geldolf doing Live 8 and G-8, and the award of that most wonderful and pacific of international institutions and global brotherhood—the Olympics—what a grim thing to have happened. Violence rarely gets us anywhere; the PLO, the IRA, the SLA, among others have achieved so little with their terrorism. If the London bombings are the work of an Al Qaeda offshoot, then you have to fairly say, in the same way we condemn other’s terror, this is in part the result of Bush’s War on Iraq.

Never mind that the 1972 Olympic games in Munich were hardly “pacific,” or that Bob Geldolf’s pop extravaganza to raise awareness about poverty in Africa was a well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless feel-good exercise. Rather, it’s the narrow-minded and reflexive view of Wenner, and indeed a majority of left-wingers, that “Bush’s war” in Iraq is the sole reason people are slaughtered by jihadists, that is simplistic.

As I recall, the first (and mostly botched) attack on New York’s World Trade Center occurred in 1993, when Clinton was president and the United States wasn’t at war with any country. In addition, during the ’90s, the terrorist attacks in Kenya, Nairobi, and the U.S.S. Cole were carried out by fanatics who hated the Western world’s culture, not a specific Washington administration.

What do Wenner and his political soul mates believe was the cause of the Sept. 11 devastation? Oh, I forgot: Bush was at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, clearing brush instead of heeding “chatter” gathered by intelligence agencies.

Similarly, the elite media are in a hand-wringing dither about the latest atrocities. Consider the lead two paragraphs of Julie Hirschfeld Davis’ July 8 Sun news account, headlined “Attacks could build Bush’s support.” She writes: “For President Bush, who has made fighting terrorism a driving focus of his presidency, the London bombings were a brutal illustration of his frequent admonition that ‘the war on terror goes on.’

“But the attack in Britain, the closest U.S. ally, also pointed up a harsh reality for Bush: that four years after 9/11 and his declaration of war on terrorism, Western democracies remain vulnerable to incidents on their own soil.”

At first glance, those words might seem bland, even perfunctory, but in reality they display a deep misunderstanding of all that Bush, and his administration, have said for the past four years. The president never claimed that his foreign policy could possibly end terrorism during his White House tenure. After the end of World War II, America was engaged in a decades long “cold war” with the Soviet Union; the first part of the 21st century will surely be defined, at least politically and militarily, by the war against terrorists.

Let’s ignore, for the sake of argument, the vocal critics of the president who blindly hate Bush and oppose, automatically, any action, no matter how benign, the administration takes. So forget Michael Moore, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Maxine Waters, Whoopi Goldberg, New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman, and nearly anyone who writes for The Nation.

Concentrate instead on the very sizable number of generally reasonable citizens, mostly Democrats but not exclusively so, who are simply muddleheaded when the topic of how the U.S. should conduct itself in a shrinking, combustible world comes up. Their starting point is invariably Iraq, a “quagmire” they find so painfully unpleasant and inextricable that they just want immediate withdrawal, ignoring that such a pullout would vastly increase the death, destruction, and terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.

It’s often said that Bush should have concentrated solely on the capture of Osama bin Laden, and left Saddam Hussein in power, despite the fact that the latter was not only paying off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $25,000 for the murder of Israelis, but still brazenly defying sanctions imposed by the United Nations as well. Does anyone really believe, objectively, that Saddam, still in control, wouldn’t just be marking time to wreak havoc against the West in general, and Israel in particular?

Bush’s audacious foreign policy, which has tipped over the traditional playing board in the Middle East, won’t be realized during his second term. And perhaps it will be in vain. But his defiant stand in taking the war to the jihadists, on their home turf, is far more courageous—morally and politically—than doing nothing aside from chasing bin Laden and hoping that everything will turn out OK.

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