You Say You Want a Resolution
Everywhere you look, people are saying the dumbest things. This year, let's resolve to say enough is enough.
11:01 PM, Jan 13, 2002 • By LARRY MILLER
New Editor's Note, September 5, 2002: In yesterday's New York Times, Tom Friedman called this classic Larry Miller column essential reading. In case you missed it, enjoy!
Editor's Note: I'm happy to introduce you to Larry Miller. You may recognize him from his work as a comedian and actor (he's been in everything--"The Princess Diaries," "Best in Show," "10 Things I Hate About You," and his turn as the sinister Doorman on "Seinfeld" stand out). Look for his essays in The Daily Standard every other week.
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MAKING New Year's resolutions for a long time. Usually they're personal and last no longer than a smoke ring or one of Tom Daschle's smiles. You know the drill: "I'm going to cut down on my drinking, lose a few pounds, and read more books." Of course, by January 3rd, you get drunk, order a pizza, and buy a satellite dish.
This year, though, my resolutions won't be personal, and they won't look forward. They'll look back. Four months back. As you know, since September 11, our leaders and soldiers have done a fine job, frequently a brilliant job. (I mean, please, how about that Rumsfeld? If he were a woman, I'd--Wait. Come to think of it, I'd still do nothing.) I don't even care that so many of our fellow Americans have been contrary and mealy-mouthed. What makes me want to scream like an actress and throw things is this: Since the attack, I have seen, heard, and read thoughts of such surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed. You've heard them too. Here they are:
1) "We're not good, they're not evil, everything is relative."
Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves.
You see, folks, saying "We're good" doesn't mean "We're perfect." Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be, the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history.
If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see "The Producers."
2) "Violence only leads to more violence."
This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already:
Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully-thought-through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead.
That's right, dead. Not "on trial," not "reeducated," not "nurtured back into the bosom of love." Dead. D-E--Well, you get the idea.
3) "The C.I.A. and the rest of our intelligence community has failed us."
For 25 years we have chained our spies like dogs to a stake in the ground, and now that the house has been robbed, we yell at them for not protecting us.
Starting in the late seventies, under Carter appointee Stansfield Turner, the giant brains who get these giant ideas decided that the best way to gather international intelligence was to use spy satellites.
"After all," they reasoned, "you can see a license plate from 200 miles away." This is very helpful if you've been attacked by a license plate.
Unfortunately, we were attacked by humans. Finding humans is not possible with satellites. You have to use other humans. When we bought all our satellites, we fired all our humans, and here's the really stupid part. It takes years, decades to infiltrate new humans into the worst places of the world. You can't just have a guy who looks like Gary Busey in a Spring Break '93 sweatshirt plop himself down in a coffee shop in Kabul and say "Hiya, boys. Gee, I sure would like to meet that bin Laden fella."
Well, you can, but all you'd be doing is giving the bad guys a story they'll be telling for years.
4) "These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us."
Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help.
The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohamed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the "alleged hijackers," according to CNN--they stopped using the word "terrorist," you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon.