Sullivan: What if 9/11 never happened?

It’s one in a series of pieces from various (mostly left-leaning) intellectuals and politicians commissioned by New York magazine. Karol sent me the link to Sullivan’s submission a few hours ago and I was ten paragraphs in before I realized it wasn’t a parody. I was planning to e-mail the author and congratulate him on what a stellar job he’d done imitating Sully’s voice — with the caveat that next time, he should work in some headhunting (Trent Lott, Howell Raines) and a lot more emphasis on his emotional condition. He sounds surprisingly unfilled with heart-ache for a guy imagining something as gobsmackingly vile as a cyanide attack.

A few CPAP references couldn’t hurt either.

It gets more annoying as it goes along, beginning with his insinuation that Republicans would have resorted to the same type of reactionary obstructionism and opportunism as Democrats have if it wasn’t our guy who was quarterbacking the war. To which I say: we shall see. He goes on to praise Bush’s successful “containment” strategy towards Saddam, congratulates President Gore on his deployment of 300,000 troops to Afghanistan — more troops being the solution to all military problems in Provincetown — and seems awfully casual about the idea of invading Pakistan (which, he then concedes, might lead to Islamists subsequently overthrowing and killing Musharraf — inexplicably by hanging, not beheading). President Gore also manages to take out Bin Laden with an airstrike five short months after a big terror attack. Does having a Democrat in office somehow make the Air Force more capable? Or was Osama simply forced out into the open by all those troops we have in Pakistan, who somehow don’t have their hands full with any Pakistani or jihadi forces objecting to their presence in the country?


This part grates the most, though:

[T]here’s a new twist in Gore’s and Blair’s rhetoric. Gore is arguing that only by democratizing the Middle East can we win the long-term war. Huh? I can see the broad ideological point: We have to offer an alternative to the medieval despotism now gripping the region. But this is also where my own conservatism kicks in. We’re going to make Afghanistan a democracy? At best, it’ll take decades.

There’s nothing in his alternate history to explain why bizarro-world Andrew Sullivan would be any more skeptical than his real-world counterpart. He’s just magically wiser/more cynical somehow, which I take to be his backdoor way of admitting that he no longer believes in the cause of Islamic democracy. Or at least, not enough to warrant a decades-long commitment. It’s obvious from his blog that he no longer supports the war, but this is the first time, I think, that I’ve seen him question the war’s aspirations.

That said, this does remind you that unlike the leftists with whom he’s often aligned these days, Sullivan is under no illusions about the severity of the threat, who the bad guys are, and which side is responsible for having started this. There’s nothing fictitious about the war in Sully’s alternate history; he even supports a preemptive strike on the Afghan terror camps to prevent a WMD attack — which proves, ultimately, not quite successful. He recognizes, given the dark note on which he ends, that we’re lucky they hit us when they did, before they had their ducks in a row to do real damage. In a world where news of a massive terror plot prompts A-list nutroots bloggers to question the timing, that’s a difference that should be noted. And appreciated.

Plus, the idea of Vice President Joe Lieberman? Delightful.

Most of the other responses reek, particularly the one written by Bernard Henri-Levy, who actually believes Kerry would have been the nominee if 9/11 hadn’t happened and who, it should be noted, reeks generally. Leon Wieseltier’s is an exception. Read it; it only takes a sec.