Matthew Duss

Matthew Duss is a foreign policy analyst and a contributing writer for the Prospect. You can follow him on Twitter @mattduss.

Recent Articles


STRATEGIC VISION. White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend , commenting on Osama bin Laden 's latest video yesterday: "This is a man on the run in a cave who is virtually impotent other than his ability to get these messages out," Townsend said on CNN's "Late Edition." "It is propaganda." Well, yeah, that's what bin Laden is, what he's always been: a propagandist. Declaring him "impotent" is like declaring Ronald McDonald "ineffective" for not actually going in and cooking the burgers himself. Like Ronald, Osama's role is to embody and promote the brand. Popping up every few years to say "Ha, ha, here I am!" and recite some Arabic verse is all he really needs to do to function as an effective spokesmodel. As for who's really running the show, yesterday the Washington Post had a story on al-Qaeda strategist Ayman al-Zawahiri , who has been hard at work rebuilding and refocusing the organization while President Bush posed in a flight suit. "While bin Laden putters about in...


464 PAGES OF OLD MEN PLEASURING THEMSELVES. That would have been a more appropriate title for Peter Beinart ’s entirely too-kind review of the new cri de wars by Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen . While Beinart capably dismantles the two mens' war-porn, the review is shot through with his desire to maintain his reputation as a serious, reasonable liberal by treating conservative ideas as if they were serious and reasonable, and Podhoretz's and Ledeen's ideas are neither. As Beinart points out, Podhoretz can't even be bothered to differentiate between the various groups in the Middle East, preferring instead to skip the boring research and move right to the part where he gets to sling accusations of treason (like everything else in the book, completely unsubstantiated, when not simply false) at his various political enemies. Beinart recognizes Podhoretz's "incessant use of violent imagery to describe American politics" but is unwilling to recognize that vicarious violence as a means...


THE TRANSMITTER. William F. Buckley praises Norman Podhoretz 's World War IV , in which Rudy Giulani 's foreign policy brain essentially argues that we should give bin Laden exactly what he wants, which is a war between Islam and the West. At one point in the article, in what I can only describe as a Russian nested doll of alarmist jingoism, we have Buckley quoting Podhoretz quoting Daniel Pipes on the severity of the Islamist threat, with Pipes laying out various potential scenarios in which Islamic extremism could be, like, the worst thing ever, if any of those scenarios came to pass. The rest of Podhoretz's book is, in my view, a pretty good blueprint for making absolutely sure that those scenarios came to pass. Buckley wraps it up: "Recognition, then, of the scale of the pretensions of the Islamist enemy has to precede substantial measures against it. In the matter of Iraq, for instance, the ambiguity of our engagement and the enlarging political cry against it would alter...

The Rise and Stall of Van Halen

A new biography of the band that made metal marketable doesn't disappoint the fans, but leaves the serious guitar geeks wanting more.

Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga by Ian Christe (Wiley, 320 pages) "We play rhythm and blues, shot from cannons." --David Lee Roth All guitar geeks remember the first time they heard "Eruption," Eddie Van Halen's one minute, 42 second guitar solo from Van Halen's 1978 debut. I was 12 years old, at summer camp. I had just taken up the guitar, learning to plink out some pitiful sounding blues tunes on my friend Robert's beat up old Ibanez Martin knock-off. He could play almost the whole introduction to "Stairway to Heaven," and this impressed me deeply, so I used to follow him around and get him to show me chords. One night as I was getting ready to go to sleep, Robert walked over to my bunk and handed me a scratched up cassette with the words "Van Halen" scrawled on it. "Yeah, I've heard Van Halen." I told him. "Have you heard 'Eruption'?" I hadn't. "It's cued up," he said. What came next was kind of a blur. I remember slipping the tape into my cheap Caldor's walkman, hitting...


BAD SCIENCE, GOOD POLITICS. Ezra's posts on supply-side crackpottery reminded me of its similarity to another brand of crackpottery, intelligent design , specifically the way that supply-side theory and ID are both essentially cultural/political arguments dressed up as science. Just as supply-siders offer various economic rationales for what is, at root, a belief that rich people have a moral right to their money and should therefore be taxed less, so ID proponents provide a lot of science-y sounding language for what is, in fact, according to their own literature , an effort to overthrow Darwinist "materialism" on the way to reinstalling the Christian God at the center of American cultural life. The fact that serious academic types don't take either seriously is largely irrelevant, as both ideas were developed specifically for popular consumption via media elites. -- Matthew Duss