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 dramatically if one accepted the premises of the Fourth World War so ineluctably spelled out in Podhoretz’s little volume, which takes time here and there to demolish such arguments as were mounted in protest against President Bush’s mention in his 2003 State of the Union address of yellowcake hunting in Niger.

Those critics who insist that it is only a small war-party faction of the Islamists that we have to fear might have been asked a generation ago if it was not merely a small number of Germans and Russians we were properly exercised about. Sixty million people were dead after that misreckoning."

Sure, and people's view of my constant demand for cupcakes might alter dramatically if people accepted my premise that I am the King of Cupcakes. This is easy!

Peel away all the extra words, and Buckley is simply making an argument for judging the capabilities of Islamic extremists according to their intentions, just as he did in regard to the Soviet Union, right up to the moment he was proven utterly wrong. Nutty? Indeed, but this is, after all, the journalistic role that Buckley originated, and at which he still excels: Injecting loony marginal conservative ideas into the national political bloodstream by translating them into patrician English.

--Matthew Duss