The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2001
used by permission

    While extremism in defense of liberty may be virtuous, xenophobia masquerading as satire is simply venomous. P.J. O'Rourke's less-than-Swiftian defense of U.S. unilateralism resurrects yesteryear's "ugly American" --with extreme prejudice. Yet as one who revels in ridiculing sinister foreigners, Mr. O'Rourke is strangely selective in his targets.

    Whereas he snidely refers to "Italian efficiency experts" in his deconstruction of multilateralism, Mr. O'Rourke is careful not to mock Irish sobriety counselors as little green men. Indeed, there are no bon mots about Israel's soldiers for peace in the occupied West Bank. Turkey's idealistic human-rights champions are also ignored. And no mention is made of the pristine Russian oligarchs who are vanquishing organized crime in Moscow.

    No, Mr. O'Rourke's lexicon of oxymorons is a carefully calibrated canard. Before he dismisses Europe's "age-old dream" of unity, however, Mr. O'Rourke would do well to read Edward Gibbon:

    "If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom.

    The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws."

    Not bad for a band of "disorganized Italians."

Rosario A. Iaconis
Director, The Italic Institute of America



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