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Mickey's Assignment Desk #1

A regular feature that tells everyone else what to write.


Posted Thursday, July 1,1999

        1. The Coming Terrorist Boom: In the June 7 Wall Street Journal, defense strategist Eliot Cohen says NATO's ability to beat the Serbs into submission without suffering a combat casualty might be a "crippling" precedent. "Should we come up against an adversary who can figure out a way of forcing us to take casualties," Cohen writes, "our new way of war will suddenly look fragile indeed." Cohen doesn't say what that "way of forcing us to take casualties" might be, but you don't have to be a military genius to figure it out: terrorism. And not any fancy nuclear or biological terrorism either. A few small conventional bombs detonated in American urban centers would probably do the trick. Look at the national reaction when 13 teenagers were killed in a Colorado high school. Now imagine what would have happened if, during the Kosovo war, the same number of people had been killed every week or so in continuing bomb attacks. The country would have gone berserk, Dan Rather leading the way. To-be-sure paragraph: To be sure, the reaction might be a stiffening of U.S. resolve to defeat whoever plants such bombs. But it might as easily be a general outcry to stop the killing by stopping any U.S. military action. Discuss: It's surprising the Serbs didn't think of this (and equally surprising that, if they did, they didn't manage to pull it off). Try to get some juicy "tick-tock" details on Pentagon anti-terrorist efforts, please. Kicker: We might not have as much luck with our next adversary, etc., etc.. Assigned to: The New Republic (protect your pro-interventionist franchise); Atlantic Monthly (protect your global gloom and doom franchise!).

        2. Pro Benno Publico? Now that former Yale president Benno C. Schmidt Jr. has positioned himself to be a significant force in New York City education policy -- he's vice chairman of the City University of New York (about which he just authored a highly-publicized, critical report) and his company, the Edison Project, may seek to run some N.Y. City schools -- it's time for a piece on what a mediocre president of Yale he was. He took office during a financial crisis in 1986, then cut and ran in 1992 when he got a lucrative offer from Edison amidst what the New York Times called a "general loss of confidence" in his leadership. His abrupt departure helped Yale fumble a big donation from Texas billionaire Lee Bass that would have funded a new Western Civ curriculum, and he left the university not much better off than when he started. Or something like that. Better check it out -- this guy's got friends! Yale's current president, Richard C. Levin, has (rightly or wrongly) been credited with improving on Schmidt's perfomance. Levin's allies should be happy to talk on background. Heh, heh. Assigned to: New York Observer. Writer: Philip Weiss isn't afraid to be nasty, and knows enough Yalies of a certain age.

        Point of Confusion: is independent of Slate magazine. That thing at the top of the page is an ad, part of our timely implementation of the ingenious business plan. Expected revenue from ad: $0.00 (it's a freebie). But we are well ahead of projections. We expect to show a profit next year. Already we make more money than The New Yorker. And now that we are branded, we are going to take it to the next level.

        Coming soon: gets sticky!

Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.