Review: Give War a Chance

Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind’s Struggle against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer, P.J. O’Rourke. Atlantic Monthly Press, 223 pages, $20.95.

1992, World

P.J. O’Rourke is a missionary of sorts. No, he does not translate Scripture passages for native tribes that pierced their noses long before it became the trend in New York City. Instead, he is a conservative political humorist who writes for a magazine that proudly endorsed Jerry Brown for president. How’s that for a mission field?

O’Rourke’s message is common-sense and hilarious conservatism. His goal is to save as many people from the evil and nutty clutches of liberalism before they are able to slap “Visualize World Peace” bumperstickers on to their Volvos. His parish is the very liberal Rolling Stone magazine where he is the “Foreign Affairs Desk Chief,” which is as hard to imagine as Gloria Steinem playing with Barbie dolls.

O’Rourke is a former leftist who not only saw the political light, he scorched his eyebrows. As such, he lampoons and ridicules liberalism with the same tenacity that a former drunk would denounce alcohol. O’Rourke, however, is much funnier than any reformed whiskey swigger:

“Now, liberals are people I had been accustomed to thinking of as daffy, not villainous. Getting their toes caught in their sandal straps, bumping their heads on wind chimes – how much trouble could they cause, even in a full-blown cultural-diversity frenzy? … But every iniquity in this book is traceable to bad thinking or bad government. And liberals have been vigorous cheerleaders for both.”

As is his forte, O’Rourke is a first-class world traveler with a radar for trouble, bedlam, and panic. While Swiss tourists are crowding the beaches along the Adriatic Sea, he is packing his bags for Moscow, Managua, and other dens of dysfunctional communism.

He also delivers the most uproarious play-by-play of the world’s war with Saddam Hussein. O’Rourke worked with ABC Radio and almost blew himself to smithereens by investigating a booby-trapped box in Kuwait City.

In another chapter he explains his conversion from 1960s Maoist to modern-day gonzo-Republican: “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a `learning experience.’  Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a `learning experience.’”

Of course, it would not be an O’Rourke literary treat if we did not have some good old noogies delivered to some of our very own loathsome and pesky liberals: Dr. Ruth, the “We Are the World” gang and, of course, the entire Kennedy clan.

Unlike some conservatives who simply bellyache about the Dan Rathers in our midst, O’Rourke has proposed that we institute a new McCarthyism for liberals, complete with Vice President Dan Quayle as our tailgunner. This time, he suggests, we should hang on their every liberal word, lavishing them with unearned attention all the while “writing articles about their wonderful swellness.” Thereby we would subject them to that odious punishment of Media Overexposure, granting them the moral legitimacy of, say, the New Kids on the Block.

Give War A Chance offers good news and bad news. The bad news is that most of the hilarious chapters have appeared in various magazines prior to the book’s publication. The good news is that it is all worth reading a second time.

Steve Beard is the curator of Thunderstruck Media.

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