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Who said Republicans can't do satire?
on 19 November 2004
Peace Kills is the latest book from the pen of P.J. O'Rourke. Here O'Rourke returns to the topic of security and international politics in the post-modern world through a series of funny but thought provoking essays based on his travels both before and after 9/11 to Kosovo, Egypt, Israel, Iraq and elsewhere.
O'Rourke is a Republican with a fine eye for the absurdities of the situations and places he finds himself, delivering witty lines in almost every paragraph, but each essay also has serious political points to make underneath. His analysis comes from the libertarian right of centre (the well meaning but naïve come in for a particularly hard time) with a strong anti-ideological (right or left) slant, but this is not a theoretical political tract. O'Rourke's pragmatism and humanity comes through from his technique of getting to know different individuals in each country and listening to what they say, often bonding with them in the task of finding, acquiring and consuming alcohol. His companions range from harassed peace keepers in Kosovo, to world weary tour guides in Israel, to lecturers in post-Sadam Iraq. Throughout the book he looks to people finding the workable solution, not the utopian ideal.
O'Rourke is not, therefore, simply a right wing version of Michael Moore, though he shares with Moore the willingness and ability to poke fun at himself. Moore is a polemicist; O'Rouke's writing in general, and particulary in this book, is calmer, subtler, and frankly more informed about the wider world outside the USA. He allows the absurdity of his targets' language and actions to sink in before hitting the reader with a wry one-liner. It is the difference between being constantly bludgeoned with a sledgehammer and being subtly skewered by a rapier.
This is both a serious, intelligent book and very funny. A little more subdued than his pre 9/11 books, I believe he is still the wittiest Republican around and the most accessible to non-Americans. You may not agree with his politics, but all but the most narrow-minded should find plenty in this book to amuse and, perhaps, ponder over.