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National Review And Ian Smith

National Review's print magazine has an excellent section entitled The Week. It is made up of short, clever, sarcastic, often funny 100-word (or so) takes on various topics. Here is their obit for Ian Smith, the racist former prime minister of Rhodesia:

Ian Smith, who died, age 88, was suited by birth and temperament to maintain the British Empire in Africa. Born in what was then Rhodesia in 1919, he served gallantly with the RAF in World War II (a crash permanently disfigured his face). After the war, he bought a cattle ranch and entered parliament. Britain was shedding its empire, however, to black successor states, which Smith could not accept. In 1965, as prime minister, he declared independence in order to maintain white power, and arrested, then fought, black nationalists. Pressured by his South African allies, he finally accepted an expanded franchise which in 1979 replaced him with a black Methodist bishop. But this did not satisfy world opinion. A 1980 election overseen by Britain put guerilla leader Ribert Mugabe in power, where he remains today. Smith rejected majority rule; Mugabe's incompetence and crimes have defamed it. R.I.P.

Where to begin? First, one has to love the euphemistic first sentence, which finds Smith "suited by birth and temperament to maintain" Empire. Then, two precious sentences on Smith's background. Next, the phrase "could not accept" to describe Smith's feelings on a free and fair vote. Since when did the right get so nonjudgmental? There's more--Smith arrested more than "black nationalists," for example, and "world opinion" had good reason to, you know, pressure Smith and his allies. Finally, the implication of the last sentence--that Mugabe's horrific regime has somehow vindicated Smith--is more than a little unseemly. Oh well, Andrew Roberts has a piece in the issue, so I probably should not be so surprised.

--Isaac Chotiner