It was a bad week for testosterone.
First, of course, there was the cyclist, Floyd Landis. He seemed to appear from nowhere -- to the shock of those of us who, thanks to Lance Armstrong's retirement, thought we had at least a year off from having to pretend we cared about cycling. Landis won the Tour de France last week, and within days, he turned out to have an unnaturally-high testosterone level. He denied doping in a strange, tell-tale fashion. And all you could think as you read about him was, what's wrong with this guy? Doesn't he know he's going to get caught? (You could think this for only a second, because the truth is that people who do stupid things never think they're going to get caught, otherwise they wouldn't do stupid things. Still.)
Which brings us to Mel Gibson. Good old Mel. Ranting and raving in a Malibu police station. Let's just stop to savor the moment when (in case there was any doubt about it) there's finally proof positive about how Mel really feels. Now let's move right on and go straight to Iraq.
There are many ways to tell the story of the Iraq War, but no question that one of them begins with a group of Republican men who under a compulsion to prove they were meaner and tougher than they'd been back in the days when they were a) in high school and no one chose them for the team, and/or b) part of the first Bush Administration. They bought into their own hormone-drenched slogans about fast strikes, shock-and-awe and surgical bombing. Now, three years later, having wrought a disaster, they continue to resort to the bromides of testosterone, accusing the war's critics of being wussy for even discussing a pull-out. (Even the war's moderate critics make the mistake of believing that everything would have worked just fine in Iraq had we sent in more troops. But there's no evidence whatsoever that this would have improved anything, never mind that we barely had the troops to send.)
And speaking of testosterone victims, Israel. Poor Israel. Israel's problems really began with the raid on Entebbe, which proved to the world (and of course, to Israel) that it was the strongest, toughest military operation in the world with the greatest intelligence service. Because of the technological superiority of the Israeli air force, this myth persisted until last week, when it became clear to all but Israel's most knee-jerk supporters that something wasn't working. For sure the intelligence wasn't working, not to mention the invincibility of the Israeli Air Force. The foremost Israeli military expert Ze'ev Schiff laid out in last week's Haaretz a long, inarguable list of failures in the current military operation against Hezbollah. Read it and weep.
The most horrifying case of testosterone gone mad, of course, is not the province of the West - it's the suicide bomber, the terrorist who wants to die. The effect of this fact on modern warfare and its practitioners is one of the most fascinating and bone-chilling aspects in the world today. One suicide bomber turns out to be worth as much as a boatload of conventional weapons; one suicide bomber evens the playing field in a way that none of our current leaders seems to understand, even now. Meanwhile, the Arab world is in the midst of its own Entebbe moment, and has fallen in love with Hezbollah.
In the end, it turns out that we're living in a world where there are almost no military operations that aren't suicide missions; the difference is simply that their guys know they're on suicide missions and ours don't.
Finally, and on what I would think was a lighter note if all this didn't put me in such a bad mood, we have the delightful story about the two people who are the front-runners for their party's presidential nominations - John McCain and Hillary Clinton. According to Saturday's New York Times, these two jolly souls went to Russia together a couple of years ago and bonded unexpectedly after participating, at Senator Clinton's suggestion, in a vodka-chugging contest. This display of testosterone on Senator Clinton's part caused Senator McCain to refer to her affectionately as "one of the guys."
Maybe we should start testing our politicians for testosterone levels and tossing them out if the results comes back unnaturally high.
Although it's probably too late.