"The left is not defined any longer by a socialist plan. Its agenda is negative and nihilistic: bring the Great Satan down. Its agendas are to cripple the economy with environmental regulations; hogtie the intelligence services with unrealistic constraints; undermine the military with constant lies; and tie the hands of the President in responding to threats."
"The term “liberal” under any reasonable definition should be used to describe people who are tolerant and fair-minded and, who believe in free market institutions and individual as opposed to group rights, and who presumably would understand that America is not the root cause of problems in the Arab Muslim world or elsewhere."
"The negative program of the left includes – sabotage of the globalization process; deconstruction of the idea of American nationality and of the sense of national loyalty that accompanies it; undermining of America’s borders; undermining of America’s national security apparatus and military defenses; sabotaging of America’s wars; rewriting of America’s Constitution to reflect its passions for group rights and redistributionist agendas; politicizing and undermining America’s independent judiciary system in order to carry out its social engineering projects; politicizing of American education to make it an instrument of anti-American doctrines; and in general measures that would weaken America in the face of the terrorist threat, which it radically discounts or with which it actively sympathizes."
"The fact that Arabs in Israel enjoy more rights than Arabs in any Arab country, and that every Arab country without exception bans Jews from their soil and has done so for fifty years, counts for nothing for the Jew-despising left. Their hatred for democratic Israel and its American patron is that great."
"Never in American history has the opposition to a good war that liberated 30 million people, established an ally on the borders of two enemy countries (Syrian and Iran), and has been ratified by 70% of the population it was intended to liberate -- been so vicious and so popular. Never in American history have the leaders of one America’s two great national parties attacked a sitting commander-in-chief as a liar, a traitor, and a mental misfit. Never in the midst of a war."
***This is a series of exchanges between Jacob Heilbrunn, an LA Times editorial writer and author of a forthcoming book on neoconservatism, and David Horowitz to discuss the themes of Horowitz’s book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left and DiscoverTheNetworks.org. -- The Editors.
What prominent Washington think-tank head said this? "Acquiring additional burdens by engaging in new wars of liberation is the last thing the United States needs...The principal problem is the mistaken belief that democracy is a talisman for all the world's ills, and that the United States has a responsibility to promote democratic government wherever in the world it is lacking." And what magazine editor just denounced the neoconservatives for leading the U.S. into Iraq by deploring their "bully-boy" tactics? The first quote is from Dimitri K. Simes, the head of the Nixon Center; the second, from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, in the new issue of the National Interest.
In your new book "Unholy Alliance," you do a fabulous job of chronicling the nonsense emanating from certain precincts on the American Left about the war on terror and the Bush administration. But you radically inflate the importance of the Left and ignore the fact that the more significant opposition to Bush administration policies may well be on the traditional Right.
A stranger to the U.S. would receive the impression that the Left has made substantial inroads into American society in recent decades and that it is subverting the war on terror. According to Unholy Alliance: "Why have American radicals actively obstructed the War on Terror, thereby undermining the defense of the democracies of the West?" You go on to devote a goodly amount of space to depicting and analyzing the activities of historians like Howard Zinn, Eric Hobsbawm, Gerda Lerner and Eric Foner, among others.
I very much doubt these names are familiar to most Americans. The reason is that they have had almost no political impact. They may enjoy high reputations in the academy, but their influence outside of it has been nil. What government policies have any of these academics conceivably shaped? Hobsbawm, as you note, still mourns the passing of the Soviet Union, which is hardly a winning political program. The only one who has had a scintilla of influence is Noam Chomsky, but only abroad in etiolated Leftist circles. By contrast, academics like Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Lewis, who are close to vice-president Dick Cheney, clearly have.
Conservatives, in many ways, take fundamental principles and ideas more seriously than liberals. Overlooked in all the denunciations of the alleged ignoramus George W. Bush is that he takes beliefs and intellectual concepts more seriously than his predecessor Bill Clinton.
Then there is the matter of Al Gore, who has morphed back into a '60s liberal. You quite rightly note that Gore went into paroxysms over the Iraq war, but your attempt to draw a link between the Left and the Democratic Party is strained. Yes, Howard Dean and Moveon.org managed to mobilize voters during the primary. But Gore is nowhere and Dean flamed out (in his new incarnation as DNC head, he'll do everything he can to move to the middle to curry favor with moderates for his next run). The party did not lurch to the far Left in 2004; instead, it turned to its equivocator-in-chief John F. Kerry to lead it back to the White House. Is Kerry a liberal? Absolutely. But a hardened Leftist? No way. Kerry isn't interested in ideology, but in his personal advancement.
Which brings us to back to the war on terror. You drub Kerry for attacking the Patriot Act, but as today's Washington Post, among other newspapers, points out, a Left-Right coalition is battling against renewal of a number of its provisions. Indeed, as you state, on the eve of the Iraq war "it took a Republican with unquestionable security credentials to break the domestic silence and launch the first serious attack on the administration's strategy"--Brent Scowcroft.
Patrick J. Buchanan's "American Conservative" has been coruscating in its criticism of the Iraq war, featuring former neoconservatives like Owen Harries. Conservative splits have also shown up at the venerable National Interest, where Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington have decamped to start their own magazine that doesn't adhere as firmly to realist principles, which is to say they want a fairly activist foreign policy as opposed to remaining aloof. Indeed, no one regards Bush and his advisers with more horror than the realists in the GOP. In short, if there is an unholy alliance, it's not on the Left with radical Muslims. It's between the far Left and realist Right.
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this dialogue and for launching it by asking the most important question that I knew conservatives would have about my book and about its thesis that America is threatened by an internal fifth column of Leftists who have formed a de facto alliance with our radical Islamic enemies, who want this country to lose the wars it is fighting with this enemy abroad, and who have exerted a profound influence on the Democratic Party and.
Conservatives are generally so oblivious to (or complacent in the face of) the actual threat posed by the political Left in this country that they are willing to cede to Leftists the term “liberal.”
This greatly confuses the political discussion, including the one we are about to have. So-called liberals, now include everyone who calls themselves “progressive” (much the way my Communist parents habitually did) and even well known communist hacks like Angela Davis and anti-American radicals like Tom Hayden and Michael Moore. So-called liberals embrace the Old and Fellow Traveling Lefts, – a political faction which included active supporters and appeasers of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War and who with their credulous fellow travelers in the Democratic Party – including Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry -- mounted a massive nuclear freeze movement, which almost derailed the end of the Cold War. This movement produced international demonstrations, which were almost as big as the demonstrations against the war in Iraq, and were composed of the same people and their descendants.
The term “liberal” under any reasonable definition should be used to describe people who are tolerant and fair-minded and, who believe in free market institutions and individual as opposed to group rights, and who presumably would understand that America is not the root cause of problems in the Arab Muslim world or elsewhere. There are liberals who would fit this description in the Democratic Party leadership, Joe Lieberman obviously comes to mind, but they are few and far between, and growing weaker by the day. John Kerry is definitely an opportunist but then the anti-American Left is capable of creating political opportunities that John Kerry has been known to seize. When he returned to America after abandoning and then turning on his comrades in Vietnam he joined the campaigns of the rabidly anti-American Left and betrayed his country as surely as Jane Fonda did.
Even The New Republic, for years the chief intellectual promoter of Al Gore, has sounded the alarm bell about the dominance of “Wallacites” in the Democratic Party. This term refers to the Democratic Party Leftists who defected to the Progressive Party in the 1948 election with the agenda of defeating Harry Truman and his cold war policy of opposing Stalin’s conquest of Eastern Europe. The analog to the opposition to George Bush’s latter-day reincarnation of the Truman Doctrine is self-evident. The Progressive Party of Henry Wallace was created and controlled by the Communist Party. Wallace was himself no more a Communist than is John Kerry. He was an opportunist, influenced by the Leftist culture and over his intellectual head. Kerry is no different, except his moral character is a lot more defective.
The New Republic identifies MoveOn.org as a center of this Wallacite movement. Moveon.org is a central element in the constellation of organizations funded by George Soros, which is led by Clinton political operatives Harold Ickes and John Podesta. Its media operation during the election, which coordinated the major media of the anti-Bush campaign was headed by Bill Zimmerman and a man who ran all Tom Hayden’s electoral campaigns. The get-out-the-vote apparatus of the Democratic Party is controlled by Left-wing unions whose leaders are New Left veterans and who have received hundreds of millions of dollars deployed for the purpose. In other words, the Moveon.org/Soros/union nexus, which is staffed and operated by the political Left, has achieved a lock on the main funding sources and principal get-out-the-vote campaign of any national candidate of the Democratic Party. (An extended description of this Shadow Party, including all its organizations, funding, and personnel can be found here at www.discoverthenetwork.org.) Through his wife’s multimillion-dollar support for radical organizations (See Ben Johnson’s “57 Varieties of Radical Causes at DiscoverTheNetwork.org) John Kerry is himself embedded in this culture. But granting that his ambitions for John Kerry are his greatest political mission, his opportunism – far from causing him to move away from the magnetic field of the political Left will draw him towards it.
One of the most depressing moments of my own political life came when I was given a Ph.D. thesis to read whose subject was the intellectual influences on American policy makers. In 1979, when the Sandinista Marxists staged a coup against the democratic members of Nicaragua’s revolutionary “junta” and established a pro-Soviet, Marxist dictatorship in that country, Robert Pastor was the Latin American staff person to then National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski whose task it was to devise a policy towards this new threat. Pastor advised Brzezinski and Brzezinksi advised President Jimmy Carter not to intervene to save Nicaraguan democracy. The result was a series of guerrilla wars in Central America as Cuban and Nicaraguan supported Communist attempted to seize power.
Robert Porter told his interviewer that one of the books that influenced him to advise his government not to intervene was a book I myself had written called, The Free World Colossus. I had written this book, which was published in 1965, as a 25-year old novice with no formal historical training but with a rich background in the Communist and fellow-traveling literature of writers who would be even more obscure to Jacob Heilbrunn than Eric Hobsbawm and Gerda Lerner (e.g., Carl Marzani and D.F. Fleming). Of course, in order to persuade others, outside the Left, I also employed the writings of such well-known Left-liberals as Walter Lippmann. This gave my analysis credibility. John Gerassi, a pro-Castro Marxist who was a book editor at Newsweek, gave my anti-American tract a rave review. While my text blamed America for the Cold War, and created the litany of America’s imperialist crimes – Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam etc. – which became a standard trope in thousands of Left-wing texts that followed, I was careful to criticize the Soviet Union and thus distinguish myself from my Communist and pro-Communist sources, and disarm potential critics of what I had written. I even posed as an American patriot (of course I believed the pose) writing at the end of the book that America should live up to its ideals. It would never have occurred me that in opposing Communism America was in fact living up to its ideals.
I don’t flatter myself that my brilliance as foreign policy auto-didact was so great that it shaped a crucial (and costly) foreign policy decision more than a decade later. The power of my writing lay in the power of a Left-wing culture, which is vastly underestimated by conservatives, as Heilbrunn’s comments make clear (and Jacob Heilbrunn is one of the most intelligent conservatives writing today). It is true, as Heilbrunn writes, that conservatives take principles and intellectual arguments more seriously than do their counterparts on the Left. That why they can be misled into thinking that intellectual nonsense is self-evident to others and therefore destined for the political dustbin. Those who think this way should re-read Mein Kampf and consider how much trouble intellectual nonsense can cause in the political world.
By Left-wing culture I mean a history of false memories and ideologically scripted images and facts that can shape political perspectives. This Left-wing culture was powerful enough to influence a Roosevelt vice president, who was not a Communist to join forces with the Communist Party to oppose a Cold War against the most monstrous regime in history. It was powerful enough to shape the political thinking of Roosevelt’s chief adviser Harry Hopkins (also no Communist), to subvert his country’s security interests; his chief adviser at Yalta and in setting the up the UN, Alger Hiss, who was a Soviet spy; his deputy secretary of the Treasury (itself an important foreign policy post), Harry Dexter White; and top figures in the State Department (Lauchlin Currie, John Stewart Service) who helped the Chinese Communists to power.
And this was in an era when the Left’s institutional base in American society was miniscule compared to what it is today. Communists and fellow traveling Leftists on university faculties and in newspaper editorial offices were few and far between. Today, people under the spell of this culture dominate university faculties in key areas affecting national policy and in developing the nation’s editors and journalists. On American university faculties, there are tens of thousands of followers of Noam Chomsky, Gerda, Lerner, Howard Zinn, Todd Gitlin, and even Michael Moore, whose anti-American films have become college “texts,” along with many others who share their culture of adversarial distrust and hatred towards the United States and its purposes. From their positions in the political science departments, history departments, journalism departments and other faculties they are training the staffers of the Democratic Party and our national security agencies, as well as occupants of the nation’s leading editorial and media boardrooms.
Why do conservatives think that Jimmy Carter chose as his National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake a New Leftist who regarded the Khmer Rouge as benign reformers in Cambodia (much as Soviet apologist and State Department adviser Owen Lattimore had once described Mao’s Communist followers on the verge of seizing power in mainland China)? Why do they think Clinton chose first Lake and then Sandy Berger, also a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War Left to be his national security advisers and another Sixties fellow traveler, Les Aspin, to be Secretary of Defense? Where do they think Clinton energy secretary Hazel O’Leary who declassified 11 million pages of documents on America’s nuclear tests with the statement that she wanted to “end the bomb culture” got her nonsensical and dangerous and politically consequential views?
And where do conservatives think Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame and others like them who surfaced to sabotage the President’s war for freedom in Iraq and then became willing heroes of The Nation Left got their ideas?
The central section of my book Unholy Alliance, to which Heilbrunn refers, is called “The Mind of the American Left.” This was meant as an essay on a general mindset and I picked hugely influential intellectual figures to demonstrate it, not intellectual who functioned as direct advisers to political figures. It was not meant to show that Eric Hobsbawm or Gerda Lerner or Noam Chomsky were actually advisers to Democratic Party leaders. It was designed to describe the core views of the culture of the Left that condemns America in its corporate essence, and therefore counsels weakness, capitulation and retreat before America’s adversaries. It is this culture that influences the political process.
What I showed in Unholy Alliance was that the “critique” of America and the passions of disgust towards America, and the “analysis” of the corporate and imperial motives of America are shared across the Left-wing spectrum even by “moderates” like Todd Gitlin and are therefore reflected in the politics of, for example, Howard Dean who is now the chairman of the Democratic Party and opportunists – Left-wing opportunists I would say – like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. I did not even mention Michael Moore, for that matter, who as we all remember was honored by Jimmy Carter at the Democratic Party convention, and whose film opening of Fahrenheit 9/11, reflecting these views, was attended by Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton and other leaders of the Democratic Party. Sidney Blumenthal who came out of and has never Left this culture of the “progressive” Left was in fact a close Clinton political adviser, just as veteran Leftist Rob Borosage is close political associate and ally of John Podesta and Harold Ickes.
In other words, while it may be true that Victor Davis Hanson’s books are read by Vice President Cheney, you can be one hundred percent sure that the Democratic Party establishment is thoroughly immersed in the culture of Left-wing blame-and-distrust towards America, and seek-to-understand-and-sympathize-with-her-enemies that Hobsbawm, Chomsky and Gitlin share. If this culture is not transmitted directly in texts by them (and it is probably not) then it is transmitted in texts by the thousands of popularizers of the ideas of the Left who write books like The Free World Colossus, as I did, and make palatable to “liberals” these corrosive and subversive ideas. The same ideas are taken to Democratic Party institutions and to Washington by students trained in those ideas and false historical memories at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale and the many other Left-wing institutions, which are effectively think tanks of the Left.
Once it is understood that I am not referring to the influence of particular individuals like Eric Hobsbawm, but to a Left-wing culture of which he is representative and that dominates our university and media culture, then the answer to Heilbrunn’s question is clear. Heilbrunn asks: “What government policies have any of these academics conceivably shaped?” My reply is what policies have they not shaped? It is this very culture that is the source of the unprecedented divisions in American political life – the so-called culture war, which is a war initiative by the Left through its aggressions on the American judiciary, the American school system, and the values of traditional American communities particularly in the Bible Belt and rural America. Is there a civil rights issue, an abortion issue, a judicial issue, an environmental issue, a health, education or welfare issue that has not been shaped by the Left-wing rights, environmental and education coalitions, universally misnamed “liberal special interest” groups? Has not the entire post-Vietnam foreign policy of the United States leading up to and including the war in Iraq been dramatically (and negatively) affected by growing power of the Left euphemistically called the McGovern Democrats? McGovern of course cut his eyeteeth in the Wallace campaign and really can’t be said to have learned anything since.
An essay I wrote “How The Left Undermined American Security Before 9/11,” whose details have been repeated in a dozen other books, documents the assault on America’s national intelligence apparatus, and military defenses by the Democratic Party under the pressure of anti-military, anti-American radicals deeply entrenched in the Party’s Left. John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and other leaders of this faction, directly influenced by the culture I have described, played leading roles in crippling America’s ability to defend itself before the World Trade Center Attacks. The same Left, through its influence on the Howard Dean campaign led to the most disturbing event in American history when a Democratic leadership turned its back on a war it had supported and in the midst of the war conducted a scorched earth campaign against a sitting commander-in-chief.
Heilbrunn points out that there are also many distinguished conservatives who are critical of the war and wary of the neo-conservatives enthusiasm for promoting reform in the Arab Muslim Middle East. A few prominent conservatives have also joined the Left’s assault on the Patriot Act. Heilbrunn wonders if this isn’t a more dangerous Unholy Alliance.
To the first I would say the difference between the Brent Scowcroft and Dimitri Simes conservative critics and the critics on the Left is that the conservatives are self-evidently patriots who confined their dissent to the terms appropriate for a loyal opposition. Once the congressional authorization was passed by a bi-partisan majority, Scowcroft confined his comments to behind-the-scenes advice, while those conservatives who continued to express themselves in public did so in a restrained manner that respected the danger the nation was in and the fact that the President had gone through the appropriate democratic process to get his policy authorized.
By contrast the Left showed no such restraint. Leaders of the Democratic Party denounced the Bush as a man who deliberately lied to get American soldiers killed, who “betrayed” the American people, and who committed such impeachable crimes in behalf of a war that was “a fraud… concocted in Texas” for the economic benefit of his cronies. This is not the rhetoric of criticism. It is the rhetoric of political war, and in the midst of a shooting war it was an effort to sabotage that effort -- an act of actual betrayal unprecedented in American history. Colluding in this effort were the major metropolitan newspapers led by the New York Times, which magnified every American cost and setback and effectively conducted a psychological warfare campaign against our own troops. In the battle for freedom in Iraq, the American Left – and I include here the leadership of the Democratic Party and the principal national media – contributed nothing to its success and did more than can be easily forgiven in the hope that Operation Iraqi Liberation would fail. The questions raised by conservative critics of the President’s policies are important, but they fundamentally different from the criticisms raised by the Left. Americans concerned about the future of their country will wish The New Republic and Al From and Joe Lieberman success in trimming the sails of the Party’s anti-military Left.
Similar points can be made in response to Heilbrunn’s comments about the movement against the Patriot Act. One of whose founders of the anti-Patriot coalition, it should be mentioned, was Palestinian terrorist and former University of South Florida Professor, Sami al-Arian. The Left’s agenda – set by al-Arian and his Committee for the Protection of Political Freedom -- is to remove the Patriot Act’s designation of “material support for terrorism” as a crime, on the grounds that to make it a crime infringes free speech. It also wants to re-establish the wall between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency that prevented the two agencies from communicating to defend the country against terrorist threats. The actual agenda of these Left-wing legal is to protect the hundreds of radical organizations in America that are currently providing moral and material support to our terrorist enemies. (These groups are documented and detailed on www.discoverthenetwork.org)
A handful of conservatives have joined forces with these Leftists – Bob Barr and Grover Norquist are two – to oppose aspects of the Patriot Act, which are unrelated to these two clauses. I think the decision of these conservatives to join a coalition which includes longtime Communist and anti-American organizations like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as terrorist front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (whose own executives have been arrested for terrorist activities) is misguided and naïve. But the specific anti-Patriot Act objections of conservatives also represent a very different line of criticism from the agendas of the Left. I have also written extensively about this in Unholy Alliance. The anti-Patriot Act Groups of the Left are identified and described here in www.discoverthenetwork.org.
In sum, this coalition, which includes the willingness of some conservatives, like Paul Craig Roberts and Lew Rockwell, to voice their antiwar views in anti-American, pro-terrorist venues like Counterpunch.org and antiwar.com can certainly be viewed as an Unholy Alliance. But at present this is a marginal faction of the Right, whereas the Unholy Alliance of anti-American Leftists and radical Islamists is already a force at the center of the Democratic Party.
You’re right: the Democratic Party’s weakness on foreign policy has dogged it since the late 1960s. But to liken its state today to the Henry Wallace challenge in 1948, as you do, is rather overdrawn. Take a second look at Dwight MacDonald's classic work on Wallace and it will remind you of what “Wallace-land” was all about. Wallace really would have been pro-Soviet had he been elected, whereas a Dean presidency would not have actively tried to treat with al-Qaeda.
What's more, the illusions that bedeviled western intellectuals about the “Soviet experiment” simply do not exist when it comes to the Muslim world. At best, the defenders of some of the more loathsome Arab regimes, or terrorist movements, can retreat to moral relativism, blaming their ways on Western oppression. But this is a rather different cup of tea from hailing Muslim fundamentalism as offering a superior model to the western one, which is what the fellow-travelers, you included, once did in the 1960s when it came to communism.
New Republic editor Peter Beinart, in the article you mention, acknowledged that the parallel between Soviet communism and fundamentalism is not exact, but I suspect, for dramatic purposes, he, like you, somewhat exaggerates the power of Moveon.org and the like. It’s also not clear to me how the organization would be purged from the Democrats, as Beinart suggests. In any case, the New Republic itself seems emblematic of the splits within liberalism, first embracing, then denouncing, the Iraq war.
So where does this leave the Democrats? Far from actively challenging the Bush presidency on foreign policy, the Democrats simply seem adrift. Sure they may try to pick off a few nominations such as John Bolton's, but where's the sustained and coherent foreign policy alternative to Bush?
The surprising thing might be how little opposition there has been to Bush. Unlike Vietnam, the universities are not filled with protests and Iraq has stirred little controversy. Compare Britain to the U.S. Where's the American George Galloway? The hardened leftist culture that exists in Europe has never taken root in the U.S, has never enjoyed the respectability it continues to command abroad. Even the anti-globalization movement, which was as good as it got for the contemporary left, has largely fizzled out. Anyway, I suspect most members of your generation are now consulting their stock portfolios more carefully than revolutionary primers.
No doubt the left briefly flourished in the U.S. in the 1960s. Your book Free World Colossus was symptomatic of the revisionism that the U.S. was the bad guy in the cold war that took hold. I didn't mean to suggest that I was unfamiliar with it, or the genre from which it came -- Harry Elmer Barnes was the progenitor of this foolishness, wasn't he, in arguing that the merchants of death had dragged the U.S. into World War I and World War II?--but that its influence, outside of the academy, has been slight. As for Hobsbawm and the rest, I continue to wonder how much they've actually affected the general cultural climate beyond the empyrean circles of the readers of the London Review of Books. In fact, it might be more accurate to call Hobsbawm and others reactionaries rather than leftists since they are clinging to nostalgic myths.
Yet your apprehensions about the left almost make it seem as though you believe the U.S. is taking a beating on all fronts in the war on terror. Early on, you describe the U.S. as the "prey of an invisible enemy whose agenda were genocidal and non-negotiable." But the U.S. is not the helpless "prey" of terrorists, but, rather, the target. Nevertheless, it can, and has, gone on the offensive. Whether the Bush administration has taken the correct approach is another matter--and an appropriate subject for debate. So far, that debate has taken place more on the right than the left. What timorous protests liberals and leftists have managed to mount have helped keep the administration on its toes, or, at times, simply make themselves look ridiculous. David, let's face it: the left is reeling. You flatter the left far too much in ascribing a coherence and power to it that it simply does not possess.
P.S. It’s kind of you to enlist me in the conservative camp, but I’m not sure that it’s warranted. I splash around happily in the large pond between neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. Maybe a new species should be invented called neoconservative fellow-traveler?
P.S.S. You mention at the close of your book that your daughter is opposed to the war for legitimate reasons. You can’t leave your readers hanging like that--what are her grounds for dissent? Are heated debates taking place in the Horowitz household?
The Wallacites were the leftwing of the Democratic Party whose agendas (Communist-inspired anti-Cold War politics) were driven by a radical ideology and whose purposes were at odds with the America’s. As I have described in the section of my book Unholy Alliance called “The Mind of the American Left” radical ideology is today both continuous with its Communist roots (as a Marx-based attack on the democratic West) and also modified in the following way. Today the radical coalition is actively formed by the nihilistic side of its utopian ideologies. It shaped into a coherent force by its anti-American and anti-Israel passions. (Andre Markovits, a leftist professor surveying the history of radicalism since 1945 has come to identical conclusions in a recent essay that appeared in the winter issue of Dissent).
Every revolutionary cause embraces the destruction of the status quo order along with a vision or -- in the case of anti-capitalist revolutioinaries -- a fantasy of what would replace it. Fifty years ago, the publication of the Khrushchev Report, a pronouncement from the Communist Vatican itself revealed that the leader of the world revolution was one of the greatest monsters in human history and socialism a grim fiasco (though the Report itself did not draw the latter conclusion). When the Report was leaked to the world by an Israeli spy, the Communist movement began a rapid disintegration in the Western World and a “new left” based on the same destructive assumptions was born.) But nothing has since replaced orthodox Marxism or Communism as a coherent ideology and program for “progressives.” What unites the global left today is the negative program and destructive anti-capitalist and anti-Western themes of its utopian aspiration. (The aspiration itself is psychologically indispensable to every leftist as the testimonies I examine in Unholy Alliance make clear.)
It is the negative program of the Communist agenda that energizes and guides the contemporary left in its mission to cripple – or in the case of moderate leftists like Howard Dean – to diminish American power. “Progressives” see this power as a “root cause” of the problems that beset the rest of the world and as the immediate cause of the hostility of those actors in the world who oppose us. The negative program of the left includes – sabotage of the globalization process; deconstruction of the idea of American nationality and of the sense of national loyalty that accompanies it; undermining of America’s borders; undermining of America’s national security apparatus and military defenses; sabotaging of America’s wars; rewriting of America’s Constitution to reflect its passions for group rights and redistributionist agendas; politicizing and undermining America’s independent judiciary system in order to carry out its social engineering projects; politicizing of American education to make it an instrument of anti-American doctrines; and in general measures that would weaken America in the face of the terrorist threat, which it radically discounts or with which it actively sympathizes.
It is for this reason that the fact that “the illusions that bedeviled western intellectuals about the ‘Soviet experiment’ simply do not exist when it comes to the Muslim world,” is only marginally relevant in understanding the threat from the left. The same is true about the perception that American radicals don’t always hail “Muslim fundamentalism as offering a superior model to the western one” (in their solidarity with the Palestinian cause they seem to do just that).
The parallel that connects the agendas of leftist secular radicals to those of the Islamic jihadists is that they both regard America as the Great Satan (and Israel as the little Satan), namely, the root cause of “social injustice” in the world. Depending on the degree of their radicalism, therefore, they are intent on putting their weight in the political scales (and thus in the war on terror) in the balance against us. Fellow travelers like Howard Dean are just as likely to want to weaken American sovereignty in favor of the United Nations, the World Court, or open borders; to weaken America’s defenses or the military operation in Iraq which keeps the enemy off balance; to weaken key anti-terror provisions of the Patriot Act, which has criminalized material support for terror and strengthened domestic surveillance programs; or to deny this nation an anti-missile defense system in favor of mythical “arms control” arrangements. So while the parallel with the Wallacites is not precise, it is a serviceable (and historically instructive and accurate) model for understanding the internal threat to the American future from America’s domestic fifth column.
In fact, a very large segment of the American left, as noted in passing, does indeed support the actual agendas of Islamic radicalism in the fifty-year Arab war against the State of Israel. The PLO – broadly supported by American leftists, particularly in the universities – is a radical Islamic organization, which has been the chief ally of the Saddam regime, embraces terror as a political weapon and in 2000 rejected the offer of a Palestinian state and 97% of the West Bank and Gaza in favor of an Islamic war of martyrdom against the infidel presence. The Second Intifada was led by the al-Aqsa, Martyrs’ Brigade (created specifically by Arafat for the occasion). Its agenda, like that of Hamas, now the most important party in the Palestinian territories, is an Islamic republic stretching from the Jordan to the sea.
In supporting the genocidal program of the Palestinian cause, including the “Right of Return” which would effectively obliterate the Jewish state, American radicals are quite comfortable acting in solidarity with an Islamic terror movement, notwithstanding the the apparent “contradiction” between their secularist progressive agendas and the Islamo-fascist realities of the Arafat regime and its heirs apparent (viz., Hamas). The Protestant churches in America, now deeply in thrall to the political left are busily embracing the Islamic terrorists of Hizbollah and divesting from what they preposterously describe as the “apartheid Israeli state.” The fact that Arabs in Israel enjoy more rights than Arabs in any Arab country, and that every Arab country without exception bans Jews from their soil and has done so for fifty years, counts for nothing for the Jew-despising left. Their hatred for democratic Israel and its American patron is that great.
Misunderstanding the agendas of the left is half the story. Misunderstanding their influence is the other. The problem presented by Moveon.org, for example, is that it is an integral part of a Shadow Party (described on DiscoverTheNetworks.org) which includes the principal funding sources and get-out-the-vote organizations of the Democratic Party. The Shadow Party integrates the radical left into the heart of the Democrats’ political apparatus, and has recently elected Howard Dean its Party Chair. It controls the machinery that nominates and elects Democratic presidential candidates. The leftists of my generation who are integrated into the leadership of this Shadow Party – among them Andrew Stern (head of the SEIU), Wade Rathke (head of ACORN and Gina Glantz (co-founder of America Coming Together) to name three – may have stock portfolios, but they are even more intently focused on power than they ever were in the Sixties, and their agendas are precisely those I described above.
The fact that the Democrats don’t have a “sustained coherent foreign policy alternative to Bush” is a direct consequence of the influence of a left whose agendas, as I have already explained, are negative. Put in the mildest terms, they are unsupportive of American purposes as defined by the system of free market capitalism and the philosophy of individual rights.
The claim that there is “little opposition” to Bush and that “the universities are not filled with protests and Iraq has stirred little controversy” is incomprehensible to me. Never in American history has the opposition to a good war that liberated 30 million people, established an ally on the borders of two enemy countries (Syrian and Iran), and has been ratified by 70% of the population it was intended to liberate -- been so vicious and so popular. Never in American history have the leaders of one America’s two great national parties attacked a sitting commander-in-chief as a liar, a traitor, and a mental misfit. Never in the midst of a war.
As for the universities, far from being free of leftist politics, they are the principal base of support for Islamic radicalism and Islamic terrorism in this country. (See Campus Support for Terrorism at DiscoverTheNetworks.org) The recent presidents of the Middle Eastern Studies Association which speaks for academic specialists in the Middle East have been a series of Marxists and apologists for Islamic terror. Hundreds of so-called “Peace Studies” programs indoctrinate American students in the view that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” and that America is a racist, militarist, imperialist and terrorist state itself. The reality is just the opposite of the claim that the left in America barely exists. The hardened leftist culture that has existed in Europe for more than a hundred years, has established a firm foothold in the American mainstream, and in particular in the university culture for the first time in history.
(And for the first time, these facts are available for all to see at DiscoverTheNetworks.org)
In the first part of this dialogue I showed how one book I wrote as a 25-year old leftist and a complete novice in the field of foreign policy affected a crucial White House decision. This decision allowed the Sandinista communists to seize power in Nicaragua and set off a chain of Communist guerilla offensives in Central America that occupied American foreign policy for the entire decade and may be said to be the precursors of a trend of anti-American, Marxist regimes in the hemisphere (Brazil and Venezuela are the two largest) whose potential threat to American security is already so great they collectively are referred to as “the Southern Front.” This does not support the view that American leftists, even obscure ones as I was when I wrote The Free World Colossus are “irrelevant.”
As I tried to explain in part one of this dialogue, even the fact that Eric Hobsbawm an unregenerate Communist is one of the most revered figures in the American historical profession pales into insignificance beside the fact that the general view of 20th Century history that Hobsbawm represents is the absolutely dominant view the curricula of American universities, the view in which America’s next elite generation is being trained. How can this be inconsequential? (BTW Hobsbawm is a reactionary, but so are all leftists, still operating on the basis of long-discredited 19th Century doctrines and 18th Century agendas. Being reactionary does not make one irrelevant or “ridiculous” politically. Hitler and Saddam were intellectually ridiculous. What difference did that make to their political fortunes?)
The left is not “reeling” or insignificant as you describe it. (I suggest you take a long look at the sections of DiscoverTheNetworks.org called “Groups,” The Shadow Party and Academia before writing again about the left. The left came within 120,000 votes in the state of Ohio of winning the presidency, unless you think John Kerry’s claim that America’s campaign to liberate Iraq was “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” or that a Kerry presidency would not have a negative impact on America’s ability to fight the war on terror. I do not think America is taking a beating in the war on terror as you suggest. But that is only thanks to the aggressive policies against the war on terror architected by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice. It will, on the other hand, if the Democratic Party and its Shadow Party leftists manage to win the next election.
P.S. I’m uncomfortable with labels myself. I am a liberal – a free market, individualist, politically tolerant, even ecumenical, and progressive. But my reactionary political enemies who dominate the cultural institutions that are the arbiters of public language – the universities and the media – label me a right-wing conservative (and worse). There’s not much I can do to redefine the political landscape, but I have given it a try by creating DiscoverTheNetworks.org.
P.P.S: My daughter is a Green, but understands the threat of Islamo-fascism to Israel and America, and we get along just fine.
Imagine this scenario: U.S. universities declare that they will no longer host exchanges with Israeli professors. It’s actually happening, but not here. As you might have seen, the Brits, who have refined social anti-Semitism to a high art over the centuries, are refusing to accept Israeli professors as guests. Now that, it seems to me, is evidence of a hardened, despicable Left. If something like that were to happen in the U.S., there would be an uproar. To me, it seems unthinkable, but in Britain, it apparently isn't.
Another example: Gunter Grass, in an op-ed that ran Sunday in the New York Times, declares that it's imperative to struggle against the last form of totalitarianism. What does he instance? No, not Islamic fascism, but, rather, those old leftist bugaboos, globalism, and capitalism. The closest type of writer that the U.S. has to Grass might be Norman Mailer, but he isn't seen as the moral conscience of the nation, as Grass is in Germany. I mention these two cases simply because I am firmly convinced that they highlight the differences, not the similarities, between the U.S. and Europe when it comes to the left. The American left consists of pipsqueaks compared to the bruisers of the European left. I bet one reason for this is that the U.S. has never had a real socialist party on the lines of Germany, France, or England. Sure, you can argue that those elite European leftist influences have seeped into American academia, but not to the extent you maintain. The fact that Dissent would publish the piece by Markovits shows that at least one slice of the Left is not as wacky as you complain. I'm sure that Markovits' analysis is on the mark, but I'd be amazed if he believed that there is a significant left movement in the U.S., let alone one steeped in nihilism.
Perhaps the reason I'm skeptical of your thesis is because I got a good whiff of the left, student and academic, when attending Oberlin College. As far as I could tell, they were wallowing in nostalgia, but, ultimately, their own worst enemies. They were completely ineffectual once off the college campus, where they did dominate. But it is your generation that keeps this nonsense alive, particularly at elite colleges, and I'm not convinced that there will be a horde of younger professors gobbling up the ancient delusions propagated by their elders. (Agreed: many Middle Eastern departments appear, at least on the face of it, to adhere to myths and delusions about the Middle East, but that may be romanticism about the Middle East than plain leftism, though I'm sure there is a nasty admixture of the two.)
What I cannot understand is why you are so exercised about the left. If there were an economic crash and Iraq really went sour, then, and only then, would the left have a chance, however slim, at power (remember that during Vietnam, the left was never even popular in most of the country. But so far, conservatives are dominant: George W. Bush is totally upending U.S. foreign policy, even denouncing the Yalta agreement, going Ronald Reagan one better. This is astonishing stuff.
Indeed, the real story since the 1960s is of how the right marched through the institutions of government and influenced policy, while the left wasted its time in the universities. There has been a real backlash, as you know, against the excesses of the 1960s, but you seem to view the left as being as vibrant today as it was then.
I know that remnants of a leftist culture exist in California, but they've gone by the wayside in the rest of the country. Ohio's 120,000 votes? Give me a break. That sounds like those Democrats parsing the numbers to show how Kerry really came close to winning. No, he didn't. Bush crushed him.
Sure, there's will always be a struggle in the Democrats between the purists who want to go left, and the mainstream ones who want more palatable candidates. But moving hard left would be a disaster for the Democrats. The left is a historical curiosity, a quaint artifact, a relic, a dinosaur.
Who's the mad political scientist who's going to take over this Jurassic Park and revive it?
After two rounds of this conversation, with constant references to the massive data assembled at www.discoverthenetworks.org, which shows the left to be the spearhead of the anti-Iraq war movement outside and inside the Democratic Party; the Open Borders Lobby; the coalition against the Patriot Act (and other anti-terror defenses); the leader of the principal academic professional organizations and the controller of an academic curriculum which now (predominantly) reflects its anti-military, anti-capitalist, anti-globalist animus and even its sympathies for Islamic radicalism (particularly in the West Bank and Gaza); the vanguard of the redistributionist, rewrite-the-constitution-lobby in the areas of civil liberties and civil rights; the recipient of the massive funding available through university programs and the philanthropic institutions of the American establishment (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Tides, MacArthur, Pew, etc.); and the moving force in the Shadow Party – a coalition of Soros-funded entities, grassroots political organizations with a foothold in local communities across the nation and the support of giant government unions controlled by Sixties radicals – which selected and almost elected the Democratic Party candidate for president in 2004, you write, “The left is a historical curiosity, a quaint artifact, a relic, a dinosaur.”
What is really a curiosity is this statement. Have you spent time actually reading the information available at www.discoverthenetworks.org? Here’s a corrective to your conservative complacency: Consider that forty-five years ago the President of the United States was a Democrat hailed by liberals, like Arthur Schlesinger, who was a hawk on defense, a militant anti-Communist, the promoter of a capital gains tax cut and a balanced budget, who appointed Republicans to his three top cabinet posts (State, Treasury, and Defense). Today Democratic Party “liberals” (Schlesinger included) are rabid opponents of a war that has freed thirty million Iraqis and that their leaders (Clinton and Berger) called for and their legislators authorized by a majority vote. Far from being a relic the political left acting in 2004 through the Dean campaign has been able to transform the Democratic Party into it a party of opposition to American “imperialism” that it can embrace. Domestically, the situation is parallel: Forty years ago a Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey stood on the floor of the Senate and swore he would eat the affirmative action bill if it led to racial preferences. Today Democrats equate opposition to racial preferences with racism itself.
Forty-five years ago the New York Times refused to print information it had acquired about the impending invasion of Castro’s Cuba, which Kennedy was planning with the intention of thwarting a Communist dictatorship on the island. The Times withheld the information about Kennedy’s planned attack on the grounds of its concern for national security. Just this week, by contrast, in the midst of a war on terror in which America itself has been attacked and of continuing war of liberation in Iraq (which the current Times editors refer to as “unjustified”) the New York Times printed the following above-the-fold news story: “The concentration of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon’s ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts, the military’s highest ranking officer reported to Congress on Monday.” (New York Times, Tuesday, May 3, 2005)
Why, you might ask, would the military’s highest ranking officer want to inform potential enemies or adversarial powers like North Korea, Russia, China, -- to take three obvious examples – that America’s military forces might have difficulty dealing with challenges in other parts of the world, say the straits of Taiwan, to pick an obvious case? In fact, the military’s highest-ranking official had no intention of informing other nations of our current predicament. The report he provided to select members Congress was classified.
Here is how the Times described on its front page the way in which this classified report came into the hands of its editors who then decided to report it to the world: “After a half dozen Pentagon civilian and military officials discussed the outlines of the report on Monday, as it was delivered officially to Congress, one government official provided a copy to the New York Times. The officials who discussed the assessment demanded anonymity because it is a classified document.”
In case you were wondering, it is a violation of the Espionage Act -- and tantamount to treason -- for a “government official” to provide newspaper reporters with copies of classified government documents. It is a betrayal of national security (and a violation of national security laws) for the New York Times to put this information on its front pages (or on any of its pages).
Yet no one in the rest of the media (or nation) seems to have noticed, and no one seems to have cared. The government for its part, long ago learned the political costs of attempting to defend national security interests against the claims of institutions like the New York Times for “freedom of the press.” In a media culture dominated by the left, better to let the information go. That’s one reason why no one has been charged in the United States with treason since Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose. That is a raw measure of how profoundly the political left – which has assaulted the very notion of national security for decades – has transformed political culture of this nation. That is how a man who had falsely accused his comrades-in-arms and his own government of systematic war crimes “at the highest levels” and had spent twenty years in the Senate voting to cut military and intelligence budgets was able to be nominated by his party as a presidential candidate and go on to receive 59 million votes.
Yes British academics are more brazenly anti-Semitic than their American counterparts, but then Jews in America are far more numerous and influential than Jews in Britain and they are supported by an even more powerful ally in the Christian right, which doesn’t exist in England or the rest of Europe having been relegated to political insignificance along with religion as such. On the other hand the virus of anti-Semitism is more virulent on the faculties of elite American universities than it has ever been; the Protocols of the Elders of Zion can now be taught as fact at universities like UCLA and protected by the current tenets of “academic freedom.” Where Jewish students can be harassed at will (Columbia) and attacked as “McCarthyites” if they complain. Groups in solidarity with terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza can openly organize recruitment conferences with university support (as they have at Berkeley, Michigan, Ohio State and Duke and will next year at the University of Wisconsin).
Yes it is true we have no Gunter Grass, but we have raving leftists like Barbara Kingsolver, E.L. Doctorow, Jane Smiley and others who also find George Bush and American democracy more threatening than Islamofascism and who reach a comparable audience of credulous intellects.
We have leftists in Hollywood who can launch a summer epic on the Crusades in which the Christians are the bad guys and the Muslims, whose holy book instructs the faithful to kill unbelievers, in contrast to the holy book of any other religion. (Yes I know there are peaceful Muslims, but Saladin and his armies weren’t among them.)
Your reference to the European socialist tradition shows you haven’t understood the nature of the left in its post-Communist incarnation. You’re still worried about a crash, which would allow socialists to advance their economic agendas, as though this were the 1930s and Stalin was still alive. The left is not defined any longer by a socialist plan. Its agenda is negative and nihilistic: bring the Great Satan down. Its agendas are to cripple the economy with environmental regulations; hogtie the intelligence services with unrealistic constraints; undermine the military with constant lies; and tie the hands of the President in responding to threats. The left sees itself as an abettor of anti-American forces everywhere: in Europe, in the Muslim world, in the West Bank and Fallujah, and also among old style Marxists in Venezuela and Brazil. The left is an “anti” force, and what it is anti- is everything that makes this country strong and secure.
You misunderstand the power of the intellectual left as well. The fact that one writer in a magazine whose circulation is less than ten thousand regrets what the western left has become, pales into insignificance in comparison to the thousands of university faculty who share the views of Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill that America is the Nazi state revived and who impose them on their students; who show the films of Michael Moore to prove that America is the villain in the “non-existent” war on terror, and who recruit students to the agendas that follow from these myths.
Contrary to your assertions, the left is in fact more vibrant and more powerful than it has ever been. How else did it manage to put a million activists in the streets to prevent the United States from taking down a monstrous regime and liberating millions of Third World people, and did so (unlike Vietnam) in the absence of a draft?
One of the great triumphs of the left by the way is the ability to make people like yourself think that when it comes to attacking America in the middle of a war anything goes, and that any attempt to identify “critics” who actually hate us is an attempt to stifle dissent itself. Thus it’s okay in time of war when Americans are in harm’s way to lie by denouncing the President for deceiving the American people into fighting an unjust war of “occupation,” even though John Kerry and other leaders of the opposition had access to the same intelligence reports as did George Bush and voted to authorize the use of force. It’s okay to demoralize America’s troops in the field with such lies, and encourage America’s enemies on the field of battle. I don’t buy it Jacob. I don’t know of any nation in the history of nations that has.
One of the principal leaders of the civil liberties coalition against the Patriot Act and its predecessor, the 1996 Clinton Anti-Terrorism Act, was at the same time a leader of one of the world’s most lethal terrorist organizations and an American university professor as well. For eight years after his terrorist activities were exposed by the Miami Herald and others in 1995, and while he continued to conduct them, Sami al-Arian was supported and defended by what is erroneously called the “liberal” side of the political spectrum: The Nation, Salon.com, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Association of University Professors, the Middle Eastern Studies Association and similar groups all worked with Sami al-Arian in attacking the Patriot Act and denounced his critics for attempting to stifle legitimate dissent.
In fact Sami al-Arian was a bloodthirsty killer of innocent men, women and children (mainly Jews). He was eventually exposed on national TV on the O’Reilly Factor, when O’Reilly played an FBI tape of one of his bloodthirsty speeches for all Americans to hear: “Let us damn America. . . . Let us damn [her] allies until death.” Yet even after he was exposed by O’Reilly, al-Arian continued to be supported by and a respected colleague of politically sophisticated American “liberals” who of course didn’t believe his right wing detractors (who were the “real” threat). Instead they defended him as a Muslim who was being persecuted for his religious faith by forces who only wanted to repress criticism and dissent.
In other words, my friend, these distinctions are important. If you ignore them you will reap a whirlwind of harm.
The line you ask for (when is dissent legitimate?) is this: if you show that you wish your country well, and you observe the restraints that are obvious and decent -- like not publishing damaging information that has been classified by a government that is democratically elected and is operating under democratic constraints -- then your criticism is actually a form of patriotism. If not, not.