The Right’s Schism on HistoryRoundup: Talking About History
tags: FDR, Diana West, Joseph McCarty
Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, A Matter of Principle, and the recently published Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not a return to Diana West’s book. However, Andy McCarthy, a man for whom I have very great respect and whom I like very much, has written a review of it in The New Criterion that, because of its revisionist presentation of a number of historical events, is among the most discouraging political documents I have read in many years. Mr. McCarthy, a former prosecutor and distinguished and perceptive writer of the sensible Right, has frequently inspired me by his writing, and when I met him, at a difficult time in my own former travails, by his conversation also. I confidently turned to his review of Ms. West’s America Betrayed, which readers of this column will find it hard to forget after the robust knockabout the book received here and in her reply to me. The rigor of the review and its application to the book are matters I will address in a letter to The New Criterion, which the editor of that publication graciously invited, as I am mentioned, quite unexceptionably, in the review.
What seriously depresses me are three positions taken in the review. First is Andy McCarthy’s view that the scandalous, cowardly refusal of the mainstream elite of American culture and politics to recognize that America’s Islamist enemies are enemies can be traced to Soviet infiltration of the U.S. government in World War II. It is a fact that alarms and disgusts all of us in this debate, including Ms. West and her more vocal (than I am) critics, but I do not agree about the source of the problem. Second is Andy’s qualified accommodation, as worthy of reasonable consideration, of the claims by Ms. West that Lend-Lease was at least in significant part a mistaken reinforcement of Stalinist totalitarianism to the ultimate detriment of the West; that the Normandy invasion served Stalin’s purposes and enhanced his penetration of Western Europe; that Franklin D. Roosevelt was more or less ambivalent about the comparative virtues of Stalinist Communism and Western democracy (though he acknowledges that FDR disapproved of the barbarism of Stalin’s rule); that the Yalta agreement “gave” Stalin half of Europe; and that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were so significantly influenced in a pro-Soviet direction by Soviet agents and such arch-sympathizers that the distinction between an agent and a sympathizer was academic in the United States. And third, I am distressed by Andy McCarthy’s partial defense of Joseph R. McCarthy and his conclusion that the smear of McCarthy enabled Communism and anti-American reflexes to flourish in the United States through all the intervening years and are responsible for the inadequate general response to the Islamist threat that, I repeat, all the participants in this very heated and prolonged exchange revile in almost equally emphatic strictures....