THE VOICE OF MILITARY FAMILIES
My son is in the 172nd Stryker Brigade (Army). It recently had its one-year deployment to Iraq extended while in the midst of deploying back to the United States. He is one of the 400 soldiers who had made it back to Fairbanks, Alaska. A few days later he was informed that he was going to be sent back to Iraq. His brigade has been sent to Baghdad to save the occupation.
Don’t be fooled by the military commanders’ talk of the willingness of these brave men and women. The vast majority of the 4,000 172nd Stryker troops and families are angry and devastated at the last-minute extension. These troops had completed their year in Mosul, passed on their Stryker vehicles and gear to replacement troops and shipped their personal gear home. Worse, their heads were back home, where they had plans for family reunions, weddings and to see children born while they were deployed. Now they are expected to re-gear and reset their minds for battle. They are soldiers. They will do their duty, their mission.
I am a proud member of Military Families Speak Out. We are not an antiwar group; we are an organization of more than 3,000 military families who oppose this war, this occupation, based on the lies told to start the war and the greed for oil and profits that sustain it. It is our loved ones who are dying. Our mission is to support the troops by bringing them home now and taking care of them when they get here. This is only the most recent logistical mismanagement of this war.
Military Families Speak Out, Capital Region
BRAVE NEW DEAL WORLD
I thank David Rieff for his wide-ranging review of my new book, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights [“We Are the World,” July 3]. Rieff’s main worry seems to be with the policy prescriptions of the other book he reviews in the same essay, Michael Mandelbaum’s The Case for Goliath, which focuses on the projected leadership role of the United States in the twenty-first century. My sense is that some of these policy-related concerns may be less salient when considering a work of history, especially where one of my main objectives was to treat the human rights-related rhetoric of the early and mid-1940s on its own terms.
Another of my key interests in researching and writing my book was to recapture what I perceived to be an overlooked historical moment. The existing literature has tended to treat the US role in the international politics of the early 1940s as material to be mined for evidence of early cold war tensions. But before the advent of the full-blown cold war in 1946, the rhetoric of the mature New Deal–notably relating to social and economic rights–blended with wartime ideologies that used constitutional traditions of civil and political rights as a way of highlighting contrasts with Axis ideologies.
The result was fresh articulation of US national interests: a transformation in the idea of human rights that blended social and economic rights with civil and political rights, somewhat along the lines of FDR’s famous Four Freedoms (freedom of speech and expression, freedom from want and fear). This brief flowering of a more synthetic hybrid of rights rhetoric–quickly crushed by cold war concerns in the wake of World War II–was what I meant when I used the term “integrated vision of rights,” for instance, a term Rieff singles out for derision. Most distressing to me was Rieff’s assessment of what I had intended to be a rather nuanced and textured argument about the New Deal itself–how its programs served to “save capitalism” by smoothing down some of the roughest edges of the industrial economy, for instance; how it left out such groups as women and African-Americans, who were not already highly mobilized; and how it privileged elite “experts” and sweeping one-size-fits-all programs.
The “New Deal for the World” of the title tells the story of how these and other facets of the basket of policies and programs that commentators at the time captioned as “the New Deal style” were generalized to the international level by wartime planners designing the United Nations, Bretton Woods and Nuremberg charters. Since the book has two full chapters on the Bretton Woods regime (encompassing the World Bank and IMF) and a long chapter about the genesis of what contemporaries called FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights,” I find Rieff’s assertion that my presentation of the New Deal is devoid of criticism, or that I don’t discuss capitalism, to be especially puzzling.
I am particularly fascinated by the way wartime rhetoric that may have been offered in a somewhat hypocritical or even cynical spirit seemed to take on a dynamic life of its own, inspiring anticolonial activists abroad and antiracism activists at home. I am admittedly less interested in other questions, such as whether particular historical actors ought to have had different sets of concerns than the ones the documents I examined show them as having. Rieff’s trenchant criticisms of the political orientation of Madeleine Albright, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Samantha Power and other contemporary analysts seem to suggest that some of his concerns may have more to do with the shortcomings of so-called mainstream liberalism itself rather than my historical portrayal of the way certain mainstream liberals behaved in the early 1940s.
I am appreciative that Rieff puts my work on a spectrum with Mandelbaum’s, even if I disagree with his assertion that Mandelbaum and I are part of essentially the same triumphalist project. I was also happy that Rieff considers my book “learned and accessible”–a particular goal I worked hard to achieve. The book recently received the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians, as the best book in the history of ideas published in 2005, and the Bernath Award from the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, as the best first book on the history of US foreign relations published in the last year.
I hope that readers who are interested in an analysis of human rights politics in the 1940s that offers a historically grounded critique of realist and neorealist orientations might yet consider seeking out the book, and I would welcome learning of their impressions if and when they do.
New York City
I suppose it is a sign of our self-promoting times that a writer unhappy with a review of her work ends her letter with an itemization of the awards her book has received and a pitch to readers to buy it, even if couched in the bogus democracy of the blogosphere, as when she tells these putative readers she would “welcome learning of their impressions” of her work.
Whatever the awards lavished upon her, Borgwardt begins to give self-regard a bad name when she insists that the material she covers in her book deals with “an overlooked historical moment” or that the existing literature has “tended to treat the US role in the international politics of the early 1940s as material to be mined for evidence of early cold war tensions.” This is simply false. As I pointed out in a review that was not without its acknowledgment of the merits of her book, the US role in the shaping of the post-World War II international order, above all the United Nations system, has been covered in depth, at length and with considerable insight by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley in FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (1997), Mary Ann Glendon in A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001) and Stephen Schlesinger in Act of Creation (2003). I do not understand what purpose Borgwardt thinks is served by pretending her book has no antecedents. To have done so would not have undermined the worth of her own contribution.
Regarding her more substantive complaints about my review, I can only say that what seems to Borgwardt a “nuanced and textured argument about the New Deal” seemed to me both credulous and adulatory. It is not true that her book is a neutral historical portrayal. Rather, it is a work of history with an ideological agenda–to prove that the vision of the post-World War II international order of the Roosevelt Administration represented, to use the concluding words of Borgwardt’s introduction, “the promise not only of a new American foreign policy but of a new vision for the world.” Borgwardt is perfectly entitled to view the New Deal model for the world as a promising one, and to put forward the thesis that had the cold war not halted its implementation, we would all be better off today. But she is not entitled to deny that this thesis permeates her book.
Our difference is fundamental. Borgwardt finds the case for what legal scholar Harold Koh has called America’s good exceptionalism “compelling.” I do not. Borgwardt, in her allusions to Iraq, clearly believes that the problem with American power is its current unilateralism. “A nation which once served as a beacon of hope” is now pervasively “exporting fear,” she writes. In other words, the fault lay with the cold warriors who abandoned FDR’s Grotian vision in the late 1940s, and with George W. Bush, who abandoned multilateralism in the aftermath of 9/11. I’m afraid the fault is rather deeper than that.
ANN COULTER, BALDING LIAR
Eric Alterman [“The Liberal Media,” Sept. 18] writes that Ann Coulter “deserves to have a wing named after her in the Liars and Lunatics’ Hall of Fame (as soon as one is built).” The National Liars Hall of Fame, established in 1990, is located on the main street of Dannebrog, Nebraska, and flourishes. Ann Coulter, however, is not eligible for induction because membership in the NLHF is open only to amateurs.
Baton Rouge, La.
Many thanks to Katha Pollitt for laying out the truth about the historical non sequitur “Islamo-fascism” [“Subject to Debate,” Sept. 11 and 25]. Militant Muslims have been terrorizng each other and outsiders for more than a millennium; fascism is a twentieth-century phenomenon. If anything, Al Qaeda and the Taliban resemble Puritan Roundheads run amok. The label was obviously concocted to divert attention from the Bush Administration’s own crypto-fascist proclivities. To compare a penny-ante dictator like Saddam Hussein to Hitler–well, that’s just pathetic. Pollitt’s quip, however, about “balding heads” spewing prowar propaganda leaves me puzzled. Is Ann Coulter losing her hair?
WILLIAM F. BERTOLETTE
AND SPEAKING OF ISLAMO-FASCISM…
Silver Spring, Md.
Re Katha Pollitt’s September 25 mention of “noted foreign policy expert” Rick Santorum. Ricky, addressing an Opus Dei gathering in Rome in January 2002 (per National Catholic Reporter‘s John Allen), declared, “I regard George W. Bush as the first Roman Catholic President of the United States.” What about JFK? Well, Ricky thinks JFK was all wet in his 1960 defense of church-state separation. Say goodbye, Rick.
SHIP OF STATE
Grass Valley, Calif.
This summer I was swimming with a friend, and we decided to move to the other side of the river. It meant holding our chairs, hats, sunglasses and magazines above our heads. On my last trip, to get my reading material–The Nation–I slipped. Before I went under, I threw it at my friend and yelled, “Save The Nation!” As she held it out dripping, she said, “I think it’s too late for that,” and added, “and I’m not talking about the magazine.”
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
The credit for Wayne Barrett & Dan Collins’s “Cashing In on Catastrophe” [Sept. 25] was incomplete. After the indication that it was adapted from their new book, Grand Illusion, this credit was missing: “Copyright © 2006 by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.” R.O. Blechman did the page 2 art last week. In Katha Pollitt’s last column, the name of NARAL’s political director, Beth Shipp, was misspelled.