The most important magazine article of 2006 never appeared in an American publication. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby” first saw the light of day in The London Review of Books. Thanks to the Internet hundreds of thousands of Americans have been able to read this piece, which, for one unflattering reason or another, nobody in America would publish.
Now comes another piece in The London Review of Books that would have served the world better had it appeared in an American publication. It is ““Bush’s Useful Idiots,” Tony Judt’s essay on “The Strange Death of Liberal America.”
Judt is a corking good historian currently running New York University’s Remarque Institute. In this piece he directs his anger toward the corps of men and women who, though presenting themselves as liberals, supported the Iraq disaster from the git-go. Of them he writes, “Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America’s liberal armchair warriors are the ‘useful idiots’ of the War on Terror.”
Who are the useful idiots who served Bush so well in bringing defeat and disgrace down on our country? He names some of them–Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick, Thomas Friedman, Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago Divinity School, Paul Berman, Peter Beinart–but without too much head-scratching, others could be added to Judt’s list.
It was publications as well as individuals who in Judt’s estimation did the liberal Judas goat act: “Magazines and newspapers of the traditional liberal centre–the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York Times itself–fell over themselves in the hurry to align their editorial stance with that of a Republican president bent on exemplary war. A fearful conformism gripped the mainstream media.” He might have added that only the prospect of what is beginning to look like defeat may loosen that grip.
These people should be called out for what they did because, as Judt writes, “those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War–the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ‘Off the Island’ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America’s drive to war–are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs.”
My God! People still not only take Friedman seriously, they kiss the man’s fanny wherever he goes. Just the other day he likened the failure of the military’s drive to pacify Baghdad to the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive in Vietnam, and the next thing you know somebody’s asking George Bush about Friedman’s latest assessment–and the President seems to be agreeing. It’s all nonsense, of course, because however terrible the Iraqi misadventure may be, it bears little similarity to the Vietnam misadventure other than the stink of defeat and deceit. Well, if you give a screeching baboon a column in the New York Times, he will be showered with awards and lucrative speaking engagements.