Diana West: On the Question of “Scholarship”

A huge controversy has been raging in certain conservative quarters for the past few days about Diana West’s book American Betrayal and the subsequent treatment of it by FrontPage Magazine.

For those of you who came in late: FrontPage initially posted a favorable review of the book, and then took the unprecedented step of removing it a few days later. After a gap of several weeks, a scathing review by Ronald Radosh was featured at FPM, followed by a series of articles attacking Diana West.

Ms. West published her initial rebuttal at her blog. Check out her her website for more recent responses.

I have not read the book, nor am I an expert on its topic (the Soviet penetration of the United States government before, during, and after the Second World War). For that reason, I offer no opinion on the book’s accuracy, nor on the relevance of Mr. Radosh’s critique.

However, I note with dismay the rapid — “instantaneous” might be a better word — descent into vitriol and personal attacks against Ms. West on the part of FrontPage and several of its allies. This is a sadly familiar tactic, one more commonly found in debates on the far Left, among the erstwhile associates of Messrs. Horowitz and Radosh.

Dymphna pointed out to me earlier today that the publication of all those critical reviews in multiple articles beginning with “I haven’t read the book, but…” is typical of Leftist groupthink, and hardly a sign of scrupulous scholarship on the part of the authors. If I haven’t read a book, nor checked its cited references, then I don’t consider myself qualified to review it, or even criticize it.

Full disclosure: Diana West and I have been good friends for five years. I know her to be a kind and gracious woman of the utmost civility, and also a meticulous scholar. Regardless of the merits of the arguments against her book, the scurrilous personal attacks against her are so unwarranted as to be breathtaking.

Ms. West has now prepared a more detailed rebuttal, which she expects will be posted at American Thinker. With the author’s kind permission, it is reproduced below.

The War on American Betrayal: On the Question of “Scholarship”

By Diana West

In Bernie Reeves’ review of my book, American Betrayal, here at American Thinker, he discusses another review, one by Ronald Radosh that appeared at Frontpage Magazine. I will be writing a rebuttal to the Radosh review. In the meantime, however, I would like to address the issue of scholarship that both reviews raise.

The subject is bandied about in these two reviews. Indeed, scholarship is perhaps the main complaint they both raise about the book: i.e., that I have none.

Radosh writes, for example, that I do “not know how to evaluate the reliability of a source or assess the evidence produced.” Also, that I disregard “the findings of the sources she does rely on when they contradict her yellow journalism conspiracy theories.”

Since American Betrayal contains 900-plus endnotes, that’s a lot of sources that I allegedly do not know how to evaluate and also disregard. Is it true? Is Ronald Radosh the appropriate arbiter?

To be sure, Bernie Reeves has many positive things to say about my book — not least of which concerns one of my most controversial arguments, which holds that Harry Hopkins, FDR’s top aide during World War II, was a conscious agent of Stalin’s influence on US policy-making. Asserting that he now supports “West’s conclusions” regarding Hopkins, Reeves writes:

“It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. West deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation.”

I note that Reeves doesn’t take issue personally with my scholarship in his review. He does, however, defer to Radosh’s denunciations of it.

Reeves writes, “Radosh’s evisceration of West [at Frontpage] churns up contradictory facts.” Again, Reeves doesn’t, however, present them himself.

Reeves continues:

“Radosh cites key Cold War scholars to tear apart West’s view. I know and like Radosh and almost all of the experts he refers to, and agree they are excellent researchers and writers. But they are all restricted by their profession not to dramatize their findings.”

If this is so, and if Reeves considers Radosh a “Cold War scholar,” is it correct to say that Radosh has refrained from dramatizing his findings in such articles as “Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book,” or “McCarthy on Steroids”?


“Diane [sic] West is not a scholar, but she certainly has the right to connect dots and come to conclusions, even if she is unable to present historical detail on a scholarly level.”

Again, no support beyond Radosh’s say-so for this damaging critique of my alleged mishandling of “historical detail on a scholarly level.”

More Reeves:

“And while Radosh rightfully criticizes West for her academic mistakes and conclusions, this does not mean that she is wrong in portraying the reality that the U.S. was duped into pro-Soviet policies that extended in scope beyond the military objective to keep Stalin in the war.”

So, to recap, Radosh “rightfully” criticizes me for my “academic mistakes” but readers of the Reeves review are left in the cold as to what they are.

Is this fair?

As noted above, I will be rebutting the Radosh review, which runs some 7,000 words. It will take some time. However, this unsubstantiated attack at American Thinker on my scholarship is too damaging to wait. I am being slandered on the word of a reviewer whose own scholarship has been called into serious question in the past [see M. Stanton Evans’ reply to Ronald Radosh’s review of Blacklisted by History]. I will now call it into question by highlighting some egregious failures of accuracy.

I can do so in ways small and large.

Small first.

For example, Radosh writes: “Instead of weighing these fears, West turns to another anecdote telling how George Elsey found confidential files in the Map Room that showed FDR naively thinking he could trust Stalin, and instructed Hopkins to tell Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov that FDR was in favor of a Second Front in 1942.”

There’s one problem with Radosh’s scholarship here. This anecdote about George Elsey, confidential files and the Map Room isn’t in my book. Anywhere. I explained this amazing failure at the end of an initial rebuttal I published at my own website. The next day, Radosh wrote a retort headlined: “Diana West’s Attempt to Respond.” (Incidentally, this was Frontpage’s lead story, over and above a story about Republican capitulations on amnesty and immigration! To be precise, the amnesty/immigration piece was third in the Frontpage queue. No. 2 was “Diana West Vs. History,” a brand new attack on me that compares my book’s thesis to Nazi propaganda.)

In his retort, Radosh writes: “Maybe she couldn’t find the anecdote. But it is there in three different places where she writes how FDR told Hopkins to go into Molotov’s bedroom while he was staying in the White House so that he could meet with the President, and at that meeting, Hopkins told Molotov that FDR was in favor of a Second Front.”

Now we have another problem. The brand new anecdote isn’t in my book, either.

It gets worse.

Radosh goes on to list the three pages the new and improved (but still not in my book) anecdote allegedly appears on. He writes:

“They can be found on p. 129, p. 268 and p. 296. She missed them because of a trivial error I did make which was to associate the anecdote she took from her source, Laurence Rees’ WW II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West, with the anecdote about Elsey’s find, which is in another part of Rees’ book.”

My source is Laurence Rees? Really? Radosh keeps going.

“West may not have mentioned Elsey’s role in her own text, but it is the anecdote itself about the Second Front that is the crux of this matter and she does refer to it on three occasions.”

It’s getting to be a pattern: Radosh is wrong again. Reference 1 has nothing to do with the Second Front, and my source isn’t Rees, it’s Robert Sherwood (if anyone is keeping score).

References 2 and 3 are indeed about the Second Front (congratulations), but they do not relate a story about Elsey, confidential files, or the Map Room (the original anecdote) or about “how FDR told Hopkins to go into Molotov’s bedroom while he was staying in the White House so that he could meet with the President, and at that meeting, Hopkins told Molotov that FDR was in favor of a Second Front,” as Radosh now maintains.

In my book, it is Hopkins, not FDR, who is acting with volition, and there is nothing in my account about Molotov’s bedroom. In Reference 2, I write: “Was it merely paradoxical back in May 1942, when, according to Soviet records, Harry Hopkins privately coached Foreign Minister Molotov on what to say to FDR to overcome U.S. military arguments against a ‘second front’ in France in May 1942?”

Will anyone be surprised to learn my source isn’t Rees this time, either? It’s Eduard Mark.

Reference 3 restates Reference 2, so Rees still isn’t the source.

So much for small things.

It so happens the above example of what is passing for “scholarship” these days occurs in the fifth and final section of Radosh’s main arguments against my book. This final section is subtitled, “The Issue of the Second Front” and runs about 1,800 critical words about my thesis about the Second Front. He describes my thesis thus:

“The final piece of West’s conspiracy puzzle is the decision to open a Second Front on the continent of Europe, which Stalin had been demanding from the moment Hitler broke his pact with the Kremlin and invaded the Soviet motherland. Let us assume for a moment that a cross-Channel invasion had been mounted in 1943 (before the Axis armies had been decimated in North Africa, Sicily and Italy) instead of at Normandy in 1944. In that case, as Rees argues, the Allies might indeed have reached Eastern Europe earlier in the fighting and Soviet influence would have been lessened. West, as we have seen, attributes the failure to Soviet agents who prevented Roosevelt and Churchill from following this course, allowing Stalin to take control. But Rees also writes (in a passage West also ignores) that ‘the cost in human terms for the Western Allies would have been enormous.’ “

There I go again, right?

Wrong. The debate Radosh describes — exactly when to mount the cross-Channel invasion into northern France that we know as D-Day — was indeed intense, and remains a subject of interest for World War II historians — such as Rees. It is not the crux of debate — let alone “the final piece of West’s conspiracy puzzle” — in my book American Betrayal.

Yes, Ronald Radosh is wrong again, although this time it is not one (or three) anecdotes, it is a major portion of a book. The problem is, it is not my book. I begin to wonder if perhaps Radosh is reviewing Laurence Rees’s book, not American Betrayal. In any event, the climactic section of Radosh’s self-described “take-down” of my book becomes completely erroneous.

The Second Front debate that I do focus on at great and heavily sourced length may be encapsulated in the headline of a short piece that recently ran at Breitbart.com in a five-part series based on American Betrayal: “Did Communist Influence Boost D-Day Invasion Over Italy Strategy?” The debate over an invasion of France vs. Italy is an issue completely separate from the debate over when to stage D-Day. Cold War Scholar Radosh, however, completely missed my main argument, and finds fault with someone else’s.

Of course, maybe that’s because my section on the France vs. Italy debate is just 13,500 words long and has only 84 endnotes.

“Conspiratorial theories of history are easy to create once you are prepared to ignore the realities on the ground.” To which I would reply: “Eviscerations” of books are easy to create once you are prepared to ignore the words in the book.

But is it scholarship?

31 thoughts on “Diana West: On the Question of “Scholarship”

  1. Having read Churchills war diaries Im going to read this book! Tell Diane, if you would not to take this personally! she must have stabbed a raw nerve here! in fact can I buy this book via you and have it signed? from when I was young, watching the TV series “all our yesterdays” I never understood why the USA put all the effort in to europe when their main battle was with the Japanese! over the years I have read things that explain this and Dianes book will be one more! if you check the history of french aviation companies in the 30s communism had a great hand in disabling them and preventing what was a powerfull airforce having modern planes, also communism weakened the french army and the English resolve (source W Churchill) I do wonder if Stalins game plan was to feed and arm Germany and have Hitler invade England and thus weakened to stroll through to the english channel!

  2. Deference to the academic establishment is deeply ingrained, even here, where a native preference for common sense runs deeper than across the Atlantic. Somehow, a higher degree–PhD, MA, MD, etc.–can confer upon even the most vacuous intellect a veneer of wisdom. This type of “scholar” seems to have risen to the bait of Diana West’s carefully researched book.
    Where the Death of the Grownup displayed a similar careful research coupled with a similar zesty language, it did not stir the predatory ire that Betrayal has.
    Can we guess why? Because this book intrudes on sacred territory and has the unmitigated gall to re-examine events and people whose significance was long since agreed upon by the ”scholars” in the field.
    Poor Ron Radosh. He has to defend his turf. That, after all, is what advocacy scholarship is all about.

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  4. Im reading Diana’s book now. I think the controversy will help sales.

    What I dont like is the disrespectful manner in which Radosh criticized Diana’s book and Diana herself. Terms like “Aweful” “Bircher” “McCarthyist” “Crackpot” and whatnot have been hurled. Ive read a lot of Ron Radosh and respect him. He like Horowitz is a Neo-Con having been on the far-Left and New Left and then abandoning the Left and embracing American Conservatism. But they really should have been more collegial and amiable in their criticism. Even Spengler came and piled on in the comments. This might help Diana’s sales in the short run, but this episode will do damage to all concerned in the long run. And that is no good for the Anti-Communists or the Anti-Jihadists.

    PS – Im reading Diana’s book now. But I believe that the Uranium shipped to Russia issue to be a valid criticism by Ron….for one.

    Some of the commentary surrounding the brouhaha has been illuminating, though. So there is that, at least.

    As I stated at PJMedia and FrontPageMag, I find people hurling McCartyist on Steroids at others and insinuating that they are Birchers from a website whose tagline is Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out beyond ironic into self parody.

    End the circular firing squad, for Pete’s sake.

    • “I find people hurling McCartyist on Steroids at others and insinuating that they are Birchers from a website whose tagline is Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out beyond ironic into self parody.”

      Well said. Just so.

  5. For those who might not know Ron Radosh has considerable expertise in the area of Soviet and Communist infiltration of US institutions and government….and has long track history of countering Leftist lies in this area. That doesnt make him infalable or all knowing, but he has the credentials to challenge Diana West in this area. Im not defending some of his behavior, nor all of his critiques, just saying. Im more familiar with Radosh’s published work than Diana Wests, for the record.

    • Yes, but I’m sure you will agree that Radosh’s ad hominem attacks are unprofessional and inexcusable. Even if he thinks that West’s interpretations go beyond the facts.


  7. Her research is one thing, but Diane West’s assertion that the US should have allied with the anti-communist Germans against the Soviets is truly mad. The Nazis and the Soviets were both evil. The Nazis were more so.

    • Kahaneloyalist —

      Evidently you have made the same mistake as many of the antagonistic reviewers of the book, and not read it yourself before characterizing its arguments.

      I haven’t read it either, but fortunately I’m in contact with the author. Here’s what Diana West says:

      “I have never written or advocated an alliance with Nazis against Soviets. The German underground that multiple US (and British, too) emissaries were dealing with and that I write about in American Betrayal were all anti-Nazis but also anti-Communists, from Prince Louis Ferdinand to von Moltke. The deals they offered always included overthrowing Hitler and Nazi command and surrendering German armies to US and British in exchange for our help in keeping the Red Army out of central and eastern Europe. In Washington, DC, for example, where the KGB had a man (Franz Neumann) on the German desk at the OSS, or Soviet agent Lauchlin Currie in the White House to block access, these anti-Nazi, anti-Communist Germans never got very far. Indeed, Germany’s anti-Nazi underground was the only anti-Nazi underground in Europe the US didn’t support in some way.”

  8. I just finished West’s book. I klnow well not to blindly trust any “neo-cons”–as an old palio-con, myself. I still find their motivations more than a tad suspect and take all with a grain (or pound) of salt.
    The real reason for critics’ ire has to do with FDR’s gigantic role in all this subversion. His blind pro-Soviet, Pro-Stalin behavior and bias is still uncomprehensible to me. this book shows that it colors all of WW II history. But he is still a god to the left. This can NEVER CHANGE. He must never be criticized, and re Alinsky et al–his critics must be destroyed. Thus this “review”.
    If you still think the term “MaCarthyite” is perjoritive, check out Evans’ “Blacklisted by History”–Soviet penetration was many times worse than he ever imagined. In regards to more recient history in Korea and Vietnam this penetration clearly goes on to the apresent day.
    CAIR anyone??

  9. This is indeed a mystifying stoush and quite unnecessary. There must be some personal dimension to it, as it is not a neo-con vs paleo-con thing. The titles of Radosh’s reviews “McCarthyism on Steriods” and others, worse in their ad hominem nature, are distressing. His possible motivations perplex me. Trashing West to gain additional credibility as a snow-pure historian? It is a target-rich environment out there for conservatives, they shouldn’t be engaged in circular firing squads.

    Yes Radosh is right about the uranium shipped to the USSR under Lend Lease: too little of the right isotope to be useful for bomb making and in any event Radosh was right the Soviets copied the plutonium not the uranium bomb. And had been busy doing so since no later than mid 1943. But this error, or rather over emphasis, by West derogates little from a very compelling thesis.

    I have only read West’s five excerpts and, regarding myself as highly informed in the areas covered, I was shocked to learn of Eisenhower’s assessment of Italy’s Po Valley being a key strategic goal for the prosecution of the war – an assessment that I first learned of from West. I have been acutely aware for decades that their was a long term battle between Churchill and Roosevelt over concentration of resources on the Mediterranean Front – exploiting the Ljubjana Gap, after a leap-frogging amphibious landing in the northern Adriatic, eg Istria, to get to Vienna first was Churchill’s dream – vis-a-vis opening up another front in Western Europe and Churchill was “overruled” in this by Roosevelt. I had always understood that it was the US Navy that didn’t want to devote the ships to that Adriatic exercise – preferring concentration in the Pacific theatre that – that was the tipping factor. Even when Churchill resuscitated it in early 1945. West plausibly makes a different case. Despite a deep familiarity with the sterling works of John Haynes and Harvey Klehr, I was unaware of Franz Neumann and his role.

    One would have to be naive in the extreme to not accept it was in the Soviet’s interests that there be a Western Europe operation of the Normandy kind instead of a single concentrated Anglo-American effort from the South which could have readily seen the Anglo-Americans in Vienna and Budapest (and Marseilles and Lyon) before the Soviets had taken Warsaw.

    Why West’s prima facie worthwhile book has attracted such venomous denunciation from a conservative historian is beyond me. I can understand, but would not necessarily endorse, why Radosh would take issue with Buchanan’s “The Unnecessary War”, but West’s work?

    Painful as it is to recognise: Britain and the US got duped by the Soviet Union. Radosh is entirely correct that Lend Lease to the Soviet Union served Western interests by keeping the Soviets in the fight in 1942-1943 and ensuring that they kept the upper hand through the course of 1944. After the Soviets stalled, to put it politely, outside Warsaw so that the Germans could crush the indigenous Polish (and, overwhelmingly, anti-Soviet) uprising, however, the Anglo-Americans should have wised up to Soviet strategic intentions and Lend Lease should have been cut, suspended or ended. West makes apparently a good case for why this did not happen.

    Many Britons (my grandfather served as an RAF Flight Lieutenant in North Africa and Italy) and Americans suffered for this folly, many with their lives. Not to mention the tens of millions of central Europeans including, dare I say it, Germans, who either lost their lives through the prolongation of the war to serve Soviet interests or suffered the decades of misery of Soviet domination.

    West’s work goes part of the way to answering the conundrum as to how Roosevelt, a savvy arch-intriguer par excellence, could have been so stupendous naive regarding Stalin. Having a inner circle of advisers such as Harry Hopkins ( so he wasn’t Agent 19, but he was so important that maybe he wasn’t given a number or pseudonym by the Soviets) Duggan, Dexter White, etc, etc – explains a great deal.

    When William C Bullitt, former US ambassador to the Soviet Union and because of it a die-hard anti-Soviet crusader by 1939, urged upon Roosevelt a more hard-headed attitude towards Stalin, he was rebuffed and, more disturbingly, his political career destroyed with a vengeance. Roosevelt opined to Bullitt that he would give “Uncle Joe” everything he asked for and when the time came “Uncle Joe” would reciprocate kindly and acquiesce to American requests. Bullitt asked Roosevelt why did he imagine that Stalin would behave in such a way: you give him something for nothing and just he’ll think you a gull. Roosevelt responded “Noblesse oblige!” Bullitt sputtered “Noblesse oblige?! We’re not talking about the Duke of Northumberland* here; we’re taking about a Caucasian bandit!!” Roosevelt never spoke to him again. My money would be on Roosevelt’s Hopkinesque advisers playing a big role in both Roosevelt’s misplaced faith and subsequent treatment of Bullitt.

    Julius O’Malley
    Sydney Australia

    * Actual duke cited only from memory. And unimportant to the point.

  10. Postscript: I have just read West’s article championing Joseph McCarthy as an American hero who should be honoured as such. Therein I conjecture lies the explanation for the animus Radosh exhibits towards her. And her book.

    Joseph McCarthy was a vile unprincipled opportunist of the lowest order and his vileness had more to do with his secret sordid personal life, cf Roy Cohn, than his anti-communism. Which was I would contend a cover, a red herring, for drawing attention away from his personal life. I think it was Harvey Klehr who wrote that if one had thrown darts randomly at a wall of photographs of State Department officials in the early 1950’s the darts would have hit more actual Soviet agents than McCarthy had accurately named.

    Radosh was correct in asserting that McCarthy largely rehashed “old news” on Communist infiltration of the US government. However just because West has a misplaced admiration for McCarthy doesn’t derogate from the value of her “Betrayal” book and its contribution to understanding why WW2 was conducted the way it was.

    And doesn’t excuse the appalling slur of naming West as “McCarthy’s Heiress” – an epithet I find more offensive than Ms West, apparently, would.

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  12. This is my third comment today- hope I’m not hogging the blog!
    The US and British bombing of Dresden on 13th/14th Feb 1945 was condemned by postwar communist propaganda as a war crime. I’ve only recently discovered that it was at the Soviets’ request; they were worried that the Germans (who relied particularly heavily on rail transport) would move reinforcements from Italy or the Western Front to the East. US 8th Air Force hit the marshalling yards several times by day in this period; the RAF, I’m particafraid (my Dad served with them, though in Burma

  13. aaarghh! cut off in my prime! To conclude: The RAF… hit the city twice overnight, but it was no worse than Hamburg a couple of years earlier.
    Stalin was at least as evil as Hitler, and more duplicitous.

  14. To start off, I have not read the book in question yet by Diana West but to some extent I have read a number of books that seem to run parallel to the running sore that was the relationship between the ‘Allies’ in WW 2. I have come to the conclusion that the achieved ambition of FDR was to destroy the British Empire, emasculate the other countries of Europe and replace the Pound Sterling with the Dollar as the trading currency.
    Hence, one of the books that came to mind: Friendly Fire. The secret war between the Allies.
    Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior. 2005.

  15. “they really should have been more collegial and amiable in their criticism”

    Well, being outcasts themselves Horowitz, Radosh and other ‘rightists’ and ‘islamophobes’ are scrambling to rid themselves of more unwelcome tarnishes by another nother deviant of the mainstream – it’s a common reaction I’ve noticed.
    West is right, of course. American politics has been heavily infiltrated by a communist 5th column, the press and intelligentia have largely been complicit because they too were won over by cultural marxism, and we, the people have been screwed, bamboozled and betrayed. As far as we were believers too, we are as hesitant to accept the only possible explanation for the monstrous shift the west has gone through, so much so that we will bicker and split hairs for at least another century until the authors and perpetrators of this scam of the century have all gone to their graves.

    • That is the kindest theory to explain this incident that I have yet found plausible. That a failure of courage is the least damning possible motive for this behavior leaves me somewhat heavy-hearted. I will wait a while before adopting it as the charge to be laid.

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