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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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?