The controversy over Diana West’s book American Betrayal continues into the new year.
The New Criterion is hosting a seminar on Ms. West and her book in the just-released January 2014 issue. Contributions include a lead editorial plus five letters on the topic from Ron Radosh, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, Conrad Black, M. Stanton Evans, and Andrew C. McCarthy.
That’s an awful lot of firepower to roll out, and a lot of ink to expend, just to ensure the “take-down” of American Betrayal. It’s further evidence of the intense gravitational influence exerted by Planet X on American conservatives, and especially on the hagiographers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Everyone should visit The New Criterion and read this new symposium. Below is the contribution sent in by the noted historian of Communism M. Stanton Evans. I’m reproducing it here because it largely agrees with what has been said on the topic in this space over the past five months (see the archives for a full list of posts):
American Betrayal, an exchange: M. Stanton Evans
From a series of letters regarding Andrew C. McCarthy’s review of American Betrayal (The New Criterion, December 2013)
To the Editors:
Somebody once asked me for a definition of “paleoconservative,” a term occasionally used in right-wing political circles. I said I didn’t know what it meant exactly, but I offered a definition based on what I had witnessed: “A paleoconservative is a conservative who’s been mugged by a neoconservative.”
That exchange has come to mind as I’ve watched the concerted and apparently endless attack on Diana West and her Cold War book, American Betrayal. Ms. West isn’t a self-identified “paleoconservative” in any sense that I’m aware of, and doesn’t qualify for the title anyway, because it mostly pertains to an older generation. She is, however, certainly a conservative, and has certainly been mugged, intellectually speaking, by people who are “neoconservatives,” according to their own description.
As evidence of such mugging, I note the invective used against Ms. West in a score of hostile essays: “Unhinged,” “right-wing loopy,” “incompetent,” not “house-trained,” “conspiracy theorist,” “paranoid,” leader of a “kook army,” and so on in many variations. This is a type of discourse that, until now, I haven’t seen much of in conservative intramural quarrels (though there have been a few examples) but have seen all too often elsewhere. It’s the well-known rhetorical style of the radical left, on a mission to isolate, demonize, and destroy an opponent.
Which brings me to Andrew C. McCarthy’s wrap-up of the dispute about American Betrayal appearing in these pages. With some differences as to points of fact, I found his assessment of the book to be judicious and fair, and in substance supportive of Ms. West. (And I thank him for his kind comments about my own researches.) But I was taken aback by his handling of the verbal conflict part, treated on a “moral equivalence “ basis: two sides equally guilty of excesses, both needing to cool it for the good of the republic.
That’s not by a long shot the way I’ve seen it. What I’ve seen instead is, on the one side, a group of influential men ganging up on a lone author, trying to bludgeon her into irrelevance, and, on the other side, her effort to defend herself, her book, and her reputation against their onslaught. In no way can the attackers and their target be considered equal — either in firepower or in responsibility for the combat.
As to how all this came about, it’s obvious that Ms. West, in her approach to revisionist history, has committed lèse-majesté — an offense against the sovereign power. She has dared to challenge the long-established and much-cherished left-liberal “court history” of World War II — glorifying Roosevelt, Hopkins, Marshall, et al. — and to raise the dread specter of Communist internal influence on American policy in that conflict and the Cold War struggle that would follow.
Such painting outside the lines of the “consensus” is not to be permitted, and where it occurs will be severely punished. (A consensus that, by the way, looks increasingly bankrupt with every new disclosure from the archives.) Why Ms. West in particular has been selected for this treatment I’m not sure, but the larger lesson is there for all to see: If you stray beyond the limits we’ve established, this could happen to you as well. It’s a method, as the saying goes, of “encouraging the others” — to walk quietly in the way of the consensus.
Where I come from, that’s not what we call “moral equivalence.” We would instead call it a mugging, and we would try to do something about it. I think reasonable people in other places would view it in like fashion.
M. Stanton Evans
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.