The Radical Visions that Shaped Some Leading Historians


Mr. Horowitz is the founder of FrontPageMag.com.

In his recent book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (Regnery), David Horowitz argues that several of the leading historians of the twentieth century embraced an outlook that was hyper critical of America and sympathetic to communism. Several excerpts:

Re: Eric Hobsbawm

The continuity between the generations of the Communist and Neo-Communist Left is, in fact, seamless. It is the product of a leftist culture that embraces the political traditions and anticapitalist perspectives of the discredited Communist past.

An illustrative example of this mentality is provided in the career of Eric Hobsbawm, an icon of the contemporary intellectual Left. Hobsbawm was a lifelong Communist who joined the party in 1930, letting his membership lapse only after the fall of the Berlin Wall. An unremitting apologist and devoted servant of the most oppressive and repellent empire in history, Hobsbawm is today one of the most honored professional historians in the universities of Europe and America.

Hobsbawm's last historical work, The Age of Extremes, is probably the most highly praised effort to understand the twentieth century and the events about which he was so profoundly wrong. Hailed as the final volume of his tetralogy on industrial capitalism--"a summa historiae of the modern age"--it has been published in thirty-seven languages. This in itself is a testament to the vitality of Neo-Communism in the contemporary political culture.

The Age of Extremes appeared in 1995, four years after the fall of Communism, and is an elaborate defense of the twin illusions in whose name the Communist Left wreaked so much havoc during the twentieth century: the inherent evil of capitalist democracies and the humanitarian promise of the socialist future. The Age of Extremes is in fact an elaborate and perverse defense of the very illusions that sustained the Communist cause.

Although this cause left a greater trail of victims than any other in historical memory, Hobsbawm's attitude toward its enormities remains, revealingly, one of sadness and "nostalgia" rather than outrage and guilt. In an autobiography published in 2002, Hobsbawm told his readers, "To this day I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness." These are his feelings toward a regime that enslaved and slaughtered tens of millions, and reduced hundreds of millions to lives of inconceivable misery. Imagine a historian expressing the same sentiments toward the memory and tradition of Nazi Germany, which inflicted its damage over a twelve-year period rather than seventy years. Such an intellectual would be a moral pariah in the world of letters. Yet the opposite is true of Hobsbawm, to whom tribute is paid in the highest reaches of the academic culture, while his denial and nostalgia are, in fact, the widely shared attitudes of the intellectual Left.

It was in Berlin in the 1930s that the young Hobsbawm joined the Communist Party and embraced a faith that has never left him. "The months in Berlin made me a lifelong Communist, or at least a man whose life would lose its nature and its significance without the political project to which he committed himself as a schoolboy, even though that project has demonstrably failed, and as I know now, was bound to fail. The dream of the October Revolution is still there somewhere inside me."

Re: Gerda Lerner

An illuminating parallel to Hobsbawm's perspective is found in the work of historian Gerda Lerner, a pioneer of radical feminism and a bridge between the New Left and the Old. Like Hobsbawm, Lerner began her political career as a Communist in Central Europe, but emigrated to the United States in the late 1930s to escape Nazism. Unlike Hobsbawm, she eventually withdrew her membership from the Communist Party twenty years later and joined the New Left to become one of its intellectual leaders. As a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Lerner was a shaping influence on New Left feminism, writing one of its canonic texts, The Creation of Patriarchy and in 2003, during the conflict in Iraq, one of the founding members of Historians Against the War.

Lerner abandoned the Communist Party in 1956 following Khrushchev's revelations about the crimes of Stalin (which were, of course, revelations only to Communists). But awareness of these crimes--monstrous as they were--did not cause Lerner to rethink her commitment to the revolutionary cause itself. Instead she continued her radical career as an "anti-anti-Communist." She went on condemning the democracies of the West, opposing the Cold War against the Soviet Union, and pursuing the same revolutionary agendas she had before.

Lerner's career is especially instructive because it spans three radical generations and, because, unlike Hobsbawm, she made the transition to each new revisionist version of the progressive cause. Thus, more than thirty years after being apprised of Stalin's crimes and joining the New Left, she experienced a second metaphysical lurch when the entire socialist enterprise collapsed. In 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Soviet archives forced her to examine the lies that had governed her life for more than fifty years. In a memoir, published in 2002, she acknowledged this: "Had I written this account twenty years ago, I would have focused on the rightness of my position and on explaining to the post-Vietnam generation that the Old Left has been unduly maligned and its achievements have been forgotten. That still seems partially true to me, but now everything has become far more complex and disturbing."

As a historian Lerner felt she could not simply shrug off the complexities that recent events had created. "I have striven to lead a conscious, an examined life, and to practice what I preach. It now appears that, nevertheless, I failed in many ways, for I fell uncritically for lies I should have been able to penetrate and perceive as such." But like others who went through the same crisis and did not give up their political faith, Lerner is unwilling to confront the lies she has lived by for so long. When it comes to what she refers to as "disturbing" realities, her text becomes minimalist and fails to make any serious attempt to deal with them. The entire passage of her self- examination occupies a mere four pages of her 373-page book, which she describes as a "political autobiography."

Re: Howard Zinn

The perspective on view in the nearly seven hundred pages of A Peoples.History is a plodding Marxism supplemented by the preposterous idea that nation-states are merely a fiction, and only economic classes are "real" social actors:

Class interest has always been obscured behind an all-encompassing veil called "the national interest." My own war experience [in World War II], and the history of all those military interventions in which the United States was engaged, made me skeptical when I heard people in high political office invoke "the national interest" or "national security" to justify their policies. It was with such justifications that Truman initiated a "police action" in Korea that killed several million people, that Johnson and Nixon carried out a war in Indochina in which perhaps 3 million died, that Reagan invaded Grenada, Bush attacked Panama and then Iraq, and Clinton bombed Iraq again and again.

This passage illustrates the continuity of left-wing myths in shaping the consciousness of radical generations. ... Zinn retains into his seventies the same ideological blinders he wore as a young man. America's defense of South Korea against a Communist invasion from the North was not initiated by the United States, as the Communist propaganda machine maintained at the time. It was a response to the Communist aggression, initiated by Stalin himself, according to most recent historical accounts.

The war and subsequent American support for the South Koreans resulted in their liberation from both poverty and dictatorship. South Korea was, in 1950, one of the poorest Third World countries, with a per capita income of $250, on a level with Cuba and South Vietnam. Fifty years of American protection, trade, and investment has made South Korea a First World industrial nation with a reasonably stable democracy. By contrast North Korea, which was the industrial heart of the Korean peninsula and which the American armies failed to liberate--thanks to Zinn's political allies at the time--is an impoverished totalitarian state that has starved more than a million of its inhabitants in the last decade, while its Communist dictator hoards scarce funds to build an arsenal of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. The rest of Zinn's examples are equally tendentious and amount to little more than a rehash of Communist propaganda.

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John Edward Philips - 1/18/2006

AFAIK the Communists never voted against Hitler. The Socialists did. Had the Communists voted against Hitler as the Socialists had he could have been stopped.

To be fair to the Communists, the Center Party, now the Christian Democrats, also sat on their hands.

Lisa Kazmier - 3/11/2005

Aren't all nationalisms "invented"?

N. Friedman - 12/8/2004


I certainly recognize that, one way or the other, force is absolutely necessary in the dispute with the Muslim dominated part of the world. I have no illusion at all that peaceful persuasion has much chance of success - and actually it has none - in the dispute. In the end, a crushing blow or blows will need to be delivered to the Muslim dominated parts - not just one part of it - of the world or the fight will go on indefinitely.

In any event, Iraq is not being delivered a decisive blow. Were we to have delivered Iraq a decisive blow, I might have a different view although I would still wonder how that helps us stop the Jihad occuring and instigated from places like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, London, Hamburg, etc.

While I suspect that Iraq was somehow involved far more closely with al Qa'eda (and the Islamists in general) than the evidence so far uncovered proves, the fact still is that the heart of the Jihad is elsewhere (e.g. in Pakistan [Central Station as it were], in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Egypt and in Europe). And, we are not doing much to counter the Jihad in these other places by attacking Iraq wherein our troops do not have the advantage but, on the best case scenario, only an even playing field. That teaches the Islamists and Jihadis that the US can be fought rather than the intended message that fighting us is futile.

In my view, the dispute with the Islamists is not about us making friends. It is about us forcing - by any and all means (and I mean that) - the Muslim world to end the Jihad.

I understand your point that the Jihadis stream into Iraq to be killed. Those streaming into Iraq are not being diverted from the attacking us elsewhere. That is a misunderstanding. I reiterate that the Jihadis who actually most directly threaten us live already in the West or are Westernized (i.e. so that they can fit in and understand us sufficiently to operate here).

Again, I am not opposed in principle to using force in Iraq. I, however, think it is a folly to spread democracy to people too disinterested to fight for it themselves. And, I think that having our troops picked off makes us look weak.

Bill Heuisler - 12/8/2004

Mr. Woodward-Pratt,
Next time you choose to lecture me, do some research. Embarrassing yourself on HNN isn't the end of the world (I do it often) but presuming to comprehend the faults or intelligence of others is rude and childish.

Your post is full of errors, but I'll only point out two:
You patronizingly claim, "...we don't use and European numerals, but rather Arabic numerals, for Arabs were some of the first people to fully understand the importance of zero...". Wrong, Woodward-Pratt.

So-called Arabic numbers were first used in India in the Later Devanagari period. The first four are based on ideograms of additive angles used by Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Musa Al Khowarizmi and copied from the sanskrit. The Arabic word for zero, "zephirum" (as-sifr) also comes from the Sanskrit word, "sunya" meaning empty.

The concept of sunya in India has varied manifestations in mathematics, philosophy and mysticism. In mathematical literature it is used in the sense of zero, having no substantial numeral value of its own but playing the key role in the system of decimal notation, to express all numbers with nine digits, one to nine and the sunya as the tenth. The application of the sunya in the form of a dot or a small circle and its use in decimal-place-value systems was first transmitted to the Middle-East to supplant more clumsy Greek and Roman systems.

The Maya also conceptualized zero, but never the Arabs.

Before presuming ignorance or racism, please read a history book or two.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/8/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Your objections/disagreements were to the use of force in Iraq and my debunking Islamic "culture", weren't they?

If so, then my arguments were directed to the tactical, strategic and propaganda value of Iraq as a US base and my inability to find a scientific, literary or medical breakthrough creditable to a Moslem country.

Where am I wrong?
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/7/2004


I never said anything suggesting that I oppose the use of force. You misread me.

As for Europe, I remind you that in order for terrorists to come here, they need to be able to blend in here. That is why, frankly, the 9/11 terrorists came from Europe. And, I might add, until we push Europe into helping, they will be a source of more terror. In this, they need to be forced to back off Israel and to realize that we are in war. I note that Bat Ye'or says that Europe is not able to help and will, in time, be thoroughly dominated by the Islamists unless there is a major change.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/7/2004

Your racist drivel isn't worth the time to rebut. You are clearly ignoring history, and as such, no evidence i put forward would convince you otherwise, as you will simply ignore it or twist it beyond recognition to your own perverse ends.
However, based upon my faith in all people as good, i will try to explain to you with two simple points why you are wrong. If you cannot understand them, then i am afraid you are far beyond my capability to convince. First, to claim that 'Muslims' (still, with the improper use of this term) have no culture based upon the fact that they learned from others is ridiculous. Every culture has learned from those that came before them, barring only the very first monkey that got the bright idea that thinking might be a nice thing to try. Just as Muslims learned from the Greeks, the rest of Western Europe learned this information back from the Muslims. How else, beside the presevative efforts of the Muslims, do we have knowledge of the Greek thinkers. Aside from this, i might point out that various ideas which are rather now important to our culture came from Muslim nations. Ever wonder notice quite a few words with little relation to a Latin root starting with 'al'. like algebra or alcohol? This would be because Muslims made great strides in the early sciences, particularly chemistry and mathematics. Indeed, for our own mathematics we don't use and European numerals, but rather Arabic numerals, for Arabs were some of the first people to fully understand the importance of zero in recording numbers efficiently.
Secondly, i only can pray that you will see the terrible similarity between your words and those of political groups as different as the Nazi's, European colonialists, and indeed Muslim fundamentalists (perhaps you should take note here that many of the traits to ascribe to Muslims in general are only exhibited by a few as reviled by the majority of Muslims as Crusaders are by the majority of Christians). The prime connection between these groups is that each thought itself superior to all others and sought to wipe off the earth all those they deemed inferior to themselves. I hope that you live long enough to see the inevitable denounciations in history books of anti-Arab ideolouges like you.

Bill Heuisler - 12/7/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Your solutions, in general, seem to distill into
"convincing people" or putting "pressure on" Europe, Pakistan, the Saudis etc. And Iran: screaming at them will only convince them of our weakness. Transforming Iraq into a docile ally will shake the Iranian Mullahs' confidence because Iraq was the largest, best armed army in Islam and Saddam had become the titular leader of the Arab "street" through defiance and through funding terror.
Also, fear convinces. Iraq's geographic position combined with Afganistan's places our bases in the center of the Islamic world - within striking distance of most Arabs.
This is pressure. This will convince. If not, what?

You should also note that a large percentage of Jihadists in Iraq fighting our troops are from other countries. So, instead of allowing the terrorists to come here again, we've made it easier for them to cross from Iran and Syria into Iraq where we can kill them more easily. Haven't you wondered why we don't close the mountain passes NE of Baghdad and the few terrorist routes (not in the open desert) near Abu Kamal in Al Jazirah? Contrary to the MSM, there are only a finite number of trained men who will give their lives for Allah. We must help them.

As to Europe, they are nearly irrelevant, particularly since the OFF scandal has surfaced as the largest in human history and because the OFF scandal probably made the Iraq war inevitable and because French, Russian and German Europeans made billions by stealing food from the mouths of poor Iraqis while rearming Saddam. This awful information is slowly seeping into world consciousness (in spite of BBC and Al Jazeera) and we never would have discovered the treachery if not for overthrowing Saddam.
Bill Heuisler

Bryan Kelly Conrad - 12/7/2004

Again, I am not denying that most if not all of the actual "communist" regimes have been little more than excuses for murdering despots. But I think that rather than taking that as a sign that communism is bad in itself, it should be proof that no real communist government (As far as I know, at least, but I could be wrong on that) has ever existed and, as Mr. Woodward-Pratt pointed out, perhaps never will be one because it is impractical in some respects.
And now on the the Belgian colonies, if you care to call them that, though I think that isn't the best term. Its more like they were the personal colonies of the King. They weren't the responsibility of the king, they were legally his property and not those of Belgium at all. I really don't see how you can say they were not a result of capitalism. To avoid the Belgian government owning the property, he hired explorers, such as Henry Morton Stanley, to go to the Congo and convince the different tribes to sign pieces of paper that sold them huge pieces of land for a few blankets or some food. Then, huge pieces of land in his possession, he moved an army down there to supervise as they enslaved the local population to gather ivory, rubber, and such for them, all of which went into the personal bank account of Leopold. An example of this is when they took hostage and threatened to kill the wives of the men if they didn't get enough ivory or rubber per day, which was a common practice.
And as for your comment, "Given this, it would seem that the burden would be on any Marxist to establish that a communist system could exist while respecting freedom and life," I would agree with you, that hasn't been done yet, but I would also add that the burden is on all of humanity to find a system that actually works for everyone, and that, I believe, has not yet been done.

N. Friedman - 12/7/2004


1. "After agreeing with you and asking for references, I found we had two areas of dispute - disagreements on the advisability of the Iraq war and the alleged culture or achievements of the Islamicist conquerers. Our choices after 9/11 were limited. If proaction is a given - as I believe it must be - we must follow Ruark's advice and replace destroyed miscreants with something of value. Imagine asking young Marines to die for a new Sunni State, for instance, in a partitioned Iraq. In my opinion, setting up three countries where one existed would be far more complicated than the present course.
We're good at killing enemies."

Points of agreement:

A. "Our choices after 9/11 were limited." Quite correct. HOWEVER, please note that "limited" does not mean "no other logical choices."

B. "Imagine asking young Marines to die for a new Sunni State, for instance, in a partitioned Iraq." No doubt true.

C. "We're good at killing enemies." Indeed. We are not, however, good so far at convincing people that it is a serious mistake to fight with us.

Points of possible disagreement:

A. "If proaction is a given - as I believe it must be - we must follow Ruark's advice and replace destroyed miscreants with something of value." I trust that you are referring to Ruark's comment "When you change a man’s way of life you had better have something of value with which to replace it.” I do not know Ruark well enough to have an opinion on his views but limit my coment to what I think you mean. I do not take the Muslim world as being miscreant, if, by that, you mean an infidel or heretic. I take that world as being in the beginnings of an "awakening gone awry" which, unfortunately, we have been drawn into. I do not see the issue as relating to the replacement of anything. Instead, my formula, as it were, is to apply logic well understood by Machievelli, namely, to be sufficiently pro-active against them that they understand that it is a waste of time to attack us. Invasions might be employed but that is not necessarily (or at least not always) the case.

B. "In my opinion, setting up three countries where one existed would be far more complicated than the present course." I think it is irrelevant.

2. "We've shown we are good at setting up Democracies in "alien" societies like Japan.
So why not try? Do you have an alternative?"

Different places and different circumstances. Japan was a modern militaristic society with an overshadow of medieval honor. We completely destroyed the country after a terrible war that literally destroyed much of the country and we ended the war with a vast display of terror never seen in the history of the world. Which is to say, "shock and awe times 50,000 Kilotons."

By contrast, the Muslim Arab world lives in the 10th Century, societally speaking. We overwhelmed the Iraqis but, evidently, did not knock the fight out of them. Nor will that likely occur within the next decades - because the Iraqis considering themselves part of the Muslim ummah (a perception on the rise, not, thus far, the decline) and that ummah will support the war indefinitely -. Moreover, there are the basic rules of nature which I have mentioned.

In reply to your second question, about alternatives, yes, I think we did and still do. First, note that the center of Jihadism, so to speak, is in Pakistan. When we "turned" Pakistan, we did not change the country's basic policy which is the spread of Islamism and the spread of nuclear weapons to the ummah (Muslim people/nation). The work of Bernard-Henri Lévy on this topic is worth reading. Which is to say, AQ Khan was not a lone actor; instead, he was acting on behalf of the Pakistani ISI (i.e. secret service) and even after the Afghanistan war (and his replacement is probably doing the same today). He was not acting alone but was one of many radical Islamists who, in fact, have the "key" - literally, in some cases - to the Pakistani bomb.

Second, another heart of the Jihad is in Europe which, in fact, refuses to face up to those living there while supporting the Jihad. Consider that Atta and the other leaders of the "Magnificent 19" (as they are referred to in Islamist circles, or the 9/11 terrorists to people in their right mind) lived and were educated in Europe. That is not an accident. Such is likely the result of deliberate policy decisions by the Europeans. We, in fact, should be putting pressure on Europe to clean up its act on this subject and challenge the underlying cause for Europe's stupidity, namely, its legitimization of Jihad through the moral, intellectual, political and financial support to the violent Palestinian Jihad, among other things, which aims to destroy Israel.

Lastly, there is Saudi Arabia and Iran. Why do the Saudis continue to support Islamist preachers all over the world? Why are we not putting direct pressure on the Saudis to reign all of them in. I note: by attacking the Iraqis, we may be somewhat discouraging them but, frankly, we need to do a lot more. And Iran. I do not know where to begin. However, Iran controls Hezbollah. Hezbollah is at the heart of the Jihad. Why have we waited so long to start screaming at Iran?

3. "Where has Islam produced more than it destroyed? Where has Islam produced scientific and literate breakthroughs that weren't based on other, more advanced cultures like the Greek, Hindu and Persian? This is not a rhetorical question because, if there is a wellspring of knowledge and productivity in the Islamic world, there is certainly no evidence of it anywhere today."

I note that the main contribution of the Muslims was, along with the even greater contribution of Jews, the retention of Greek culture during the darkest part of the Middle Ages. Also, there have been rather great Muslim historians and philosophers.

N. Friedman - 12/7/2004


A rather brilliant comment. I might add that Marx was an Antisemite and a racist.

Van L. Hayhow - 12/7/2004

It seems you are comparing the ideal of Marxism with the occasional brutality of certain regimes. My recollection is that in the Belguim system the colonies were the personal responsibility of the the King and is not an artifact of capitalism. According to the Black Book of Communism about 100 million people were murdered by the varoius communist regimes. None seem to have been exempt from engaging in murder. Given this, it would seem that the burden would be on any Marxist to establish that a communist system could exist while respecting freedom and life.

Bill Heuisler - 12/7/2004

Mr. Friedman,
My words were "no offense" because you were so civil and accomodating, I did not want to seem ungracious.

After agreeing with you and asking for references, I found we had two areas of dispute - disagreements on the advisability of the Iraq war and the alleged culture or achievements of the Islamicist conquerers. Our choices after 9/11 were limited. If proaction is a given - as I believe it must be - we must follow Ruark's advice and replace destroyed miscreants with something of value. Imagine asking young Marines to die for a new Sunni State, for instance, in a partitioned Iraq. In my opinion, setting up three countries where one existed would be far more complicated than the present course.
We're good at killing enemies. We've shown we are good at setting up Democracies in "alien" societies like Japan.
So why not try? Do you have an alternative?

As to culture, not to be trite, but I've been to the Alhambra and elsewhere in the conquered territories. Where has Islam produced more than it destroyed? Where has Islam produced scientific and literate breakthroughs that weren't based on other, more advanced cultures like the Greek, Hindu and Persian? This is not a rhetorical question because, if there is a wellspring of knowledge and productivity in the Islamic world, there is certainly no evidence of it anywhere today.
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


You may wish to understand that the word Antisemitism has a history. While it, in theory, might relate to Arabs, the fact is that the word was coined with reference to Jews and, historically, has been used pretty much only with reference to Jews.

Further, according to the dictionary:

"an·ti-Sem·i·tism (nt-sm-tzm, nt-)

1. Hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism.

2. Discrimination against Jews.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=67&;q=Anti-semitism

As for the so-called peace activitist, you will note that these people carried signs saying "Death to the Jews" and "Gas the Jews." I call that Antisemitic. And, when people on the Left align with people who want to kill Jews, I think that the Left is part of an Antisemitic movement. Get my drift?

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


You write:

"I find appalingly idiotic all this talk of anti-Semitism in this context. For one, to accuse the left of being anti-Semitic is ridiculous, considering that one of the favorite conspicary theories of the right is that Jews run the world."

One issue here is that, in fact, many people on the far left, as much and, now perhaps even more, than many people on the far right, speak of a conspiracy of Jews to run the world.

The version at present - a favorite for the Antisemitic Left - is that Israel (i.e. the collective of Jews) controls the world by getting others, principally the US, to control the world. Such is the control the world by proxy rhetoric. There are a very large number of people on the far left, to my knowledge, who hold that stupid view and it has infected many on the moderate left as well (read back issues of the London Guardian if you want to confirm my statement or read publications like CounterPunch). In my humble opinion, such view comes from the close informal alliance which exists between the Islamists - a truly reactionary force - and some on the far Left.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/6/2004

What does this have to do with anything i have said?

In skimming this article i see nothing of much relevence, except the fact that the author shows the same diregard as you to the proper usage of the term 'anti-Semitic'. When you show me that in the Bible, from which the term Semitic is derived, Arabs are not counted as the decendents of Shem, or that the linguistic community does not count Arabic as a Semitic language, then perhaps you will have a leg to stand on in challenging my point. However, that will never happen, so i see little point in discussing this further.

However, it is interesting how you two seem to love the idea of guilt by association. I am a radical, and so i pressume you think i am part of some nefarious dealings with Muslim fundamentalists. As shocking as this may be, i'm not. I truly find it ridiculous to question the morality of peace activists. I don't know enough about these situations to comment much on them (needless to say, i am not satisfied with two articles posted on the internet and found by tow people with a clear bias against my beliefs), but i will say that if peace activists have been working with violent groups, then they are not truly peace activists. I, and most peace activists i know, are pacifists, or at least opposed to any form of war, and though you may feel we are idealistic, it is hard for me to understand how our morality could be the subject of concern.

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


Two points. I agree with you about CounterPunch. Two. I note that you said you apologized to me but I have no idea why. You did not offend me. I am not even sure we much disagree and, if we do, I prefer to discuss things with people who disagree because I can learn something. We clearly have somewhat similar ideas about the Muslim world's imperialism.

I note that I do not believe in bending reality (i.e. playing games with facts) to fit my theory. Which is to say, I am with you when you say the Muslim world is a disaster area and that it is hegemonic in basic nature.

I am not with you when you say there is no underlying culture because such achievements have been rather well documented.

I am with you in fighting the Jihadist and Islamists in any and all ways. I am, however, of the view that not every fight is well conceived and, in this regard, I think that the Iraq adventure is predicated on an obvious intellectual error such that it is a well-intentioned folly.

As I said, the theory of the invasion is that democracy is the norm and tyranny the exception. However, the norm in the Middle East is the Caliphate and, more recently, tyranny in one sense or the other. Such has more than a thousand year history and there is no sign in the air that other ideas will be accepted in Iraq or, for the most part, anywhere else in that part of the world. In science - including social science - a theory, to have more than a remote chance of being correct, must assume that the current circumstances are the norm. And the longer the norm has existed, the longer it will likely continue to exist. Such, you will note, is basically a rule of nature. So, when I heard the plan to bring democracy to the Middle East, I laughed. It is a rather unlikely theory.

This is not to say that democracy will not be advanced by the Iraq war. It may. However, democracy will almost certainly come only after a very, very long fight and, even then, it will take a long time - likely decades if that soon.

Again, my assessment is based on what I think can occur based on the known facts and employing a basic scientific approach.

On the other hand, when you say something needs to be done, I agree. I, however, do not think that the fact that something needs to be done means that the Iraq war is a good idea. It is not. On the other hand, when I hear what the Europeans want to do, that makes the Iraq war sound wise by comparison. Which is to say, the Europeans are living a fool's paradise that, in all probability, is going to come crashing down on their heads.

One point of disagreement with you is that I think that the Muslim world is not really ripe for democracy although it is possible that Bush's idea may, sometime down the road, begin to bear fruit. On the other hand, I do not buy into the colonialist nonsense. I think that is all pseudo-history and employs factoids to advance some sort of bizarre political agenda which, no doubt, leads nowhere good. I note that nearly everyone who focusses on colonialism/imperialism ignores any investigation of what the former colonies had in mind. Which is to say, such a theory assigns a role to the former colonies. To me, that is not history. It is politics. Which is not to suggest that colonialism/imperialism was a good thing. It is merely to suggest that one cannot understand people by assigning them a role. One needs to examine the actual facts.

I am not quite sure that freedom is the only issue although it is certainly an important issue. I note that Nietzsche, among others, thought it an overrated commodity on the observation that greater cultural and many other achievements without it (e.g. in Rome and in Europe). I, of course, prefer freedom is central but note that such is a prejudice I bring to the table.

Bill Heuisler - 12/6/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Lewis' work apparently terrifies the Left to incoherance.
A 2003 article I looked up in Counterpunch illustrates.

Counterpunch asks:
"If Lewis had an interest in exploring the decline of the Middle East, he would be asking why the new, more dynamic historical system that lay behind the rise of the West had not emerged in the Middle East, India, China, Italy, or Africa. If he had asked this question, it may have directed him to the source and origins of Western hegemony. But Lewis ducks this issue altogether. Instead, he takes the growing power of the West-its advances in science and technology-as the starting point of his narrative and concentrates on demonstrating why the efforts of Islamic societies to catch up with the West were both too little and too late. In other words, he seeks to explain a generic phenomenon-the overthrow of agrarian societies before the rise of a new historical system, based on capital, markets, and technological change-as one that is specific to Islam and is due to specifically Islamic "wrongs.""

Why? Well nobody wants to mention the word, Freedom. Individual freedom and Capitalism flourished together in Europe and the US while Islam has still not unleashed the engine of Capitalism due to fear of individual freedoms.

But To illustrate more idiocy, Counterpunch has the temerity to argue:
"While Europe was establishing its global Capitalist Empire it was conducting the Inquisition, expelling Moors and Jews from Spain, waging unending religious wars and burning witches at the stake."

But wait! The Inquisition began in 1474; the Reconquista ended in 1492; the religious wars and witch-burnings were over by the late 17th Century. Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" was written around 1770 and the modern engine of Capitalism was born in the Scottish Enlightenment of the late 18th Century.

A self-inflicted knockout of Counterpunch.
Do readers/editors of Counterpunch read history? Do the words, "Individual freedom" ever grace their pages?

Thanks for the tip on Lewis.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/6/2004

Mr. Woodward-Pratt,
I apologized to Mr. Friedman for passing him on the right after agreeing with him wholeheartedly. Face it, being offended by reality is a common malaise, but you seem offended because I do not share your odd version of reality - your revisionist history that blames the West for all worldly evil. Well, Sir, I consider popular, PC, historical fairy tales an offense to thinking people.

Do you admit Egyptians were prospering under Byzantine rule - when Alexandria was a major commerce and learning center in the world? And that they starved (and died in vast heaps)after the Omayyads pillaged the cities and depopulated the land during their interminable feuds?

When Mehmet Ali massacred medieval, autocratic Mamelukes, radically improved irrigation and introduced elements of European civilization to Egypt, did this Albanian save lives and improve the plight of Egyptians?

You say Egypt and Morocco and other Middle East countries were, "not countries which have been run by Muslims". This is obviously wrong for more than a thousand years before the illiterate Albanian killed those Mamlukes and at least thirty past Jimmy Carter. However, you infer colonialist powers are responsible for the poverty and degradation in present-day Cairo and in Pre-Mohacs Islam. History says Egyptians (for example) were and would now be better off without the yoke and sword of Islam.

Culture? Mamun the Great set up a house of knowledge in Baghdad around 814. But he filled it with translations of philosophical, literary and scientific works from Greek, Syriac, Persian and Sanskrit. The works of Aristotle, Galen, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Appolonius and Euclid were preserved (and perhaps added to). Al-Khwarizmi introduced Hindu numerals and calculations to the Moslem world, but very little new was added to these bodies of knowledge. Observations by Al-Rhazi on medicine and by Al-Battani on astronomy were largely built on pre-existing science.

Sneering at Western civilization for political reasons offends me, Mr. Woodward-Pratt, particularly when you offer no evidence in support of your reproach.
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004

Note that the article is in 5 parts.

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


An even better article is "Europe's Other Red-Green Alliance," by David Hyde, at http://www.zeek.net/politics_0304.shtml .

Diana Applebaum - 12/6/2004

Take a look at theis article, "The Left and the Islamists," by Joshua Kurlantzick


N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


Fair enough. I stand corrected.

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


The concern I raised was about the possibility, not the desireability, of radically altering the Muslim Arab dominated region.

As for the culture issue, I suggest you read some books by Bernard Lewis. Such will cure you of the view that the Muslims did not great a great culture. As you may know, he is the leading authority on the Muslim world and, I might add, he is hated by many on the far Left as Said made Lewis the archtypical despised orientalist.

N. Friedman - 12/6/2004


I think yours is not the best way to look at the issue.

A better way to look at things, I think, is to assume that all involved were agressive to the extent they could be. In the case of Islam, they spread their influence by the vehicle of the Jihad which had numerous components including spreading the faith and spreading the realm of the Dar al-aslam (i.e. House of Peace). The Jihad was definitively defeated at Vienna and, after that, Islamdom began its long decline. That decline, however, was not due to colonialism. Instead, colonialism was the result of their decline. Which is to say, nature abhors a vacuum (i.e. the Europeans stepped in because they could, as occurs anywhere that a civilization declines).

Today, there is a great awakening in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be part of a reformation but, in a sense, a counter-reformation. Which is to say, there is the effort to reinstitute the caliphate and the empire surrounding it. The strategy for doing so is the Jihad and the reinstitution of the Shari'a by great violence. A careful examination of the evidence shows that, by far, the most repressive regimes (perhaps in the world) are those dominated by this religious revival (e.g. Sudan and Saudi Arabia).

Which is to say, while you are correct that colonialism existed, that is not a sufficient basis to analyze what is occurring. To note: the least repressive period in the Muslim world was the period of colonialism. Which is to say, such was the period during which the notion of equality for Christians and Jews and Hindu, rather than domination by the Muslims, came to the fore. The Muslim groups no doubt did not like to share power with these other groups.

And, where the influence of Islam has returned, the fate of Christians deteriorated drastically. Such is especially the case in Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, among others (NOTE: there are approximately 100 million Christians who are suffering terrible cruelty as we speak in the Muslim world.).

Jews, by contrast, were nearly completely ethnically cleansed from all Muslim countries (note: I believe that there are about 10,000 Jews remaining in the Muslim dominated regions while 856,000 were ethnically cleansed with most landing in Israel). Israel, by contrast, has the distinction, along with Greece, of finding freedom within what was the Muslim world. Very large numbers of people died for Greece's independence and there were millions ethnically cleansed on both sides. In the case of Israel, there is a bloody and ongoing war. The appropriate comparison, however, to the Arab Israeli dispute is the Lebanon war where the Christian forces were decisively defeated and 100,000 people, largely Christian, died.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/6/2004

I'm sorry, but simply by stating 'No offense' you cannot wipe away the shock and disturbence i felt at reading this. You did cause offense.
For one thing, your personal anecdotes, themselves shoddy evidence to build a decent case upon, lack any historical context. In your haste to espouse barely concealed pseudo-racism ideas, you neglect to notice that these are not countries which have been run by Muslims (which, by the way, are far from a single, cohesive unit. Rather Islam is a religion composed of a following as diverse and resistant to this type of generalization as Christianity) from their inception, but rather subject to brutal occupation on the part of European powers, and later neo-colonialist practices on the part of the US. To pretend that the poverty exhibited there is the fault of the residents is absurb; it is equivalent to blaming sweatshop conditions on teh workers inside them.
You feel that Muslims should not feel pride for their culture (though you are referring to Middle Easterners, pressumably exempting the island of wealth that is Israel) but i would argue this is equivalen to stating Jews, Gypsys, gays, communists and all the others rounded up by the Nazis should not have maintained pride in their culture. True, they were in desperate straits, but it was hardly the fact that they were Jewish or gay or a communist that was ultimately responsible for their suffering. Rather, it is the brutal Nazi juggernaut with which the blame falls. Similarly, it is not because the people of Amman and Cairo aren't poor because they are Muslim, but rather because they have been exploited by imperialist Western powers.
Speaking of the West, you mention how Turkey is the most successful and most similar to the West. However, i feel it is not a great thing to emulate some of the most violent, expansionist, selfish cultures in the world. True, the West is rich, but that wealth was built on the backs of the peripheral nations of the world, including those of the Middle East.
Finally (for my comment, not for all the things wrong with yours), we should look at your second to last paragraph. Here, you describe the expansion of "Moslems" as "burst[ing] forth" and "spread[ing] death and destruction". Change a few names and dates, and this could describe the Chinese, Mughals, Mongols, Russians, English, Dutch, Bantu, Xhosa, French, Germans, Spanish, Portugese, Romans, Americans, Japanese, etc. Your final point that the "Muslism" expansion ended when they ran out of "cultures and wealth to loot" is absurd. You can similarly describe the history of any large culture in such terms. For example, India and China both had a good deal of oscilation between unity and civil war, and Europe spent almost all its time as broken nations at each others throat, only very rarely unified, yet this is the model you would put up before the Middle East for emulation.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/6/2004

Thank you Mr. Kelly for your very pointed, well thought out post.

I would add in response to Mr. Safranski that perhaps when i wrote my comment, i assumed that most people reading works on the History News Network might have at least a cursory understanding of the nature of Marxist theory and the behavior of the USSR and the intelligence to tell the difference between the almost anarchist communism Marx and Engels envisioned and the totalitarian perversions Stalin, Kim Jong Il, Pol Pot etc created.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/6/2004

I similarly recall making no claim that the only ideologies submissive to the dominance of the established power structures of this country are limited to Republicans (though i did refer to the philosophy of republicanisn, something wuite distinct from the republican party) or capitalists. These are simply the most notable. And i certainly agree the USSR was horrid and unfortunately comparable to the Nazis. Indeed, the comparison even extends to the abuse of the term socialist by both countries to justify their inhumane actions.

Bill Heuisler - 12/6/2004

Mr. Friedman,
My, "dying and killing for centuries for Mohammed." should obviously have been for "over a century" or "for many years", but I got carried away.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/5/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Perhaps I misunderstand you, but your claims for the utility, productivity and longevity of the muslim world seem greatly overstated. Moslems have been dying and killing for centuries for Mohammed. They must change.

No offense, but I disagree strongly that the Muslim world exhibits any great culture. I've traveled extensively in Muslim countries over the past twenty years and found very little in their economies or culture to admire. In fact the poverty and degradation in cities like Cairo and Amman is best described as medieval. Pride? What pride is seen is the false pride of a bereft people with no chance to match luxury seen on Western TVs and Western tourists. These people are held in poverty and degradation by despots who cooperate with mullahs and use the muslim faith to hold their power the way the Catholic church and monarchs held to the Dark ages and resisted Rennaisance.

Excepting Turkey, whose commerce and Government is largely Western, everything in the wide band of countries from Maroc to the Hindu Kush of any utility and value to the people has been either imported or copied from the West. No great libraries, industries or universities produce inventions, medical or electronic breakthroughs, world-class scholars, inventions, nobel prizes, great literature or great military organizations. Sure, oil is exported - from Western wells through western pipelines in Western ships - but only poverty, death, female subjugation, religious bigotry and hatred is produced.

Moslems burst from Saudi Arabia in the early 600s and spread death and destruction north to Vienna and Tours. Whatever learning and medicine they practised may very well have been purloined from the civilizations (Greek and Persian) they destroyed. Surely you didn't mean to suggest by saying, "the Muslim world - which is, in reality, reverting to what it has been for more than a thousand years" that Moslems are incapable of anything but imperialism or subservience. We must distinguish the rulers from their people. The high point of the muslim world may well have been - like the Roman - at their pinnacle of conquest. After that, with no cultures and wealth to loot, they began to consume themselves. The history of the Middle East after the last Caliphate, for instance, has been one long death spiral interrupted by colonial resuscitation and internecine warfare.

We offer freedom and self-determination; we have no choice after 9/11. And Moslems will change their basic culture and civilization or they will not survive the results of their hatred. They have no choice after 9/11.
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/5/2004


I do not recall making any argument about Republicans or capitalism or anything of the sort. I merely made an argument related to the topic presented. Which is to say, I noted what Mr. Horowitz actually was arguing.

I am, for what it is worth, not a Republican. However, my wife is from the former USSR and that has made me rather conscious that such country was, in many ways, appropriately compared to Nazi Germany. You might read Solzenitzim or Sharansky who saw that terrible regime and wrote rather profoundly about it.

N. Friedman - 12/5/2004


I am not as harsh on the Left as you. When I was a kid, the Vietnam War was raging. Many liberals argued rather correctly that winning and losing in Vietnam were, in concrete terms, one and the same thing. Which is to say - following Barbara Tuchman's point - that war was a folly of the first order.

On the other hand, the Conservatives were quite right that the USSR and communism was a menace. And the liberals, in many instances, fell prey to the logic of the far Left.

However, the Right has its own delusions. In particular, they have an overestimate of the ability of force to alter the basic nature of the Muslim world - which is, in reality, reverting to what it has been for more than a thousand years (except for the short period when colonialists ruled).

I think that the Iraq war, as conceived, flies in the face of basic scientific reasoning as it postulates the present, non-democratic state, of the Muslim world to be exceptional and thus readily changeable. If one is to be scientific, you must assume that the present circumstances are the norm and, since they have a long, long history, things will be rather difficult to change. Which is to say, the Iraq war is, in its way, a fool's errand if the goal is to remake that part of the world.

The Left, at least the far Left, clearly has made an alliance with the Islamists. David Horowitz, among others, has shown that rather well. However, such an argument is a slippery slope since, in fact, there are many possible theories about how best to deal with the Muslim world that come from the left and right but which are not disloyal. Horowitz, in my view, fails sometimes to recognize the distinction.

I have been reading for years about the Muslim world. You are dealing with a great culture - despite appearances to the contrary - that is dominated by great pride. Such a culture can do great or terrible things. At the moment, that culture is doing pretty terrible things and, unfortunately, a lot more people are likely going to needlessly die before the Jihad ends. But consider, a great civilization does not change on command. To think such is to believe in delusions.

Note: that does not mean that we should draw back. I think that the US needs to act very, very agressively with the aim of convincing the Muslims that, whatever they think of us, fighting with us is likely to be disasterous for them. My only point is that we should not waste too much time on telling the Muslims to change their basic culture and civilization. Such changes are not going to occur.

Bryan Kelly Conrad - 12/5/2004

If that comment was meant to prove that communism is a bad thing, than by the same logic I could prove that capitalism is bad by pointing out that countless innocents have been masacred by capitalism regimes such as the US, among others- something Zinn does often in his book. I'll just name a few examples off the top of my head. Hiroshima, Nakasaki, Dresden, Vietnam, The Phillipines, Belgium's colonies in the Congo (Summary: About the same number of innocent deaths as the Holocaust, brought about by a system of slavery, exploitation and murder which coincidently made King Leopold II, once the sole owner of one of the largest single plots of land in the world- the Congo- extremely rich. I reccomend Adam Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost"). Those are just a few of the ones that came to mind quickest. I could go on, but I don't think its necessary. Interestly enough, all of those examples except the last (Leopold had created a huge propaganda campaign about all the great humanitarian work he was doing) were justified by "National Security", returning to Zinn's arguement.
Anyway, Mr. Woodward-Pratt did not state that killing all those people was a good thing (I am assuming you read his arguement here, about Stalinism, etc..), and as I recall neither did Zinn (In fact, one of the main things Zinn did in his book was deplore murders for political reasons). Speaking for myself, at least, I believe that you have to look at the idea itself, not perverted manifestations of the idea. I could claim, for example, that Christianity is a bad thing because the Crusades, the Inqusitions, and the Klu Klux Klan were all comprised of devout Christians. I don't claim that, but using your logic I certainly could.

mark safranski - 12/5/2004

"Most glaring is the all to common assumption (as usual, not backed by any argument) that communism is a bad thing"

Perhaps David Horowitz assumed that most readers were aware of the roughly 80-100 million people liquidated by Communist regimes for political reasons in the previous century ?

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/5/2004

In this case, i would agree with the very general idea of Mr. Friedman in that i think that it is important to take into account the perspective of the author in assessing their writing. However, at the same time we cannot entirely dismiss the entirity of their ideas simply because we disagree with one part of them. For example, the ideas of writers so hopelessly trapped in the cultural hegemony of the capitalists, as Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Friedman seem to be, should be assumed to be mindless rehashing of the dominant ideology whose only worth is as a punching bag for those who have freed their minds from the contraints of capitalist republican dogma, unless they prove otherwise.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/5/2004

In this case, i would agree with the very general idea of Mr. Friedman in that i think that it is important to take into account the perspective of the author in assessing their writing. However, at the same time we cannot entirely dismiss the entirity of their ideas simply because we disagree with one part of them. For example, the ideas of writers so hopelessly trapped in the cultural hegemony of the capitalists, as Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Friedman seem to be, should be assumed to be mindless rehashing of the dominant ideology whose only worth is as a punching bag for those who have freed their minds from the contraints of capitalist republican dogma, unless they prove otherwise.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/5/2004

I find appalingly idiotic all this talk of anti-Semitism in this context. For one, to accuse the left of being anti-Semitic is ridiculous, considering that one of the favorite conspicary theories of the right is that Jews run the world. Beyond that, i think that before you throw about a word so weighted in a public debate, you might also want to check its full meaning. It has two senses. First, in the older sense, it refers to the decendents of Shem, one of Noah's sons. Of course, one ethnicity grouped under this is the Jews, but it also includes the Arabs. In a more scientific sense, it is a holdover from older anthropological terminology ofetn used as an easier way to describe Proto-Siniatic derived languages, the most notable in this category being Hebrew and Arabic.
Further more, even if we take the meaning of anti-Semitism in the narrow, incorrect sense that you all seem to mean, its use in this context strikes me as anti-Jewish itself. Let me explain: I describe myself as pro-peace in relation to this conflict, and am critical of both sides. My criticism of Israel (which is what is most relevant here) is based, among other things, upon the fact that Israel has occupied territory in contravention of international law, is headed by a man many legitimate groups have accused of war crimes, and has deployed an army which regularly abuses the civilian population of the area. This criticism would earn me the label of 'anti-Semitic' by many. However, if my support of international law and human rights (i would oppose the actions outlined above if taken by any nation) makes me 'anti-Semitic', than what does that make Jews? If hatred of Jews can be expressed through wanting peace, isn't that making the implcit statement that Jews hate peace? I think it does, and that is why i find the use of the term 'anti-Semitic' in the sense being used here appaling. None of the Jewish people i know are violent. Indeed, the majority of them want nothing more than a peaceful, equitable resolution to this conflict, though this is not to say they in any way agree with people like Diana.
So you see, while this debate carries on with all its inaccuracies (Anyone remember Sabra and Shatila? I think watching as mercenaries you have hired systematically rape, torture, and murder an innocent and defenseless population qualifies Ariel Sharon as a butcher) that will not be reconciled given the fact that most involved in this debate have aligned themselves with either the Palestinians or Israelis and insist they are right and the other is wrong, we can at least be reasonable in our use of such heavily weighted terms as anti-Semitic.

Frederick Riley Woodward-Pratt - 12/5/2004

Mr. Horowitz seems much more limited in his vision by ideological blinders than Mr. Zinn. First, let us look at this from a purely logical perspective. In the interests of fairness, let us start from a perspective which assumes both authors, Messers Horowitz and Zinn, are equally fettered in their thinking. If so, to achieve his Marxist ideology, Mr. Zinn would have had to struggle against the overwhelming anti-communist propaganda and cultural sanctions present in our culture to get their, where as to maintain his unoriginal, run of the mill dogma, Mr. Horowitz would have had to do nothing but stay right in the ideological space American culture made for him. Given this, who has shown more willingness to break the mold, a man who has consiously resigned himself to bearing the brunt of idiotic (in a very literal sense) criticisms, or a man who has taken the easy road by spending his time dispensing that criticism.
Looking more specifically at the text of Mr. Horowitz shows that his grasp of the social reality of the globe is rather tenuous. Most glaring is the all to common assumption (as usual, not backed by any argument) that communism is a bad thing. I have trouble understanding how equality and pure democracy for all is a bad thing for anyone but the obscenly rich, and if anything, only impractical. Of course, Mr. Horowitz criticism should be not at all surprising, as it is quite likely that he is one of the few who find the capitalist system working to their benefit and are not living from paycheck to paycheck (assuming they get a paycheck at all, and that if they do, that they could even live on it). Even in the unlikely circumstance that Mr. Horowitz represents the underclass of the world, he will have been subject to the cultural hegemony (if you don't know what this is, read Antonio Gramsci) of the bourgeoisie.
Beyond this, he very conciously twists the meaning of Mr Zinn's quote (i assume this is concious; otherwise i would have to chalk it up to stupidity). He states that to claim Truman initiated the Korean War is to rehash Stalinist (notice the very real distinction between true Marxist communism and the perversion of it that is Stalinism) propaganda. However, a reasonable person's reading of Mr. Zinn would reveal quite plainly that he is referring to the US intervention, not the entire war.
Furthermore, he does not address the central idea of Mr. Zinn, which is that the idea of "national security" has been used by the government to justify imperialist wars. There is not much more to say on this point, Mr. Horowitz simply ignores it for what i assume is the most obvious reason: Mr. Zinn is right.
Also, it is interesting to note that Mr. Horowitz does not trace the histories of the other countries besides the Koreas Mr. Zinn mentions after being attacked by America. Perhaps because when we look at the devestation wreaked in these countries, such as the all but absolute decimation of the Vietnamese countryside (but also the government's admirable job of rebuilding, which i am sure Mr. Horowitz is none to eager to examain) or the immense suffering throughout Iraq due to the two wars the US as subjected it to, not to mention a barbaric sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of children.
Of course, on top of all these inaccuracies, are the fact that right in the very beginning of his critique, Mr. Horowizt finds it to make an ad hominem attack on Mr. Zinn, calling his writting plodding, when it is in fact much more engaging than standard history textbooks which neatly excise any facts which might challenge the dominant capitalist system. It is my experience that ad hominem attacks are as good a sign as any that the attacker is aware, even if only subconciously, that their point is invalid, and have as such no other recourse but irrelevant insults. Beyond his lack of decorum, he also seems to have ignored much of Mr. Zinn's work, in which i have found the focus to be much more anti-war than communist. To simply label Mr. Zinn a commmunist ideolouge is to reduce the ideas of a commpassionate, intelligent man down to one line of thinking.
To finish this off, i have a few last comments. Mr. Horowitz seems to be a typical capitalist cheerleader, and i'm sure that at the suggestion that perhaps caliptalism is not the best way to organize society after bristling and sputtering about how the suggester probably loves Stalin and Kim Jong Il (despite that men like these have done more to harm communist and socialist causes than the most ardent capitalist) would point to the great success of Europe, the US, Canada and Japan. To dispute this would be foolish, but i might suggest that Mr. Horowitz widen his view to include countries such as Argentina and Mexico, among many, many others. How do i know that Mr. Horowitz has not been looking too closely at these countries? Because anyone who takes a good, honest look at the horrid conditions that the majority of humanity is trapped within, plagued by disease, starvation, without clean water, workplace safety, unable to provide for their children, etc. cannot maintain the facade that capitalism is a ligitimate, morally justifiable system of organizing the distribution of wealth. I challenge every supporter of capitalism: if you truly believe the myth of mobility upon which your dogma is based, prove it. Put yourself in a sweatshop or out on the streets. If you, like Mr. Horowitz, are smart enough to write a book and get it published, you shoudl have no problem putting yourself right there in the middle and upper classes. For the vast majority, if not all, of capitalists who will not be willing to try this, you can experience is vicariously through the writing of a woman who did, Barbara Ehrnenreich's "Nickle and Dimed"

Bill Heuisler - 12/5/2004

Mr. Friedman,
More interesting - and more significant, in my opinion - than your genuine definitions of the combatants is the Liberal perceptions of the struggle and their failure to identify the scope of the danger to the West. Again.

Burnham's book about the suicide of the West dealt with Communism and with Liberals' perceptions of it. Some of the same myopia he described in 1964 is present today in the Left's view of the muslim menace. Burnham described how values were inverted, how the modern liberal esteemed peace and security above freedom and liberty - and how that Liberal would ignore the surpression of Liberty in order to preserve his imagined peace.

In his analysis of liberalism's reaction to reality, Burnham evaluated the threat of Communism to Western Civilization. His explanation of Communism's inherent demand for world dominance stressed that co-existence with capitalism was not an option for Communists. The exact same analysis seems true for today's Liberals and for today's muslim Imperialists - beliefs and reactions to those all-or-nothing beliefs are chillingly similar.

Were I to draw an empirical conclusion, my judgement would be that Liberals and the American Left will support any system - no matter how menacing or inherently evil - as long as that system promises an end to our Capitalist Democracy. Death preferable to Liberty? Warped romantics?Or merely debased ignorance of reality and history?
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/5/2004


In my second paragraph, I refer to the Hashemites as a tiny majority. I meant, a minority. Sorry about that.

N. Friedman - 12/5/2004


Yes, she is amazing. I think she is, as Peter Clarke argues, rather polemic. He thinks she is not much but, then again, he has not read any of her books.

My take on her is that to understand the world we live in, you must have a vocabulary adequate to the process. Consider the case of the Arab Israeli dispute. One can accept the newspaper version of things in which there is a dispute between the Palestinians - defined as those living under Israeli rule or in refugee camps - or one can attempt to understand those people with some reference to history.

Which is to say, such people are, in fact, a discernable group but not the group within the newspaper. Instead, they are a widespread group that dominates, apart from tiny the Hashemite majority (including King Abdullah), Jordan and plays a major role in Syrian and, to a lesser extent (pre-Israel), Lebanon. In the world which actually exists, there is already a Palestinian state in Jordan. Which is not to say that a second Palestinian state should not be created on the West Bank and Gaza but instead to note that the reason why such a state is demanded is not, in fact, connected to their being Palestinians since, in fact, there is no revolt against Palestinians who have lived for Centuries in what is now Jordan and who, at this time, are the vast majority of Jordanians and there is no reason why Israel might not cede land to Jordan rather than be in a fight over citizens who live slightly east of the Green line.

Similarly, one can understand the birth of Israel ***only*** with reference to the Palestinians - which is popular in Europe and people on the far left and far right - or one can understand that dispute in connection with the expulsion of 856,000 Jews from the surrounding countries, the effort to expel Jews from what is now Israel, the refusal of the Arab population to accept rule, to any extent, by Jews and the revival of Arab or Muslim imperialism which began to arise (e.g. with pan-Arabism of Nassar, Ba'athism, etc.) as the Europeans end their colonial rule. Which is to say, one can assign history to the Palestinians - as many on the Left and in Europe now do (e.g. by treating the Palestinians as if they are wholly different from the surrounding Arabs of identical culture, history, etc.) - or one can understand why they take the position they take and how it fits into the scheme or things. And, as I have said, the dominant point for understanding the Muslim world is attempted hegemony.

And note, such does not make such attempted hegemony evil. However, there is no doubt that such exists except in fantasy land histories.

Bill Heuisler - 12/5/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Thanks again. Bat Yeor writes very densely, obviously in her second language and at a higher level than most of us are used to. But, like Shakespeare and Buckley, she's well worth the effort. Her National Review article of October 9th, 2002 predicts the future quite accurately. For instance a paragraph near the end:

"The sudden collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers, the recent threat of an American boycott of what was perceived as an antisemitic Europe, President Bush's ironic criticism of Europe's moral haughtiness, and especially the rise of extreme right parties, brought responsible politicians to their senses. They had been blinded by a Palestinian fantasy ("Jenin-grad"); by racist, genocidal accusations; massive media disinformation arousing hatred on their radios and televisions against small, vulnerable Jewish communities, tracked, aggressed, criminalized, and terrorized — while the leaders of their countries looked the other way and pretended that Israel was responsible for the violent aggressions against Jews in Europe by Arab-Muslim immigrants. Then they saw criminal bands terrorizing their city suburbs, as well as the terrorist networks and rampant fanaticism, which they had overlooked for decades. Today, the likely war against Iraq has caused shivers throughout Europe, which is trembling at the possible collapse of its Arab alliances, built on foundations that implied a rupture with America and the demise of Israel. Europe had tied its Arab-Muslim friendly alliances and prosperity to a cooperation with Middle East tyrants, and by supporting Yasser Arafat's criminal policies."

Predicts the OFF scandal, indicts Arafat, warns the Van Goghs. More to read. Thanks again.
Bill Heuisler

N. Friedman - 12/4/2004


The place to begin is the treatment of minorities in Muslim society. By far the best source on this topic is the historian Bat Ye'or. She, more than anyone else, has shown (a) what has happened to the cultures overun by Islam and (b) the structural aspects of Islamic society which drive the process (i.e. the institution of the Jihad and the system of dhimmitude). You might pick up her book Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. It is very hard reading (in part because the book is in translation and, in part, because she has her own vocabuary) and she certainly has an agenda but, frankly, it is an extraordinary and profound book. I could not put the book down.

You might also read, on the issue of how minorities, primarily Christians, are treated in the Muslim world, "Symposium: The Muslim Persecution of Christians," at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10242 .

More directly on the expansist nature of Islam, read the nobel laureate VS Naipaul (e.g. Among the Believers). He refers to Islam - at least as it relates to others - as a form of Imperialism. I do not much enjoy his style but that is me.

I note, from reading online, websites by Jewish refugees from Arab countries, that the notion of Arab imperialism/hegemony is rather common. Such, you will note, comes from such refugees having lived within Islamic society.

Lastly, please do not take the above as anti-Muslim. I am not. However, with any great tradition - Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. - there is always more than sugar and cream being advertised (and in the case of Islam - the "religion of peace" being the lead promotional piece). Usually there are irrational and dark forces lurking in the background that, given the correct circumstance, come to the fore.

In the case of Islam, there is little doubt that the civilization created around the religion is what it is in part by virtue of conquest, massacres, genocides, displacements (in particular, of the Jews from their ancestral home), and other nastiness. As Mohammed is alleged to have said, "Know that paradise is under the shade of the swords." Hadith vol 4:73. Consider, there is a reason why there are 1.3 billion Muslim and why that Muslim dominated countries are on 3 continents. The land was conquered and those who were in the way, displaced, killed or forced to live under humiliating and oppressive circumstances.

Incidentally, thank you for the complement.

Bill Heuisler - 12/4/2004

Mr. Friedman,
Your post amazed and startled me - intrinsic grist for any pro-Israeli, pro-democratic thesis/argument/thought. As a non-historian with a rather broad, sometimes shallow (and admittedly indiscriminate) knowledge of history, the very idea of Muslim hegemony has never occurred to me. My narrow ignorance of the concept leads me to hope there's little mention of it in current literature. Admitting ignorance is difficult at my age.

Enforced religious hegemony answers so many questions - politically and historically - and places the modern PC view of suffering Palestinians into better perspective. The Greek, Armenian and Coptic examples are stark. How have I missed this? Has this obviously factual historic construct somehow fallen under the loud, broad brush of "Islamofascism" and thereby become trivial rather than seminal? Where can I read more? Have you written anything more on the subject and where can I purchase it?
Bill heuisler

Charles Christopher Tucker - 12/3/2004

Mr. Jones, do we need to go so far afield to try to take the fire away from Horowitz's feet?

By attacking the historian's biography (if that's what Horowitz does) he is resorting to ad hominem attack. Instead of attacking the scholarship or facts of the historians he's launching into an attack on the messenger because he didn't like the message.

N. Friedman - 12/3/2004


Horowitz's comment does not appear to pertain to Zionism. I think the key point he makes about Hobsbawm is as follows:

"In an autobiography published in 2002, Hobsbawm told his readers, 'To this day I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness.' These are his feelings toward a regime that enslaved and slaughtered tens of millions, and reduced hundreds of millions to lives of inconceivable misery. Imagine a historian expressing the same sentiments toward the memory and tradition of Nazi Germany, which inflicted its damage over a twelve-year period rather than seventy years."

Such, you will note, is a rather reasonable criticism. That is, a worshipper of the the Soviet empire is properly contrasted in the same bad light as a worshipper of Nazi Germany.

I think that one can be on either the liberal or the conservative side of politics and still recognize the noted criticism as legitimate and well considered.

Shawn McHale - 12/3/2004

I am no fan of David Horowitz. Like Chritopher Hitchens, he is a master of polemic. Polemics can be entertaining, but one need not take the bluster seriously.

Hobsbawm is a great historian. Do people really want to argue against that? If so, fine, argue against it, but don't bring in (as Horowitz does) silly anecdotes about Hobsbawm's habits. We should be engaging his *writing*, not what he does or doesn't toast. And even when one engages his writing, is anyone seriously going to argue that because Hobsbawn holds particular positions on Zionism, that he can't be a good historian? Please, fellow writers, don't insult our intelligences. I happen to think that Adam Smith (the author of the Wealth of Nations) is a very good historian. That doesn't make me an acolyte of Smith. One should be able to appreciate the historian's craft without agreeing with the substance.

Good lord. . .

Shawn McHale

N. Friedman - 12/1/2004


It seems to me that your reading of the conflict entirely ignores the context. The major context of any dispute in that part of the world concerns Muslim hegomony.

You will note that, with the exception of the Jews and Greeks who have largely been successful, the other groups seeking to escape the grip of Muslim rule (i.e. the Armenians of Syria, Iraq, Turkey etc., the Assyrians of Iraq, the Christians of Lebanon, the Christians [and animists] of Sudan, the Copts of Egypt, the Christians in the PA) have been violently crushed. [And note: far more people were displaced in the Greece's escape from Muslim hegemony than the Israelis are alleged, largely dishonestly, to have displaced.]

The fact is that Muslim hegemony, not Israeli intransigence, is the main theme of the Arab Israeli dispute and explains why there has not been a settlement (not when Israel would have been two small cities [i.e. 1936-7], not when Israel would have been disconnected Bantustans [i.e. 1947-1948], not after the Six Day War and not in 2000 and not even now. In fact, the general uprising in the Muslim world, of which Israel is one of a number of Jihadi targets, renders moot even the notion of anything but a paper settlement anytime remotely soon.

I note that Israel is the opposite of imperialist. Israel seeks freedom from Muslim hegemony. Even if Israel has every intention of permanently controlling additional territory the size of Rhode Island with people thereon who hate Israel, the most significant fact in the dispute is still Muslim hegemony.

Consider: if the dispute really only involved the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis and the other Muslim/Arab groups did not stand as one, morally, politically and financially speaking, with the Palestinian Arabs, the dispute would have settled long ago. Which is to say, the assumption of the Palestinian Arab is that, with support of 300 million people who call themselves Arabs and a billion people who call themselves Muslim, they will, in the long run win. Such fact, not the alleged paucity of any Israeli offer, is what keeps the Palestinian Arab side fighting.

Regarding the anti-Zionist/Antisemitic issue: the fact is that the origins of anti-Zionism can be traced to the very groups which drove Antisemitism. In particular, opposition arose, among other places, in Catholic Church circles initially who believed that Jews, as the deicide people, must wander the world forever such that a state for Jews was an afront to Christianity. I might also note that the language of anti-Zionism began and still largely consists of pre-existing Antisemitic screeds with the mere substitution of the word "Israel," "Israeli" or "Zionist" for "the Jews" and the like.

Robert Smale - 12/1/2004

Nothing in any of my previous posts has suggested that I supported Yasser Arafat's position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am critical of the nationalist leadership of the Palestinians, just as I am critical of the Zionist leadership of Israel. But that being said, the leaders of Israel have, since the last Palestinian uprising began, proven themselves the better armed and more aggressive side in the conflict. Ariel Sharon is a butcher; naming other blood-spattered desposts does not in any way cleanse the blood from Sharon's hands.

As for your reference to Turkey and Greece. I think that there are still several unresolved issues in Cyprus. Additionally, the Greeks are not the only national group with whom the Turks have unresolved issues: what of the Kurds?

Finally, to call those isolated, overcrowded, and impoverished territories which the Zionists "benevolently" offered to the Palestianians a "half-loaf" goes well beyond hyperboly.

Robert Smale

Diana Applebaum - 12/1/2004

"All good communists hope for the eventual abolition of nation-states everywhere."

Certainly they do. But anti-Semites on the left are actively demanding the abolition of Israel, while actively demanding the creation of a Palestinian state.

"There is no nationalist solution to the conflict."

Well, it must be nice to be so certain. It appears to me, however, that Israel and the Palestinian Arabs are no less likely to find a nationalist solution to their conflict than Turkey and Greece, both of which claimed the same holy site, the same iconic city, and much of the same land. And they had been massacring one another fro centuries. And yet the peace between these two nationalist states has proven durable.

"Sharon and his fellow butchers are simply throwing worthless crumbs to a chronically impoverished people."

You cannot know much history if you think the Israeli leadership are butchers. Edi Amin was a butcher. Saddam Hussein. Chengis Kahn. Stalin. Stalin. Pol Pat. I could name several hundred others who have massacred millions or thousands. We have just completed a century of truly world-class butchery. Ariel Sharon isn't even in the running.

As to crumbs. According to Dennis Ross, statehood was offered. Not crumbs but a full half-loaf, the same half loaf that the Jews accepted in 1948: a self-governing state. The Muslims reused their half in 1948 because they preferred to push the Jews into the sea. Arafat refused because he would not give up the ambition of pushing the Jews into the sea and gaining Muslim control of the entire land west of the Jordan.

The question that remains is why you support Arafat's position rather than the sensible solution of half-a-loaf each and peace?

Michael Green - 12/1/2004

Let me add to this conversation that Mr. Horowitz preaches the old-fashioned virtues and practices the old-fashioned vices. Anyone who criticizes or disagrees with him immediately falls into the category of racist or anti-semitic, and certainly must be a communist. Horowitz has spent many years calling for free speech while soiling the very notion of it. It is possible to disagree with Israel's policies and still believe that Israel should be a nation-state, or to think that terrorism is wrong, no matter who is committing it. Except, of course, in Horowitz's world.

Robert Smale - 12/1/2004

The prolonged military occupation and encirclement of territories where the population is overwhelmingly Palestinian and Arabic speaking is imperialism no matter how those territories were originally acquired.

As for the various offers by Israel's government to withdraw from some Palestinian territory; Sharon and his fellow butchers are simply throwing worthless crumbs to a chronically impoverished people. Additionally, the terms are dictated from astride Israeli tanks.

As for your claim that the Zionist state of Israel "puts on trial and imprisons the exceedingly small number of religious fanatics who have planned or carried out acts of terrorisim." The real threat to the Palestianian people is not isolated acts of terrorism but the systematic state terror they are subjected to each day by the Israeli government and military.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one of drawing "fair" lines on a map and erecting walls. The Israelis and the Palestinians are interpenetrated peoples, two peoples with competing legitimate claims to the same territory. There is no nationalist solution to the conflict.

Also, for your own personal reference. All good communists hope for the eventual abolition of nation-states everywhere.

Robert L. Smale

Diana Applebaum - 12/1/2004

If you oppose what you see as the imperialism of the Israeli regime, you are making a political statement. I fail to see how land that ended up in Israeli hands following the purely defensive war of 1967 can be seen an an imperial conquest, certainly this became clear when Israel offered - at Taba in 2000 - to give up territory to the exact square mileage of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and to include East Jerusalem and the ancient Jewish Temple Mount in the deal. This was not the offer of an imperialist power. So, I think you have an odd interpretation of the facts and an exceedingly odd definition of "ruthless imperialism," but you are entitled to hold it.

As to the "nationalist and religious fanatics" in the region, I would remind you that Israeli has an elected government that puts on trial and imprisons the exceedingly small number of religious fanatics who have planned or carried out acts of terrorisim. And that the Israeli electorate has demonstrated that if offered peace it will withdraw settlements, even by sending the Army to pick up the settlers and place them in buses as was done when the Sinai was evacuated under the peace treaty with Egypt. No objective observer doubts that if offered real peace, Israel will pick up the settlers in Gaza and bus them home. Or that the Israeli public would overwhelmingly support such a move.

On anti-Semitism vs. anti-Zionism. When someone maintains that the Palestinians are entitled to a state, but that the Jews are not, or states that the Jewish state ought to be abolished but does not campaign for all national states to be abolished, that person is an anti-Semite.

Robert Smale - 12/1/2004

Professional anti-communist hatchet men such as David Horowitz do not attack scholars because they are Stalinists or because they remained Stalinists after the "Secret Speech." He attacks them because they refuse to tow a pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist line in their scholarship. Yes, Hobsbawm remained a dedicated Communist Party member until the fall of the Soviet Union. But Horowitz also lays into historians who abandonded the party after the "Secret Speech." His attack on Gerda Lerner is an example of that.

On a related subject, your post is a perfect example of how rabid supporters of Israel often attempt to conflate the two terms anti-zionist and anti-semitic. To be honest you do this indirectly in your post. You correctly label Hobsbawm an anti-zionist, but then you accuse him of supporting anti-Semites. You are trying to conflate the two terms. Just because someone opposes the ruthless imperialism of the Zionist state in Israel, that does not mean that they are anti-semitic.

And just to pre-empt any personal attacks on me. I support the right of Israelies to live in the Middle East, but I also support the right of Palestinians to live there as well. Both groups will never find peace until they both abandon the nationalist and religeous fanatics leading them.

Robert Smale

N. Friedman - 12/1/2004


As always, you have posted a brilliant comment.

Diana Applebaum - 12/1/2004

The point about Hobsbawm is not, as Robert Smale quibbles, that he joined the Party in the 30's. Lots of morally sound people did that. The point is that Hobsbawm stuck with the Party while the news came out about - as David Pryce Jones puts it in Eric Hobsbawm, Lying to the Credulous - enforced famine, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the massacre at Katyn, the terrifying secret police apparatus of Beria, and the Gulag. And Pryce-Jones does not even mention Stalin's genocidal transfers of disfavored populations. Hobsbawm defended Stalin through all of that, even going so far as to sides with Hitler for as long as Stalin did.

And as to the inhibition on attacking a scholar's work, not his politics, it is a restriction that Hobsbawm does not hold himself to. In what is probably his most influential work, Nations and Nationalaism, Hobsbawm writes that "no serious historian of nations and nationalism can be a committed political nationalist." and asserts that "being a Zionist" cannot be "compatible with writing a genuinely serious history of the Jews."

A committed anti-Zionist, like Hobsbawm, is put under no such restriction, according to Hobsbawm.

Hobsbawm considers Palestinian nationalism a valid, even a compelling cause, while Jewish nationalism is illegitimate because it was "invented." As though Palestinian nationalism was not itself 'invented.' Nor does he explain why "Jewish links with the ancestral land of Israel" are "entirely illegitimate." He merely asserts it.

Living in a time and place where every option was open to him, he chose to support Stalinism, Nazism, and the anti-Semites who would destroy the Jewish State.

I find it entirely reasonable to examine the scholarship produced by a man whose personal political commitments are as vile as those Hobsbawm has made

Grant W Jones - 11/30/2004

Mr. Smale: Are you familiar with the description of Nazis as "roastbeef?" The Commies were fighting the Nazis to establish their own, Stalinist, brand of evil.

Robert Smale - 11/30/2004

The communist workers of Germany were fighting the Stormtroopers and Nazis in the streets long before anyone else thought of picking up a gun to stop Hitler.

Grant W Jones - 11/29/2004

Mr. Smale: It's called the Enabling Act. Go look up which parties voted Hitler total power.

Robert Smale - 11/29/2004

Rather than criticizing the scholarship of these three historians, Horowitz resorts to person attacks on their biographies. This is the sign of a man so insecure in his own work that he must tear down the reputation of other, better historians.

Also, the biography of these three historians does not even need defence from the likes of Horowitz and his own poor scholarship. One small example: he attacks Hobsbawm for joining the Communist Party in 1930 in Germany. Hobsbawm was thirteen at the time. Besides that, what party would Horowitz have prefered that Hobsbawm have joined in 1930s Germany? The Communists were the first to realize the threat of the Nazi Party and combat it with all their might.

Robert L. Smale