the national interest

Conservative Historian Has Interesting Ideas

Not pictured: Bill Ayers. HMM, WHY IS THAT?

The new right-wing book of the moment is American Betrayal, by Diana West, which offers the thesis that American foreign policy under presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower was secretly controlled by the Soviet Union. If this sounds like the sort of tract that would be written by somebody who thinks Joe McCarthy was absolutely right about everything, well, that’s exactly what Diana West does believe. She’s also quite the birther.

But her book has managed to attract quite a bit of support from respectable and semi-respectable outlets on the right. The Heritage Foundation feted West, Amity Shlaes blurbed it, the American Spectator and Daily Caller issued raves, and Breitbart is actually serializing the book.

West argues not just that there were communist spies in the government or that American foreign policy failed to take a strong enough line, but that the Soviets controlled the American government in the way they controlled, say, East Germany. For instance, West argues that America provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor — an American working for the Soviets “subverted relations between the US and Japan by inserting ‘ultimatum’ language into the cable flow that actually spurred the Japanese attack.”

Blaming the U.S. for provoking Pearl Harbor is the sort of claim that might offend modern conservatives, except that West further argues that America was controlled by the Soviets all along. Likewise, she tells us, the U.S. could have supported anti-Hitler Nazis and ended the war, but didn’t, because its goal was to help the Soviets occupy Eastern Europe. (“The war had to last long enough for the Soviet Army to roll into the heart of Europe on those fleets of Lend-Lease Dodge and Studebaker trucks Uncle Sam had generously provided.”)

What’s interesting is that West’s paranoia has proven too much for Ron Radosh, who assails West in a lengthy review at Front Page Magazine (“overheated, or simply false and distorted”).

Our readers may not grasp just what it takes to be called a right-wing kook in Front Page Magazine by Ron Radosh. The bar is high. Radosh himself is quite conservative (he’s called President Obama a socialist). FrontPageMag is … well, suffice to say, its official motto is “Inside Every Liberal Is A Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out” — which is surely more evocative, if less credibility-rendering, than “All the news that’s fit to print.” It currently features stories with such headlines as “Islamic Group in America: We’ll Impose Sharia on Christians” and “Seven More Reasons to Impeach Eric Holder.”

(My mind was boggled upon first reading the latter headline — seven reasons to impeach Holder? — only to scan it again and try to process the next word, “more.” Sure enough, it’s a follow-up to a previous article listing ten reasons to impeach Holder. FrontPageMag is now up to seventeen independently sufficient causes for the impeachment of the Attorney General.)

Radosh’s review displays an entertaining clash of different gradations of right-wing paranoia. Faithful readers of the conservative news have been conditioned to believe that modern history is shaped by dark liberal plots, all covered up by the mainstream news. Radosh and FrontPageMag are among the sources conditioning them to think this way. (Radosh, for instance, thinks it’s perfectly plausible that Barack Obama’s autobiography was secretly ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.) West is simply applying the same analytic method backward in time.

Conservative Historian Has Interesting Ideas