World War IV: The Long Struggle against Islamofascism (2007)
by Norman Podhoretz
The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror (2006)
by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer
reviewed January 2008
These are two books that read like extended White House press releases. They should be free in paperback, paid for by the government. President Bush is on the back of the Sharansky book with an endorsement. On the whole, we see these two books as proof of the danger of story-telling, the foibles of journalism and history unconnected to theoretical endeavors and systematic thought of any kind.
The key stories in the neo-conservative repertoire
A handful of stories or metaphors make up the meat of the neo-conservative guidance on U.$. foreign policy.
1. Munich, 1938
Hitler ended up taking over Czechoslovakia, because the French and British let him go into Eastern Europe with the thought that Hitler would stop and be placated. Neville Chamberlain was to blame.
MIM does not object to this story, only how it ends up applied. When Bush Jr. occupied Iraq, it was Bush Jr. crossing borders and Europe appeasing him.
When the United $tates took the surrender from Japan in Korea in 1945, it was not "Munich" for Koreans to start a civil war among themselves. It was the UN appeasing the United $tates to let it cross borders to attack Koreans, when even according to General MacArthur, there were no Chinese or Soviet forces in Korea until 1950, after the u.$. invasion.
According to anti-communist and second-most revered historical figure of the Korean republican era according to a poll of $outhern Koreans, Kim Ku, Koreans should have waged a coup d'etat against the Amerikans in 1945. Kim Ku also crossed the 38th parallel to try to coordinate with other Koreans. Kim Ku ended up assassinated for his efforts just before the Korean War, probably by the pro- Amerikan henchman and crackpot Syngman Rhee.
Nonetheless, despite the incorrect application of the Munich metaphor, it is one of the least objectionable stories the neo-conservatives have, because there is no doubt that German imperialism was oppressing Eastern Europe as it marched through in World War II. We agree that imperialism should not be appeased as it oppresses other countries. The problem is that the way that Amerikans use the story today in the mainstream is simply as another reason to have a war.
2. Reagan rolled back the Soviet Union.
Because the Soviet Union collapsed under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, policy-makers on conservative payrolls try to find a simple story to tell about achieving freedom in the Soviet Union.
Sharansky gets lucky on this point, because he had a persynal friend among Soviet dissidents who was hopeful of Soviet collapse, so Sharansky turns that dissident's book into a correct prediction while ignoring the many other predictions made by Soviet dissidents. The official Sovietologists working for Reagan both on payroll and off all held the theory of "totalitarianism" which said that change from within the Soviet Union was impossible and that there would have to be a war. In recent years, the next-generation dissident Gary Kasparov called for a U.$. invasion of Russia as in Iraq, as if totalitarianism were still in power in Russia. (See our coverage of a 1990 chess match of his here.)
Kasparov made one of his more staid remarks right in line with neo-conservatism in the July 10 2006 New York Times:
"President Ronald Reagan's hard public line on the Soviet Union let us know that someone out there was aware of our predicament and was fighting for us. Now this American president seems to be saying that Iraqis and Afghans are deserving of democracy, but Russians are not."Some have speculated that Kasparov makes these remarks for the same reason Muhammad Ali turned Frazier into an "Uncle Tom," to give some showboating reasons for competition and increased marketing for chess in Kasparov's case. One can only hope so, but these remarks can stand as typical of what an Amerikan lackey is expected to say. It goes without saying that if a Russian lackey says something like that and receives airtime from the West, then Third World lackeys will have to jump even higher for approval from Amerikans.
Kasparov also said he opposes Russian interests in the New York Times, which is all too happy to oblige open lackeyism:
"It's time to stop pretending that the Kremlin shares the free world's interests. The high energy prices the Putin administration requires to keep its hold on power are driven by the tensions that come with every North Korean missile launching and Iranian nuclear threat."Russia has an abundance of oil and natural gas and exports it to the world in quantities second only to Saudi Arabia, but obviously Kasparov is an Amerikan first in calling for lower energy prices to the West. Amerikans always pick these utterly subservient people to flatter with attention. Kasparov has received more media republications of his views than the leaders of the Third World combined.
Kasparov echoes Sharansky again on "moral standards" in a chess interview available at chessbase.com.
"The West won the Cold War because of a strong moral stand. It stood on the pillars that guarantee its moral superiority. Today, itís nice to talk about democracy in Iraq, but not at the expense of democracy in Russia. Making the world safe for democracy should have universal standards and application."On some other day we shall have to review Kasparov's calls for the use of nuclear weapons, his call for an invasion of Russia, Syria and Iran and his statements trying to explain why he switched sides on the "freedom-fighters" of Afghanistan.
Back in the 1980s, we at MIM said that an economic crisis was due soon in the Soviet Union. We turned out precisely correct and we also named the bourgeoisie in the party as the agent of capitalism. One would have thought that the neo-conservatives would have noticed it was not the dissidents who destroyed the Soviet social-imperialists. Yelstin and Gorbachev are children of Khruschev--people on the inside of the party. Thus there is a big difference between MIM's theory and our opponents' analysis of "totalitarianism." However, since the only point of Sharansky and Kasparov is that there is no "moral equivalence" between the united $tates and I$rael on one side and the rest of the world, they do not really need analysis. They believe it plays no significant role, which given how they exert influence from the top down in the capitalist media to the world's masses, we can see their point-- the more stupid the better.
On one point we agree with Sharansky regarding Khruschev and the other top leaders: "they themselves no longer wanted to live in fear." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 61) This is hitting the nail on the head for our problem as communists, because the leaders in the transition period will be subject to capitalist bribes and they will have access to decisions that appropriate labor against the interests of the proletariat. In essence then, the leaders are in a structurally capitalist position and if they do not fear proletarian repression the situation heads towards capitalism. The proletariat in its own interests must manage to hold leaders hostage long enough that economic administration becomes transparent to the proletariat, at which point the state can begin to disappear and Liberal utopia can also appear. Sharansky has a point here, because when the leaders do not want to live in fear themselves, then there is a problem for socialism. MIM has suggested various means of weeding out leaders other than relying on their biographies and individual assertions of merit. When the bar is up high enough, people do not contest for power and create an excess supply of leaders for leadership positions.
Subsequent events have proved whose interpretation of the Soviet Union is better, MIM's or Sharansky's. Sharansky concluded that his friend was correct while Sovietologists were generally wrong because "he understood the awesome power of freedom." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 10) MIM also explained the collapse of the Soviet Union, but we predicted Saddam Hussein would only last a few weeks in Kuwait. We also foretold the power of the anti-Amerikkkan struggle in 2001, before the Iraq War. The "awesome power of freedom" Sharansky referred to appears to be boosting Al Qaeda recruiting. With MIM, we have none of that cheerleading for cheerleading's sake that we have with the pseudo-Marxist parties of the West who refuse to accept that their beloved so-called workers have been bourgeoisified. When MIM cheerleads, there is generally a team on the field, a completely radical idea by the standards of most so-called communist organizations in the West. We would say Sharansky did the cheerleading for thousands of Amerikans and Iraqis to die unnecessary deaths. The freedom team he thought existed was not so awesome or if it was, it played for the other side.
3. The Cold War was World War III, taking a long time.
The story goes that Vietnam was a defeat that led to a "syndrome" still setting back freedom today. Nonetheless, according to Podhoretz in World Wars there are defeats and Bush Jr. is merely equivalent to Harry Truman in the early stages of World War III, (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 41) because defeating the Arab and Islamic states will likewise take 50 years. There will be setbacks and tactical retreats along the way according to Sharansky.
The only non-white democracy that is mentioned in these two books is again $outhern Korea. The official conservative White House story is that the Amerikans fought for democracy in the Korean War and that democracy then brought economic well-being.
The neo-conservatives might have done well to read that as of 2004, the "Presidential Commission on Suspicious Deaths" of $outhern Korea said that the democratic revolution still was not complete in $outhern Korea and that the Korean War and the ruler the united $tates propped up then had nothing to do with democracy except to set it back. The government's 2004 position was that $outhern Korea never finished its 1776 or France's 1789 and that even now because of elements in the military it is only able to tell the part of the history of authoritarian rule that was since 1969. Instead, $outhern Korean history is a story of democracy crushed, repeatedly.
The fact is that to this day, the Korean people do not know the history of the foundation of their own $outhern Korean republic or the crushing of the 1960 democratic revolution, for the simple reason that the military and intelligence agencies along with some ultra-reactionary politicians will not allow release of the truth. The truth is more or less illegal. Some Koreans are reticent because born to apolitical families, but many others do not want the repression for talking about people either correctly or falsely deemed "communists." McCarthyism in the united $tates mostly affected careers, and created a few prison terms. In Korea, it meant torture and death. In a way, the crackpot reactionary rulers like Rhee provided communists an embarrassment of riches, because according to their definitions, the vast majority of Koreans would have to be counted as communists to this day.
Given that much of the relevant ugly Korean history is tied up with the united $tates and that the united $tates was still in command of the $outhern Korean military in 2004 at the time of the $outhern Korean government's report on suspicious deaths, a real reckoning on democracy and freedom would show that competition with communism was the only thing spurring on the united $tates. Without that and the land reform, $outhern Korea would have been another impoverished authoritarian-ruled country like Indonesia or the Philippines, where U.$. client regimes also claimed to be bringing the benefits of the "free world."
Whether it is Korea, Vietnam or the collapse of the Soviet Union the official story of the Cold War is wrong. The reason that World War III appeared to take so long to the neo-conservatives is that none of the actions the U.$. foreign policy establishment took had the effects claimed. So by stretching out time over 50 years, the policy-makers simply claim credit for any changes that occur, even when their policies actually held back the changes that occurred. An example of this sort of post-hoc opportunism is Sharansky's claim that Tito was communism's fault, but Czechoslovakia was not. (Sharansky, 2006, p. 94) If Sharansky would go back and read what people said at the time, the West including every mushy brand of socialist was all for Tito and "market socialism" in Yugoslavia and it drew unfavorable contrasts with Czechoslovakia, which among other things had an election that Marxists won after World War II. The old story went that evil Stalin purged Tito because he could not bear loss of control in the communist world and Tito was a threat to Stalin's power. Now that it is clear what a disaster Yugoslavia became we do not see mea culpas anywhere and instead Sharansky rewrites history as if critics of Stalin were always critics of Tito when quite the reverse was true. The West held up Tito as a hero to be emulated by Deng Xiaoping and others. That's not to mention that the whole argument sidesteps that the violence in ex-Yugoslavia occurred after Tito died, when Western influence was at its height.
4. 9/11 marked World War IV's beginning like Pearl Harbor marked World War II for Amerikans.
According to the neo-conservatives, non-democracies produce terrorists and so those non- democracies need to be overthrown because democracies do not produce terrorists that attack each other.
On this, the neo-cons show not even a rudimentary knowledge of European history, even as they totally exclude Third World history. The United $tates attacked the Greek majority. We are fortunate to have Lyndon Johnson's comments on Greek democracy on record and there is a whole movie "Z," based on the U.$. interference in Greek democracy. The United $tates also had plans to use military force against democracy in Italy, but with campaign contributions from corporations and the CIA, this proved unnecessary. (Chomsky, 2003, p. 163)
Then again, what was Weimar Germany, but a weak liberal democracy. And what did it produce but the world's greatest terrorist force killing tens of millions of civilians on behalf of the Master Race. Sharansky does not tell the historical truth on this point, only an abbreviated white history made comfortable for Amerikkkan ears. Hear it again: Nazi Germany arose from a capitalist country with parliamentary democracy. This time absorb it. Sharansky should retract his obviously incorrect challenge: "Those who claim that democracy is dangerous for the free world must show that free societies with freely elected governments are dangerous to the world. . . . like all democratic peoples, will always try to resolve their differences through nonviolent means." (Sharansky, 2006, pp. 75, 77) That's not to mention the huge war that democratic India fell apart into from its decolonized beginning.
Extending their comparisons: hypocrisy
1. "We used to joke in prison that the Soviets were determined to fight World War III with sticks since they had enough prisoners to cut down half the trees in Siberia." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 137)
Such a joke can only be funny to someone who does not know that the united $tates at that time had a higher imprisonment rate than the Soviet Union.
Evaded by Sharansky is how the country with the world's highest imprisonment rate can be a beacon for "freedom." According to Sharansky himself regarding ex-Soviet dissidents in I$rael, "our leaders first go to prison and only then go into politics." (Sharansky, 2006, p. xxxv) This statement can be taken various ways.
It's a joke against corruption of politicians in the West, who go into politics first, then corruption. On the other hand, in the united $tates we find that people who go to prison end up disproportionately against the two-party system--outside politics. In prison, free speech is restricted as is the free speech of people outside prison trying to speak to prisoners. While Sharansky found that his prison in Russia now had five copies of his book, (Sharansky, 2006, p. 267) in the united $tates, most prisons prohibit distribution of MIM books, magazines and papers.
The people from the class most likely to oppose U.$. capitalism go to prison, then become political.
2. On this point, we say nothing new to Sharansky and Podhoretz, because they are used to charges of hypocrisy. Sharansky and Podhoretz call for democracy but have nothing to say about Hamas's election victory in 2006, 13 years after Oslo, ten years after 1996 elections in Palestine.
To his credit, Sharansky makes some occasional outbursts against imperialist realist policy-makers: "While it will be readily admitted that the current regimes in the Middle East suppress freedom, those regimes are believed to also suppress a far worse alternative: the radicals and fundamentalists who might win democratic elections." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 16; see also, p. 159) With regard to the Hamas victory in 2006, Sharansky did not get a chance to digest, because he was still quoting Arafat to the effect that Hamas could win an election if Arafat became too pro-I$rael, an idea Sharansky scoffed at. (Sharansky, 2006, p. 174)
There seems to be a fundamental disjunction regarding reality, for example, that Ayatollah Khomeini came to power with a vast majority of support and would have won any election had there been one. Now if there were not freedom under the Shah that Sharansky supported then Sharansky can say that the decision was uninformed, but he cannot have it both ways. Either the pro-West Shah was not allowing freedom or the Iranian people made a majority decision to go for theocracy instead of Liberal democracy. From what we saw there was a considerable period of fermentation in Iran and contention among various political lines sufficient to educate people, but the Iranians simply chose theocracy over Maoism and other choices, unfortunately.
3. The U.S. Civil War is an excellent lesson. Podhoretz points to Lincoln (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 178) without thinking through the consequences. Lincoln executed spies and disenfranchised planters. The number killed proportionately speaking was not un-Soviet. Sharansky says over and over again that such coercive methods do not work. We can point to lasting bitterness in the South in his favor. On the other hand, the political rights of slaveowners were gone and slavery is also, mostly, except again, in U.$. prisons and among undocumented workers in among other places Florida. So what accounts for this change of people's attitudes is what we must ask. We Marxists would say freedom was repressed into being. When a class has a self-interest such as in owning slaves, there is no other way. That is why Sharansky's notion of freedom is facile even if taken at face-value. Now, thanks to repression and war, ordinary people do not wake up hankering for slave services--quite an accomplishment. What Sharansky is doing is the opposite-- trying to oppress the exploited majority into freedom. Such oppression has to aim at the oppressor and the exploiter with an interest in repression in order to work. Grabbing for oil in Iraq is exactly opposite of the interests of democracy for the Arab people.
4. Sharansky says "fear societies" create external enemy lists. (Sharansky, 2006, p. 82) Yet it was Bush that came up with the "axis of evil" and it is Sharansky who applauded Reagan's attack on the "evil empire" and calls for the same against Arab countries.
5. Sharansky says that fear societies end up with ever higher portions of "double-thinkers" that would benefit from freedom. (Sharansky, 2006, p. 102) This refers to people who talk out of both sides of their mouth. Yet according to Podhoretz, neo-conservatism has been abandoned and attacked by George Will, Francis Fukayama, Eliot Cohen, William F. Buckley Jr., Kenneth Adelman etc. (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 172-184)
6. Sharansky says that "outward signs of decay" may take a long time to develop in fear societies. (Sharansky, 2006, p. 104) MIM's question regarding a total lack of theoretical and historical detail is: "could a 'long time' be millennia?" What was the fate of democracy before Greece? What year does Sharansky start his argument? It's an ahistorical argument, because obviously what he is talking about as liberal democracy has not existed in most of humyn history.
7. By the end of the book, Sharansky has pulled off a series of non- sequitors and non-comparisons. He bemoans Soviet imprisonment with U.$. officials without the comparison of imprisonment rates. He talks about imprisonment under Saddam Hussein when it was Saddam Hussein who released all of his prisoners. Finally, Sharansky speaks for administrative detention and spying, (Sharansky, 2006, p. 209) despite spending nine years under administrative detention and being followed by the KGB. In the end, the reader is left thinking that the difference is simply there is no "moral equivalence" between Russia and I$rael. Sharansky is just more comfortable with Amerikans and I$raelis, and the bottom line for that could well be wealth per capita, not any political difference that Sharansky holds out for. He talks about Palestinian terrorism, but does not even address factual claims that I$raelis kill more Palestinian civilians than vice versa. The I$raelis may have had success in avoiding deaths of Palestinians in some operations that Zionist propagandists focus on, but the overall historical total will be against I$rael despite its constant claims not to be "terrorist." The 2006 war on Lebanon was again I$raeli terrorism against hundreds of Lebanese civilians killed. Sharansky only asserts over and over again that there is no moral comparison, but he does not undertake a systematic factual comparison of civilian casualties--terrorism.
Sharansky ends up justifying our impression that his version of "freedom" justifies colonialism. In explaining why he voted against the "Road Map" for peace, an approach MIM also opposed, Sharansky said his reason was not opposition to Palestinian statehood, "but because of what kind of Palestinian state I believed it would create." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 256) MIM sees this often among I$raelis that they negotiate not just for two separate states but two separate states under which the I$raelis get to pick the nature of the Palestinian one, which is obviously against the principle of self-determination. We hear it often said that I$rael is unwilling to live next to a mini-Iran.
Moralism and Marxist historical inevitability
The reviewer was reading Sharansky on how there is a universal desire for freedom and that military confrontation by the united $tates can bring freedom everywhere. The theory is that freedom can cause freedom with repressors literally getting tired of holding down the people. So if the United $tates uses its power everywhere, the people will do the rest.
It took a while for the reviewer to think where she first read this theory of the people tasting freedom and pushing it, and alas it was in Noam Chomsky. "Today's science is far from being able to establish the fact, but we can only hope that Bakunin's 'instinct for freedom' is truly a central constituent element of human nature," he said in Chomsky on Anarchism. This example serves once again to show people why the libertarian approach has been coopted in the united $tates. In common usage, "freedom" means "pride in the Euro-Amerikan nation and a good reason to bomb other countries." Whereas in some countries and time periods libertarian ideas might have progressive content and we can look to some value in Rosa Luxemburg and various anarchists for some progressive thrust, in countries intensely involved with U.$. politics today, what is called "left-wing" needs to be recast as hopelessly reactionary. There needs to be a bright line drawn between the politics of the exploiter and exploited, even just to understand where movements to impose democracy will work and where they will fail. Like it or not, the u.$. media, followed by the British media is dominating global usage of the words "freedom" and "liberty." They are equivalent to "send some troops to the Third World."
We are not going to see the u.$. imperialists co-opt Mao. Sadly, they can and have used Chomsky's words against the oppressed.
The difference between Chomsky on the one side and Sharansky and Podhoretz on the other is simply that Chomsky is much more thorough. Podhoretz admitted the "impression of scrupulous reasoning and meticulous scholarship" given by Chomsky. (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 122)
Both Chomsky and the neo-cons are moralists. Chomsky ends his 2003 book Middle East Illusions with his usual charge of "hypocrisy" against U.$. imperialism. Chomsky can do this because he has made more study of the Third World than Sharansky and Podhoretz combined. Sharansky makes one huge one paragraph admission without developing it at all:
"Smaller fear societies can turn to larger free societies for support. The Cold War made this strategy possible for several dictators across the world, who used their opposition to communism to win support in the West." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 106)The trouble is that once we list all the U.$. puppet regimes and once we take account of the fact that the Soviet Union once gone cannot account for U.$. coups anymore, it becomes clear that the united $tates is the leader of the "unfree world." Chomsky has written books over decades detailing the facts of u.$. military aid to these regimes. Such aid and interventions started before there was a Soviet Union to oppose, another clue.
Chomsky's knowledge is extensive enough that he can start to make appropriate international comparisons. When he sets out to apply the golden rule in a moralistic way, Chomsky does so by stretching people's minds to account for global history, not just a few favorite European tales. When Chomsky uses the conservative Catholic concept of "hypocrisy," he does so in an intellectual and radical way by showing readers what would have to be accounted for across many cultures. It is Chomsky's ability to stretch across contemporary situations and find analogous phenomena that make his work just one step removed from science. He takes ideas from U.$. policy-makers and then treats them as scientific categories to catalogue things and lo-and-behold, we always find that the policy-makers conveniently omit any of the morality that they themselves claim to uphold. Again and again in Chomsky's books, we see the United $tates not applying a moral approach in its foreign relations.
Obliquely, Sharansky admits that "realists" are normally in charge of U.$. foreign policy and have no moral core, just U.$. interest in stability in a world where the united $tates is already on top. Sharansky in particular is well short of Chomsky's ability. In fact, Sharansky's knowledge of politics, economics, sociology and history is so slight as evidenced by his footnotes, that one cannot help thinking that he knows very well that his moralism is but a thin disguise for Zionist interests. The fact that Sharansky served nine years in Soviet prison makes him a perfect spokespersyn for some cause, but what cause is the question.
On this point, we mean no particular slight to Sharansky, because what he says about Soviet dissidents is in fact MIM's general impression: "I would discover that the belief that the right to dissent was more important than the content of dissent was the glue that united all dissidents in the Soviet Union." (Sharansky, 2006, p. xxiv) Both the Soviet and Chinese dissidents of the 1980s were disproportionately physicists, mathematicians, chemists and chess players. Their knowledge of economic development was non-existent, and so we were not surprised to see an ultra-liberal minister in Russia promise an EU standard of living within six months of getting rid of the Soviet Union. Similar fantasies came from the hard sciences dissidents in China. The content of what these dissidents said was never deemed important, even inside the dissident community. In fact, many from the hard sciences believed that politics and economics is all a matter of spin with no substance as subjects to be comprehended. Sharansky contradicted himself one time in a revealing way. Although generally demanding "moral clarity," Sharansky also said, "political values will come and go, while science offers universal, eternal truths." (Sharansky, 2006, p. 63)
It is this sort of dissident kitsch that we cannot help wondering Gary Kasparov picked up and made a self-mockery of with his printed assertion that humyn history is literally only 500 years long and all the rest of history is simply a series of misunderstandings and falsehoods. In his "Mathematics of the Past," Kasparov said of others who originated the hypothesis of history as giant hoax, "Using modern mathematical and statistical methods, as well as precise astronomical computations, they discovered that ancient history was artificially extended by more than 1 000 years. For reasons beyond my understanding, historians are still ignoring their work." The story of Noah's Ark is rather more concerned with history than the average Soviet dissident, and nor do these dissidents show much understanding of life expectancy tables or imprisonment statistics, which would also undermine their consciously vacant politics.
What we can say about the 1980s era Soviet and Chinese dissidents is that they came from a class that in the West would be elites. They had some abilities to defend their own interests, even as they lacked any knowledge of the political and economic development questions they raised. In the end, in Russia, the dissidents' ideology of Liberalism ended up defeated in elections and poll after poll.
In both China and the Soviet Union, the dissident attack ended up used as the ideology of a migration movement, with Chinese visa-holders obtaining permanent U.$. status after the Beijing Spring of 1989 and Sharansky freeing the Jews of the Soviet Union for emigration to I$rael. Sharansky in no way tried to hide this: "After my release from prison, I dedicated myself to the struggle to free Soviet Jewry." (Sharansky, 2006, p. xxxiv)
If we mistake a migration movement for a movement with actually grounded ideas on economic development and politics, we make a bloody mistake, which raises the question of Iraq and Marx's concept of historical inevitability. Ironically we agree with two Zionists on the question of migration and dissidents. Sharansky himself told the story of Kosygin and Brezhnev:
"General Secretary Brezhnev and Premier Kosigin, his second in command, were discussing whether they should allow freedom of emigration. 'Look, America's really pressuring us,' Brezhnev said, 'maybe we should just open up the gates.' 'The problem is,' he continued, 'we might be the only two people who wouldn't leave.' To which Kosigin replied, 'Speak for yourself.'" (Sharansky, 2006, p. 139)What Sharansky failed to understand is that the Soviet peoples were not all wishing for Liberalism, far from it. They all wanted an Amerikan or I$raeli living standard and even Kosygin was ready to leave for it. This is an example of classic fallacy with an underlying cause well explained by the Holocaust- oriented Nizkor fallacies website. The underlying cause is the wealth of the West, not its freedom, which only some intellectuals use the ways dissidents use it in any case. For example, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg openly defended the movement to free the Soviet Jews as an anti-poverty movement.(Chomsky, 2003, pp. 135-7)
Most of the time, we have to teach that Marx's criticism of "historical idealism" is not the same as how Amerikans use the word "idealism" to mean "selfless." However, there is a sense in which Chomsky's or Sharansky's idealism can lead to historical idealism that Marx described. $outhern Korean anti- communist Kim Ku has a biographer who explains the problem with self-described "terrorist" Kim Ku this way: "He showed this 'idealistic' streak again when he attempted the coup d'etat against the American military government in order to protest the trusteeship decision of the Moscow Foreign Ministers' Conference of December, 1945, even though he in all likelihood knew that such a direct confrontation with the American military government would be an act of political suicide. . . . Throughout his life, Kim often rose up for his convictions without regard to the consequences or the chances of success of his actions. In this sense, Kim was similar to the shishi ('men of high purpose') of modern Japanese history such as Yoshida Shoin." (Lee, 2000, p. liii)
So there is an overlap between moralism and historical idealism. The opponent of historical idealism always considers the consequences of action, notso the moralist.
This reviewer is familiar with this question from Sartre's dialogue with communism and the CIA's dialogue with Sartre through the various CIA-sponsored intellectuals of the Cold War. Another way to approach the same question without the fancy philosophy and history background is to consider the military intelligence officer in the midst of war. "How many enemy fighters are there? Where are they? What do they look like? Where will they come from when they attack?" Knowledge of these questions is a life-and-death matter, and this reviewer would submit that in this context, the intelligence officer can begin to approach the gap between Marxist science and moralism without benefit of a French salon.
In the case of Al Qaeda we can start with one estimate that said it was down to 180 guys in a cave. In early 2007 we had reports that 1500 Al Qaeda fighters were dying a month in Iraq, which sounds impressive until one realizes that it means Al Qaeda must be recruiting more than 180 people, "dead-enders" as Rumsfeld would call such a small force. For the people in the battlefield it makes a big difference if there are only 180 Al Qaeda people off in a cave in Afghanistan or many thousands in Iraq itself. Rumsfeld's assertion based on Sharansky's book that freedom is about to prevail at any minute with the defeat of some "dead-enders" in Iraq is not helpful to people fighting for their lives if it is not true.
In fact, the fault of moralism becomes clear in a world of cause and effect. Even if we assume that the Amerikan troops are not setting up a colony and trampling freedom, even if we assume that Amerikans are the good guys fighting for freedom, there is a question of cause and effect. Did the appearance of U.$. troops in Iraq aid the recruiting of insurgent organizations such as Al Qaeda, the "bad guys," yes or no. It's a cause and effect question. Whether Al Qaeda did so because of religion, independence concerns or class concerns or any other concern is not really relevant. If the presence of "good guys" boosts the recruiting of "bad guys," then the good guys become the bad guys. If the good guys had not shown up, there would have been fewer bad guys. Then it is the moral responsibility of the good guys that the bad guys increased in number.
On this question, we can even accept a relevant Bush quote and make use of it.
"'America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat; America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.'" (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 133)If the U.$. landing in Iraq secured Al Qaeda a gigantic base, then it would appear the opposite of freedom by Bush's definition is on the march. So the category can be moral, but there is no way of avoiding the concrete question of whether a social force is on the ascendance or descending. Podhoretz himself paraphrases the argument against himself, that the war "would also increase rather than lessen the danger of terrorism." (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 135) It is only in the epilogue to his book that Podhoretz finally 'fesses up, "to having been among those who failed to anticipate the ferocity of the opposition to democratization that would develop and therefore how long so great a transformation would take." (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 214) He nonetheless says that the Amerikans should go on fighting for as long as it takes--and for his stance he received the endorsement of Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, George P. Shultz, R. James Woolsey and John R. Bolton.
If the neo-conservatives admit that their actions actually increased Al Qaeda recruiting, they still have one outlet used by historical reactionaries. They can admit to having increased Al Qaeda recruiting, but then the neo-conservatives can say U.$. troops are killing them faster than they are killing U.$. troops. The logic of such an argument holds when there are just a large number of "dead-enders" to mop up. What usually escapes the reactionaries is that if the united $tates and its oppression has increased Al Qaeda recruiting on a steady basis and even if the U.$. troops kill more than they get killed, the overall approach is one of genocide. This is a reason it is important as Marx said to be on the correct side of history. In order to hold on to their views, the U.$. reactionaries promote genocide plus the continuous death of a minority of Amerikans--and all without a general social solution. To his credit, Rumsfeld knew why it was morally important that he just be attacking "dead-enders." For reasons of oil and military contracts, the united $tates and its lackey intellectuals like Kasparov did not analyze correctly the effect the u.$. presence in Iraq would create. They did not end up fighting "dead enders."
Podhoretz is especially good at perceiving slights to the neo-conservative line within mainstream opinion. Bush the revolutionary had to suffer when "'revolutionary zeal collides with hard reality,'" (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 138) according to one professor David C. Hendrickson for realistic foreign policy.
Podhoretz and hard-core reactionaries generally feel Amerikans did not fight hard enough in Iraq. Rather than notice an increase in insurgent recruiting, they are apt to attribute the problem to the Vietnam Syndrome, psychological factors in the united $tates rather than the ongoing insurgent recruiting in Iraq. Podhoretz spoke of the second Gulf war effort as "vulnerable . . . to seemingly insignificant forces." (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 81) In a certain sense, Podhoretz is correct, because although $2 or $4 trillion is scheduled to go down the tubes and the united $tates sent a six digit figure of troops, in World War II, the united $tates sent more troops and consumed a larger portion of the GNP. So it all depends on one's reference point. In World War II, Germany gave a maximum effort, but in the current "War on Terror" much of the question is to what extent the entire Islamic world is going to mobilize against the United $tates for armed struggle.
There is even a certain egalitarianism in Podhoretz's warmongering. During World War II, 90% of U.$. forces went to the European theater; even though, Pearl Harbor was the formal cause of war. In practice, Amerikans fought because Europe was at stake. Some anti-communists are in a sense more egalitarian because they wish the united $tates would have sent as many troops to China or now to the Islamic countries.
The question of historic inevitability appears additionally in World War II once the battle of Stalingrad is essentially over and the German officers start writing their memoirs. The Nazi propaganda had prepared the Germans for what communists would allegedly do in victory over the Nazis. The propaganda was false and the German people survived. Yet there is a question of morality here. Even the taking of Berlin at the very end of the war involved a huge loss of life. The reason is that Germans believed what they wanted to believe about communists and Jewish control of the West, so they fought to the end in a futile waste of blood. For Marxists, this was immoral more than anything else. The shedding of blood was not immoral in itself but only combined with an accurate or "realistic" understanding. While they were dying in a futile effort, the Germans had a strong sense of "moral clarity," so strong it overcame any reality except for death.
General MacArthur said the troops would be back from Korea by Christmas 1950 in victory ranging from North to South. (Podhoretz is still endorsing that line that the united $tates should have gone for "victory." (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 207)) A series of generals went to Vietnam and said similar misleading things through the 1960s, until the soldiers themselves figured out that the story about an unpopular dictatorial Ho Chi Minh who could not win election as dog-catcher proved untrue. The Amerikans killed millions and still the Vietnamese kept coming--no "dead-enders" story there. Repeated moralisms about the evils of communism in Korea and Vietnam did not change the facts regarding recruiting by the enemy. Likewise, despite the shouting from Sharansky and the neo-cons, Iraq did not surrender even by 2007. The story-teller Rumsfeld talking about "dead- enders" ended up gone in 2006. On the global scale, it is of course the imperialists who are the "dead-enders": they fight but they are a minority.
Now polls show that Osama Bin Laden is more than four times more popular than Bush in Pakistan. In general the species cannot be too sympathetic to seeing commercial buildings like the World Trade Centers come down with civilians dying. The only question in 2007 is whether or not the moralists can figure out that their approach is immoral. Can they figure out that Osama Bin Laden must have tapped into a real force not just to be "understood" but to be actually a multiple more popular than Bush. If so, what does this say about Sharansky's slight "theory"? The choice is between confronting evidence regarding recruiting and polls and believing what Amerikans want to believe, which is the false story Sharansky told of a world just waiting to be delivered to freedom.
What we would say to the reactionaries when confronted with a situation that reality tells them is hopeless is that they should retreat. Instead of asking "why should I capitulate to inevitability if I don't like the future?" people may find they may be on the progressive side of history in other areas. In other cases, time and study may reveal to the reactionary his mistake.
One of the reasons Marxists talk about historical inevitability is to confront moralistic reasoning and clear the way to science. So for example, any religion that cuts itself off from reality is immoral and can lead the way to blood sacrifices in a hopeless situation. In reading Al Qaeda material and that of other Muslims, we do not see radical Muslims cutting themselves off from reality. The Al Qaeda religion has a ceremonial aspect. Moreover, as with the Christians and their Bible there is the question of how Muslims read their Koran. Yet we have seen other explanations of Islamism that stress that in fact radical versions of Islam strip down the conceptual parts frozen in time. In fact, the whole point of jihad under infidel occupation of the holy sites is that the individual has a responsibility to use her mind in any way possible to oust the infidels.
Christopher Hitchens dedicates his new book on Thomas Paine to the struggle against theocracy and thus throws a punch at Islamists in Iraq. Yet it was the Amerikans who ousted secular Saddam Hussein and it was the Amerikans who started a religious war of sects that few intelligence officers can begin to comprehend, never mind the six digit figure of troops wading into the religious conflict.
In the American Revolution that Sharansky sidesteps, the struggle for independence and liberty went hand-in-hand. Even when the French intervened against the British, the French had a monarchist government. So no one mistook the French interest in the question as one of imposing a new ideology on the Americans. France was pursuing its interests against England. By contrast, Amerikans go to Iraq trying to impose an ideology while everyone knows that oil is a huge underlying question. The French monarchist contribution to freedom was greater than the U.$. contribution to freedom in the Iraq War.
The last time the united $tates played a role like France's was when the United $tates was funding and arming Osama Bin Laden to fight the Soviet Union. The Amerikan ideology was not the same as the Islamists', but Reagan still called the Afghan Islamists "freedom-fighters." Funny, now the united $tates sends troops to fight the very same "freedom-fighters." We did not hear Sharansky explain that one. Podhoretz did not seem to notice anything out of place. (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 75)
One thing that the neo-conservatives may not have accounted for is the unease in the back of Amerikans' minds regarding religious wars. Since oil is unevenly distributed in the regions of Iraq, the religious communities do not have equal shares of oil.
Whereas Lincoln repressed the economic interest behind a lack of freedom, the united $tates opened up a can of worms leading to religious war in Iraq. In this regard, Saddam Hussein was to be preferred. He was the Iraqi bourgeoisie's uniform second choice and Bush has now admitted that there was no Iraqi Mandela to lead once he got rid of the old regime. The way he put it was to put the blame on Saddam Hussein: "Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."
In I$rael, the conflict is Jews versus Arabs. In the united $tates, Protestants are likely to recall some unfortunate European history and the reasons that settlers came to the united $tates. Some like Patrick Buchanan would go so far as to say that there is fundamentally a difference between Zionism and Amerikkkan patriotism. George Will's retroactive endorsement of Kerry would be an example where some might think there would be an Amerikan patriotism appalled by the Bush revolution for the Middle East.
The one disturbing point where there might be a difference between Zionism and Amerikkkan patriotism is the approach to 9/11. The Zionists we can imagine have an interest in flattering a potential Amerikan ally after 9/11. Hence, to hear Podhoretz talk about 9/11 as "out of the blue" (Podhoretz, 2007, p. 17) is the phrase in question. Where did the idea that 9/11 was "out of the blue" come from one should ask. Is it just Zionist flattery or are Amerikans behind it one might wonder. A stern patriotism we refer to as "striving patriotism" in another review would hold that talking about 9/11 as "out of the blue" condones ignorance of foreign affairs prior to 9/11. One could even argue that Amerika's enemies plant such ignorance in the media. Knowledge of the conflicts a country is involved in would seem to be a civic responsibility.
Although MIM can conceptualize such a patriotism and recognizes that the united $tates demanded it of Germany after the bombing of Dresden and of Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we reject reference to patriotism. Co-responsibility means that one accepts responsibility for one's country. This was not aliens from another planet landing for the first time on Earth and attacking the World Trade Center, so "out of the blue" is a completely inappropriate statement. Al Qaeda had more than a decade of interactions with the united $tates going back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the I$raeli-U.$. invasion of Lebanon in 1982. MIM has argued that those ignorant enough to think the 9/11 attack was "out of the blue" thereby forfeit a right to indignation and also a say. No one has the right to be ignorant enough to threaten someone else's life, whether through transmission of HIV or oil politics.
So although we can imagine the possibility of a U.$. patriotism aimed against Zionism, theoretically, and we accept the concept of co- responsibility, we balk at drawing the line against Zionism in this context. The fact of the matter is that Amerikans have their own Amerikan reasons for avoidance of political knowledge. It goes much deeper than just the disproportionate influence of junior U.$. allies like I$rael. In the superstructure, we have "American Idol," Paris Hilton and Britney Spears keeping people busy. More importantly, the Amerikan strategy of stability is the formation of a labor aristocracy and gender aristocracy. They were already in formation and making major contributions to U.$. politics before there was an I$rael. These social props make any need for Zionist control of the media superfluous. The Amerikan zoned out on his Ipod without a clue about U.$. interactions with the Arab and Muslim world before 9/11 is in his own way beyond Zionist control also. If Zionists succeed in awakening political interest among the apolitical with sharpened polemics there is nothing saying that would not awaken a Jeffersonian patriotism. Disentangling Zionism and Amerikan patriotism is not as easy as some would make out, because the class and land bases of both are so similar. To avoid co-optation by warmongering environment- destroyers, MIM never casually uses the words "patriotism," "liberty" and "freedom." The neo-conservatives use these words on behalf of a global minority against a global majority's interests.
Chomsky, Noam. 2003. Middle East Illusions. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Hitchens, Christopher. 2006. Thomas Paine's Rights of Man. NY: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Lee, Jongsoo trans. 2000. The Autobiography of Kim Ku. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Podhoretz, Norman. 2007. World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism. NY: Doubleday.
Republic of Korea, Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths. 2004. A Hard Journey to Justice. Seoul: Samin Books.
Sharansky, Natan. 2006. The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror. NY: Public Affairs.