Grand Strategy in the Age of Mass Destruction

In Defense of Diana West

By J.R. Nyquist

Commentary for 27 April 2014


There is great confusion in our political discourse today. “Former” Communists in Russia are sounding more and more like conservatives. The same might be said of “former” Communists in the United States. Everyone talks a good anti-Communist line. After all, Communism is dead, and only exists (we are told) as an artifact of college life. Most people are focused on Global Warming, multiculturalism or homosexual rights. Nobody seems to notice that Global Warming, multiculturalism and homosexual rights are artifacts of the supposedly “dead” religion (some of whose acolytes have become “conservatives”). Well, there are a few of us – a small minority – who see what is happening. As a member of this minority I feel as if a cold wilderness has swallowed me up. I do not feel represented by the big foundations, or the conservative “smart set.” And so, when Diana West’s American Betrayal was published, and received favorable attention, I was excited and hopeful. But then, predictably, the celebrity pundits of the alternative Left (i.e., the Republican Right) began to attack Wests book, starting with David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh. There had to be, in the greater scheme of things, an attempt to kill the book. It was getting too much attention, and God knows what would have happened if somebody had not intervened.

It all began when Mr. Horowitz removed a positive review of West’s book from his Frontpage website, replacing it with a negative review by Ronald Radosh, titled McCarthy On Steroids. Baring his fangs, Radosh proved to be the Alternative Left’s junkyard dog. He alleged that West’s book was full of “yellow journalism conspiracy theories.” He described Mrs. West as Joseph McCarthy’s “heiress” and attacked her scholarship. It was, in fact, no review at all. It was a dishonest, poorly devised, hit-piece. Little wonder that Radosh was rhetorically impaled for his review of Blacklisted by History when historian M. Stanton Evans commented on Radosh’s “extensive” lack of knowledge “made the worse by the strange inventions with which the discourse [was] salted.” Evans wondered how such an egregious poseur could set up shop as an “Olympian arbiter” when he knew so little about the topic (the same topic Radosh's ignorance deployed in attacking Mrs. West). Evans mused, “It is quite a puzzle.”

Here, indeed, we approach a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Here we have, from the website of a famous “conservative” (and former Marxist) pundit, a studied misrepresentation of a tremendously important book – a book that can open people’s eyes to the historical roots of our present malaise. Although the snarling poseur has been exposed as a drooling incompetent, there has been no apology or backtracking on the part of Mr. Horowitz. When offered a chance to moderate his position, Horowitz dug himself into a deeper hole. During a question and answer session at the Heritage Foundation, Horowitz was challenged on this issue by Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Below is a brief transcript of the exchange:

Sebastian Gorka: I’m with the FDD Foundation for Defense of Democracies. My father was put in prison for life by the Communists … and I like this idea that they [the Communists] lost in the 1960s but they won by stealth since then. From your presentation it seems clear that we are in a very small minority in terms of understanding the deep story. Maybe people are disturbed getting thrown off their health care … but to understand the backstory to where we are today, there are very few of us. Given your reputation in what you’ve accomplished, and the ten volumes of articles, it would seem very lacking in strategy to attack those on your own side. Can you talk about why you’ve taken somebody whose written what I think, as a Ph.D. who teaches at university, a historically important book such as [American Betrayal] and divided the Right yet again. If you have issues with Diana West’s technical expertise, then take her to task on that; but ad hominem attacks that destroy the unity of our camp will not make us stronger in 2016.

David Horowitz: … I am a very busy person … so I don’t monitor Frontpage…. An article appeared that was a review of Diana West’s book American Betrayal. It was an endorsement. I knew it was going to be read … as an endorsement from me. I looked at the book, actually Ron Radosh called me and alerted me … so I got the book off Kindle and I began reading it, and in my judgment it is a very very bad book and I see it as a threat to everything I have done, and Radosh has done, and … all the conservatives who have dredged up the information from the archives about Communist influence. But I don’t attack people on the Right. [So] I removed the review…. This book is a complete reinterpretation of the Second World War based on the presence of Soviet agents and Communists … and sympathizers, fellow travelers in the Roosevelt administration. And to inform Diana that I removed the review, because I didn’t want to be seen endorsing it, that if she needed to reply she could have as much space as she wanted. I actually had in mind … to have her debate Radosh. I’m a great believer in intellectual debate and dialogue. She rejected the offer and went on the attack. She called me a totalitarian, a commissar and a book-burner. So if you have a problem with this so-called ‘war,’ the war is all coming from her end….

If you remember anything from this controversy, at least remember Horowitz’s words: “But I don’t attack people on the Right.”  How, then, does he explain publishing an all-out assault on Mrs. West’s reputation. He has personally said that Mrs. West’s scholarship is sloppy, that her book should never have been written. He called it “a very very bad book.” Everyone recognizes, as a matter of necessity, that people are obliged to defend themselves. And why, then, should Mrs. West be obliged – according to Mr. Horowitz’s insinuation – to defend her reputation on his website, on his terms? What egomaniac attacks a person’s integrity, blackens their reputation, dismisses their work, and expects them to produce a reply which will bring more readers and publicity to themselves? Naturally she could not accept Horowitz’s invitation to reply on frontpage. Furthermore, we have eyes to read the ungallant review of Mr. Radosh, the unscholarly poseur who fired the first shot in the so-called “war.” (In my view, this “war” was nothing but a bungled mugging in which the mugger was seriously injured by blows from the victim’s purse.) Even more egregious, the Radosh review was not written in the style of a gentleman; rather, it was a parade of gratuitous insults peppered with more than twenty falsehoods (as documented in Mrs. West’s reply, available on Amazon as The Rebuttal: Defending ‘American Betrayal’ From the Book-Burners).  As for Diana West’s alleged ad hominem reply to Mr. Horowitz – if it has a snout and it oinks, the cognomen “pig” is not an ad hominem. It was perfectly reasonable for Mrs. West to satirize her assailants as metaphorical book-burners and totalitarians; for they used Communist rhetorical techniques to cover the tracks of Communist subversives – and to cover their own tracks. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Radosh are anti-Communists. It doesn’t matter what kind of Communists they are. It is strategy that counts, and strategy is how we should judge them. In the above-quoted exchange, Dr. Sebastian Gorka suggested that Horowitz was lacking in strategy because he was obstinately dividing an already attenuated anti-Left minority by attacking Mrs. West. We all know that Mr. Horowitz is not an idiot. If he did not intend to divide the enfeebled cadre, then why did he attack the lady’s book? Well, we can go back to the idea that he is an idiot, but let’s play the Devil’s Advocate for a few paragraphs. If the attack on West was done innocently, without any intention to divide the conservative Right, why was it done with so little regard for the truth? Aha! There is the telling point. The words of M. Stanton Evans, and the rebuttal of Mrs. West, reveal one invention after another by Professor Radosh, one blatant falsification after another endorsed by Mr. Horowitz. Anyone can click on the links above, go to the source material, and read.

Continuing to play the Devil’s Advocate, I now appeal to the political algebra of Soviet strategy and Communist subversion. The Communists always infiltrate their opposition. They always try to take over their enemy’s camp from the inside. Quite naturally, they long ago targeted conservative groups in America for takeover. Anyone who thinks this isn’t done can check with the history books. It is always done. To sabotage or mislead one’s opposition, to divide and conquer an enemy, to divert and diffuse a dangerous counter-movement, the Communists always send infiltrators. As recounted in Mrs. West’s book, the truth-tellers about this infiltration are among the first and chief victims of the misinformation spread by the infiltrators themselves. According to West, “[History] shows how … waves of misinformation wash away the facts, leaving behind a false trail of debris and doubt.”  Now we must ask ourselves in this present controversy: Who is leaving behind a false trail of debris and doubt? Here we have conscious, wilful, repetitive lying about the most important anti-Communist book of our time. The lies have been documented by Mrs. West and have been attested to by Mr. Evans. Like I said before, anyone can check the facts. But here’s how Communist strategy works: What the Communists have always counted on is people’s laziness. They know that editors and book reviewers will not check the facts. They know that everybody is too busy. They expect the false trail of debris and doubt to erode the victim’s position over time. In the last analysis, the only thing we will remember is that McCarthy was wicked, and Diana West was his “heiress.”

There is no middle ground here. To attack without honor might be excused as a momentary lapse. To repeat the attack, time and again, is not a lapse. It is a policy. And when that policy matches the usage of the enemy, and conforms to the enemy’s strategic requirements, then you know who is ultimately behind it. It is not, in fact, a lack of strategy. It is strategy. Consider the way in which Horowitz blames the victim of his own aggression. Consider how he answers Sebastian Gorka on the subject of “dividing” the Right. In effect, Horowitz says, “I didn’t divide the right. She did.” Horowitz attempts to skewer Diana West, and when she defends her position he blames her for starting a “war.”

To be sure, the lazy readers and haphazard listeners won’t remember who started the war.  Perhaps they will blame both sides, which is perfectly acceptable if your strategy is to “divide and conquer” the Right. If you throw enough mud, something eventually sticks. The facts, the footnotes – they are irrelevant for the purposes at hand. All that needs to be said, from here on out, is that American Betrayal was “a very very bad book.” It was also, according to Horowitz, “a threat to everything that I’ve done, and that Radosh has done, and that Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes … etc., etc.” Don’t get lost in the weeds, advises Horowitz. Don’t concern yourself with scholarly proof. Listen to the Olympian arbiter. Listen to the smear, the ad hominem attack, repeated until the conservative pot boils over. Soon every wannabe pundit will repeat the mantra. Here is the new architecture of what West called “the echo chamber of Communist apologetics.” Only now it is a “conservative” echo chamber, with Vladimir Putin as one of the “conservative” echoes.

West asks, “Who stole history?” As the Devil’s Advocate, I ask, “Who stole conservatism?” And who betrayed America? “The phrase ‘betrayal of the nation’ has an archaic quality to most of us,” wrote West, “the word ‘betrayal’ itself is an act of exaggeration somehow inappropriate to any set of circumstances….” And so, when the conservative movement is betrayed and divided by doubt and acrimony, what does Mr. Horowitz say? She started it! And besides, he assures us:  “I don’t attack people on the Right.” Of course you do, Mr. Horowitz. And here you are caught red-handed. But then, it doesn’t matter because thieves are in charge of everything, and liars have become the guardians of truth. They have the big names. They have the money. To call this a “betrayal” is, they aver, a gross exaggeration. There are no betrayals. There are only “disagreements.” Snowden disagreed with the NSA. That is all. Alger Hiss merely disagreed with Whittaker Chambers. Don’t we believe in healthy debate? After all, it’s a free country (for a little while longer). But in all of this we have deprived ourselves of the word “betrayal” by previously eliminating from our lexicon the corollary words “traitor” and “enemy.” Perhaps one day all conservatives will learn, as Mrs. West has learned, that when you are directly attacked by a David Horowitz there is no mistaking what has occurred.  Cold, hard, implacable enmity is at work. Once war is declared, friendly commerce is at an end. Other people might say, “Oh, it’s just a misunderstanding. It’s a simple disagreement.” Even if they pretend to be conservatives, Christians, democrats – the attackers reveals themselves as enemies whose game now consists of further pretense. They pretend to be capitalists and Christians, democrats and freedom-lovers. They pretend to have a debate. They pretend to be scholars.  

As David Horowitz said, “I am solely responsible for the decision to remove the positive review of [Diana West’s] book that originally appeared on FrontPage on which she builds her anti-FrontPage case.” The misdirection lodged in that sentence is a curious construction. Diana West builds nothing on the mere removal of a positive review. An artist of rhetorical misdirection, Horowitz points away from Radosh’s outrageous misadventure. He points, instead, to an innocent act of “removal.” In doing this he piles confusion upon confusion. Facts may be thrown out, and false reasons predigested, if only to stupefy and degrade the listener.  Sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, the reader’s mind grows numb; reality appears fluid. Take a nap. Watch a sitcom. Forget the details.

There is an important strategic lesson here. Honest language is precious. It makes unity and agreement possible between men and women of good will. But the enemy of unity and agreement puts words to an entirely different use. The sower of confusion, the literary murderer, uses words as weapons. In a GatesOfVienna thread, Marten Gantelius made a fascinating comment, “I didn’t have to read very much of the review of Mr. Radosh to conclude that Ms. West’s book is a very important and competent work.” The reason for this, Gantelius’s explains, is that he has been a professional analyst of language for many years. “Before I regard the context of a text,” he continued, “I look for what I call ‘The Language of Violence’ in the text and watch the methods used.” Gantelius detected this “Language of Violence” and aptly says, “Mr. Radosh used all his power, knowledge, experience and contacts with one single purpose – to behead Ms. West.”

Using the “Language of Violence,” the Communist seeks to divide and conquer. He divides black from white, poor from rich, woman from man, child from parent, etc. “Marxism-Leninism is more powerful than a machine gun,” said Mao Zedong. Marxism-Leninism was and is a lethal cocktail of lies, distortions, and misdirection. It is the raw stuff of totalitarianism. Again, in regarding Mrs. West’s polemic against Mr. Horowitz – if it has a snout and it oinks, the cognomen “pig” is not an ad hominem.

Having read American Betrayal, having interviewed Diana West prior to the controversy (listen here), I was taken aback by Horowitz and Radosh’s wickedness. If you remember anything from this controversy, as I said before, at least remember Horowitz’s words: “But I don’t attack people on the Right.”  This only serves to illustrate Mr. Horowitz’s systematic dishonesty. There is no excusing it. There is no mitigating it. There is no explaining it away.

I am not an expert in Gantelius’s “Language of Violence,” but I am schooled in strategy. I know how to detect a lie, a subterfuge, or a dishonest rhetorical trick. Keep in mind that this is a woman’s reputation at stake. It is her work, her livelihood, her value as a thinker and researcher that has been impugned. So let me provide an example of rhetorical trickery from Radosh’s take-down piece, where he alleges that West used a bogus anecdote concerning George Elsey who “found confidential files in the [White House] Map Room that showed FDR naively thinking he could trust Stalin….” Radosh wrote, “[West] believes that this was a smoking gun proving that FDR was ‘making common cause with the NKVD.’” Radosh then proceeded to correct West’s alleged mischaracterization of FDR. In doing this, he supposedly exposed West’s scholarly incompetence, which he claimed to be “groundless or worse.”

West challenged this allegation, saying that the George Elsey anecdote “wasn’t in my book.” To double check, West performed a search of an electronic version of her text, and couldn’t find the anecdote anywhere (see If FrontPage Lies about This, They’ll Lie about Anything). Brazenly offering a counter-challenge, Radosh responded in a FrontPage piece titled Diana West’s Attempt to Respond.  “Maybe she couldn’t find the anecdote,” he blustered. “But it is there in three different places where she writes how FDR told Hopkins to go into Molotov’s bedroom while he was staying in the White House so that he could meet with the President….”  Radosh then proceeded to list three pages – p. 129, p. 268 and p. 296. But then Radosh made a bizarre and confusing admission: “She [West] missed [the three pages cited] because of a trivial error [I made] which was to associate the anecdote … with the anecdote about [Elsey].”

So Radosh, having made a mistake about the Elsey anecdote, amplified his charge to include three pages. So I opened West’s book to page 129 and found no mention of Molotov’s bedroom. I next turned to page 268 and, again, there is nothing. Next I turned to page 296 and, once again, cannot find the alleged scholarly blunder. As West herself explained, “The anecdote [about George Elsey or Molotov’s bedroom] is not in my book – not once, not three times.” And I will testify to the reader, at this juncture, that Radosh’s unscholarly pratfalls occur and reoccur throughout. Study the texts and you will see what Radosh has done, and what Mr. Horowitz has endorsed. The whole affair, in fact, discredits West’s attackers, whose malicious bungling is as disgraceful as it is contemptible. The whole affair also discredits those “brave” scholars and editors who, fearing the mark of Caine which Mrs. West has been branded with, now steer clear of her book, refusing to take sides on what turns out to be a pivotal controversy.

And why is it pivotal?

To paraphrase (or quote in part) West’s own book (p. 178), the spectacle … is “itself corrupting, initiating, or perhaps, consolidating, a far more profound revolution than the nuts-and-bolts” argument over scholarship. For Horowitz and Radosh the truth has already been relegated to unimportance. The objective is to dupe the reader.  Inept arguments are passed off as “decisive.” History is mangled. Here, our toothless anti-Communists spread confusion and doubt on every side. Their polemic proves, if anything, that they belong to the Left. To make room for these monsters, the conservative movement “has to surrender the terra firma of objective morality and reality-based judgment.” This is what they have wrung from the conservative establishment, and what they will continue to wring from it; it is an obvious policy, as I have said. An ersatz “conservative” emperor has usurped the seat of judgment. He has given the thumbs-down on Diana West. The “book should never have been written,” says Emperor Horowitz. “It is a very very bad book.” It is the same verdict pronounced against Senator Joseph McCarthy by “the kangaroo court of elite opinion.” For this to be possible, objective truth and intellectual integrity had to die in America. Without this death, common decency could never have been neutralized. And look who is neutralizing it now.

Unlike her critics, Diana West does not dwell in the intellectual jail-house of the careerist who bows and scrapes. But Horowitz, on his side, has moved from one ideological confinement to another. The prisoner guards the ground of his respectability with an eye to the prevailing Center-Right groupthink (which he, God-like, hopes to mold). His moral pose is a fraud. He is too busy playing the game, advancing his career, to sit quietly with questions, thinking and rethinking. He is too busy to discover what Diana West found; namely, “An unnoticed, unimagined crime of Communist penetration and therefore influence … on the formation of America’s shining moment on this world stage.” And that shining moment was World War II.  

Early in her book, West asks why the “bastions of Western civilization” have been breached. These bastions include Christianity, patriarchy, family, “and all the safeguards of nationhood and traditional culture.” While tracing the ideas that have undermined these bastions she found their origin in a common endgame.” Of course, it was “the endgame of the defunct USSR….” Mrs. West is one of the most important writers on the strategic and moral consequences of Communist penetration of the U.S. Government. Her book is full of insights, factual corroboration, and psychological nuance. As anyone can see, her critics predicate themselves on a tissue of misrepresentations, supplemented with preposterous analysis, diversionary references, and irrelevant digressions.

There is great confusion in our political discourse today. “Former” Communists in Russia are sounding more and more like conservatives. The same might be said of “former” Communists in the United States. Everyone talks a good anti-Communist line. But sometimes, “good talk” is laced with poison.