January 26, 2005


DAILY EXPRESS: Future Perfect (Jeffrey Herf, TNR.com, 1/25/05)

Testifying before Congress last week, Condoleezza Rice gave little indication that she grasps the central challenge of the next four years: restoring American credibility in the war of ideas against totalitarian Islam with a new era of candor, acknowledgment of past errors, and clear signs of having learned from them.
That is the first sentence of this essay, and obviously I stopped reading right there. Skimming down, though, I see that it is an exquisite examplar of its type, complete right down to the obligatory citations to Hegel, Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the pointless slap at religion and the non-ironic use of the word "teleological." One is at first tempted to take away points for recognizing the evil of Soviet communism, but, no, this recognition comes only in the course of implicitly likening the Bush administration to the Stalin administration. Extra points are awarded for the sheer lack of insight, especially in context, of this sentence: "If the Soviet regime had been a democracy, Joseph Stalin would have been quickly ousted from office, just as Neville Chamberlain was defeated following the failure of his appeasement policy."

Ignorance this invincible can only be the work of a professional and, indeed, "Jeffrey Herf is professor of modern European history at the University of Maryland."

Posted by David Cohen at January 26, 2005 9:54 AM

Only a history professor would utilize Stalin and Chamberlain in a hypothetical comparison.

What drivel.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 26, 2005 10:29 AM

Who even knew the war against totalitarianism lacked credibility? Academics don't seem to be cranking out books attacking FDR and Truman, do they?

Posted by: oj at January 26, 2005 10:30 AM

Apparently, given our abject failure in Iraq, Professor Herf is tempted by the vital energy and new ideas of totalitarian Islam, or at least worries that them foreigners might be.

By the way, nothing makes me feel more confident about Iraq and the elections than the way the left -- including those reverse bell-weathers, Teddy Kennedy, Barbara Boxer and Robert Byrd (have they ever jumped on a band wagon that didn't promptly collapse?) -- now feels free to take it as a given that the war is lost.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 26, 2005 10:43 AM


The Wife and I were discussing that this morning--who told these nitwits that five days before the election was a good time to talk about a failed policy?

Posted by: oj at January 26, 2005 10:46 AM

Rest assured Ted Kennedy, etal, will regret what they are doing. They are turning off all but the hard left. That'll cost them in the long run.

Posted by: Tom Wall at January 26, 2005 10:54 AM

It's the Tom Dachle brand of politics, timing is everything!

Posted by: Sandy P at January 26, 2005 11:00 AM

Chamberlain lost the confidence of the House of Commons and resigned. He did not lose an election. It was strictly a function of the parlimentary system.

Good thing for FDR that Herf was not around in 1942 after we got our butt kicked for 6 months in the Pacific. Isn't FDR a New Republic hero?

Posted by: Bob at January 26, 2005 11:12 AM

Bob: It wasn't even that. The niceties of the parlimentary procedure escape me, but as I understand it, parliment was debating the failed Norway Campaign. The government moved to adjourn debate. About 80 conservative MP's abstained, and 30 (?) crossed the aisle to vote against the government. The government still won the debate, but the message was that Chamberlain had to go and he resigned a few days later.

I'm pretty sure that he was still pretty popular in the country.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 26, 2005 11:25 AM

And now that I've reread your comment, I see that you weren't really saying anything different.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 26, 2005 11:26 AM

I find Professor Nerfball's counter-factual a bit of a stumper. If the Soviet regime had been a democracy, it probably wouldn't have overthrown the Kerensky government that succeeded the Romanovs.

Posted by: Axel Kassel at January 26, 2005 11:49 AM

Another example of an intellectual which has been educated beyond its intellegence.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 26, 2005 12:08 PM

But Stalin's regime was a democracy, weren't they allowed to vote?

No lie, I've run across some in the blogosphere who made the argument if a citizenry votes, then it is a democracy.

I pointed out that Castro, Saddam, the mullahs an the USSR would have been considered democracies.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 26, 2005 12:16 PM

Note that he is quite capable of seeing the evil of Stalin's regime.

I have no doubt he and others like him will equally see the evil of Hussien's regime.... as they comfortably write in the year 2057.

What is needed, of course, is for Herf et al to see it NOW, when it must be confronted, rather than later when a mere beard-stroking is all that is required. This, of course, they are incapable of doing, much less actually joining the fight.

But they will have opposed the totalitarians all along of course, when nothing but their pride is at stake.

Posted by: Andrew X at January 26, 2005 12:30 PM

Andrew: There is no doubt that, 50 years from now, the left will be contrasting whatever wild, extreme, war-mongering, unnecessary crusade into which the far-right is dragging the country (suppressing the Mars rebellion?) with the bi-partisan support earned by wise, sober and measured President Bush in the fight against terrorism.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 26, 2005 1:06 PM

David -

To quote the master....


Posted by: Andrew X at January 26, 2005 2:19 PM

I, too, have been amazed to see a general sense of despondency prevail just at the point when the greatest success is about to be accomplished: free elections.

Since the MSM is apparently blindfolded, shouldn't we hand over a cigarette and shoot it?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 26, 2005 3:06 PM

"Ignorance this invincible..."

What a wonderful phrase. Should be the title of your next book!

Thanks for the laughs and insights-

Posted by: Doug Anderson at January 26, 2005 8:22 PM

Tom Wall: "That'll cost them in the long run."

They already lost the election. What else does Teddy have to loose? Chastity? Sobriety? Youth? Innocence?

No these guys are just amazing me.

If I were in their position, I might hunker down and try to figure out what I had done wrong the last four years to produce such negative electoral results. I would spend the first months of the new administration watching and waiting. Communicating with the grassroots and the folks back home to see which way is the best road out of the valley.

Instead, they seem to have reached the conclusion that the margin between them and the Republicans has been narrowing since 1994 and all they need to do is stay focused and stay on message to get over the top.

Amazing, Just Amazing.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 26, 2005 9:46 PM

"Invincible ignorance"

Add in aggressive stupidity, and you've got 99% of the comments posted to SlashDot.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 26, 2005 10:35 PM