Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bad Reviews

If Peter Beinart's bitch slap of Norman Podhoretz's new book "World War IV" -- "Podhoretz, for whom “World War IV” is largely an excuse to insult his old foes on the left and titillate himself with fantasies of civic violence..." -- left you thirsty for more blood, get thee to Ian Buruma's meticulous analysis of the book wherein he almost effortlessly goes after arguments Podhoretz expects his readers to take seriously:

Both Podhoretz and Paul Berman, for example, see Abraham Lincoln as the father of their revolutionary idealism. In Podhoretz's view, "it was Abraham Lincoln—the greatest Republican of them all, and the greatest of all American presidents—whose spirit hovered most brightly over the face of the Bush Doctrine's universalist assumptions." In a similar vein Berman, in his book Terror and Liberalism, claims Lincoln as the proponent of a worldwide democratic revolution. This tradition, in his view, distinguishes Americans from the "Europeans," who "cannot accept the notion of liberal democracy as a revolutionary project for universal liberation."

Lincoln did indeed believe that all men deserved to be free, and the US should be a shining example to the world, but he was far from being a Napoleonic or Che Guevara–like figure who would use force to impose his vision abroad. This romantic idea of America as the universal liberator comes much closer to the Manifest Destiny described by the belligerent Democrat John L. O'Sullivan in 1839:

For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field.

This is how the Mexican War was justified. Lincoln opposed it.

Podhoretz's book is being released on September 11th. There will be more savagery in the weeks to follow.

[via AS]

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