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Frontpage's Christmas Reading By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Frontpage’s contributors and friends share what they’re reading this Christmas season – and what they recommend for our readers:

David Horowitz, Frontpage’s founder and editor-in-chief. His most recent books are The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics and Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.

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Basic texts for understanding the war on terror:

Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. 

Nonie Darwish's Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror. 

Efraim Karsh's Islamic Imperialism: A History. 

And Rober Spencer's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.

Wonderful fiction: Jonathan Foer's Everything Is Illuminated.

Ilario Pentano's Warlord.

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Bud Day, a Vietnam POW (1967-1973), he is the most highly decorated military officer since Gen Douglas MacArthur. He holds some seventy decorations and awards, including every significant combat award. Along with his cellmate James Stockdale, he received the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford in 1976.

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I recommend Dr. Lewis Sorley's A Better War. It's about how the leftwing politicians sold us out in Vietnam.

Also Georges Sada's Saddam's Secrets.  This is an eye popper.

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Dinesh D'Souza, the Robert and Karen Rishwain Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of the New York Times best-seller Illiberal Education (1991) and The End of Racism (1995). His recent works include What's So Great about America (Regnery, 2002).

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A new book: The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11: A timely, original and provocative book about the folks who laid the groundwork of 9/11 and are now waging "the war against the war on terror."  The book is written by a fellow who has the same name as me.  It's out January 15, 2007 but you can pre-order on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
 
Harry Jaffa's A New Birth of Freedom.  The long-awaited (and I mean really long-awaited: it took half a century) sequel to Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided, this book continues Jaffa's study of Lincoln's statesmanship.  I predict the two books together will become classics.
 
Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self.  If you want to explore the roots of our modern identity and discover how the ancient idea of the "soul" has now become the idea of the "self," read philosopher Charles Taylor's magisterial survey.  Taylor's politics are liberal but his philosophy is conservative. 

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James Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993-95 and a former Navy undersecretary and arms-control negotiator.

 

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Efraim Karsh's Islamic Imperialism a straightforward and thoughtful history of Islamic imperialism from the beginning: major evidence that we in the West didn't cause it and aren't causing it now.

 

Mark Steyn's America Alone, is it possible to shudder and guffaw at the same time? The only author who can make the demographically-driven emergence of Eurabia both frightening and funny.


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David Evanier, both a novelist and a journalist. He is the author of Red Love, The One-Star Jew, The Swinging Headhunter, Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, and Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story. He is co-author with Joe Pantoliano of Who's Sorry Now. He is a former fiction editor of The Paris Review, assistant editor of The New Leader, assistant editor of Hadassah Magazine, writer for the civil rights and research division of the Anti-Defamation League, and a contributor to Commentary, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The American Enterprise. He is the author of the new novel-in-stories, The Great Kisser.

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As far as I'm concerned, whether a book is fiction or non-fiction, what counts most is that the words spring up from the page powerfully. These are among the recent books that succeed in this critical way:

Fiction and Poetry:

Stephen Dixon: End of I. Short stories. There really is such a thing as being both relatively unknown and a great writer. Dixon, after 23 books, remains in this category. His beautiful work is on the level of Philip Roth, but more open, honest, warm and introspective. He is a powerhouse.

Steven Schrader: What We Deserved. Wonderfully rendered interconnected short stories, straight from the gut, that are very funny, original and heart-breaking at once. A lifetime is encompassed in these short, compressed, beautifully wrought chapters. One of the best fiction books of the year.

Stuart Dybek: I Sailed with Magellan.
Stories. Dybek is one of the best fiction writers in the country. He writes with depth and precision sketching out the milieu of the Chicago Polish working class community. This is unforgettable work, sketching out the turf he knows well and making it as universal as Sherwood Anderson, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky.

Budd Schulberg: What Makes Sammy Run. Novel. I went back to this protoypical portrait of a Hollywood con man and it remains fresh as a daisy and impossible to put down.

Charles Bukowski: South Of No North. Stories. Characteristic Bukowski: skid row boarding houses, drinking bouts, lowlifes of all sorts, hookers and vengeful landladies, the sordid lay of the land. Absolutely compelling and funny, sad, bleak, uproarious.

Amanda Stern: The Long Haul. Novel. Terrific contemporary tale of a disintegrating young couple on the road, the boy an alcoholic. Stern is a ticking time bomb of a writer: the book explodes with intensity, feeling and vividness.

Jiri Weil: Life With a Star. Novel. Philip Roth rescued this classic of a book from obscurity by including it in his "Writers from Eastern Europe" series. Weil writes of the Nazi occupation of Prague in a very specific, lyrical and ironic style. The relentless small horrors of each day of hiding are offset at the end by the protagonist's decision to join the resistance. There is a contemporary school of American writers trying ever so hard to imagine and recreate the Holocaust without any experience of it. Here is the real thing, rendered magnificently and ending with a plausible shred of hope.

Non-Fiction:

Richard Gid Powers: Broken. Powers is the most knowledgeable and gifted historian of the FBI, and here he presents the full history of the bureau and explains the origins of its failures on 9/11. Intricately balanced and nuanced.

Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh: Red Star Over Hollywood. The Radoshes present a measured,  penetrating and objective historical view of Hollywood's long romance with the Communist Party and the Left.

Norman Podhoretz: The Norman Podhoretz Reader. Since everything by Podhoretz is indispensable, it's valuable to have this selection of some of his best work, both political and literary. "My Negro Problem-And Ours" is here, as is "Israel--With Grandchildren,"
his argument against the Israel Left's undermining of the country's capacity for survival. There are shrewd assessments of Philip Roth, Twain, Ralph Ellison, Solzhenitzyn, Nabokov and Kundera, and a tough appraisal of Saul Bellow. The combination of the personal and political, and his incomparable ability at synthesis, are among the remarkable facets of Podhoretz, but they are only some of his many gifts. You will have to go from this book to also read "Ex-Friends" and "My Love Affair With America."

John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001, and John Simon on Theater: Criticism 1974-2005. Since Simon was unceremoniously dumped from New York Magazine and resigned from National Review, except for Terry Teachout on theater, there has been a huge void in theater and film criticism. Like great old friends when they're gone, we appreciate Simon even more now. He is simply irreplaceable. He was almost always right about everything, he wrote incisively, and he gave the right reasons for his evaluations and always proved his case. He never sounds stale. These two books provide a precious road map to what has been invaluable and what has been egregious in film and theater over the years.

Also, some new and old favorites I've visited and revisited: 

Elia Kazan's autobiographical masterpiece, A Life.

David Horowitz's brilliant The Professors and enduring memoir, Radical Son. 

Bill Buckley's resonant Miles Gone By.

Adam Rapp's great new play, Red Light Winter.

Jonathan Rosen's novel, Joy Comes In the Morning.

Brian Moore's early novel, Luck of Ginger Coffey.

Billy Lombardo's fine Italian-American stories, The Logic of a Rose.

Peter Duffy's The Bielski Brothers, an account of three brothers who outwitted the Nazis, establishing a base camp, a "Jerusalem in the Woods" with a synagogue, a bathhouse and a theater in the dense forests surrounding the Belorussian towns of Novogrudek and Lida.

And the great poet Harvey Shapiro's culminating work of a lifetime, The Sights Along the Harbor. The words spring up powerfully in every single one of these works. They will all last.

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Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, former acting chief of Communist Romania’s espionage service, is the highest ranking official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc. He is  author of Red Horizons, republished in 27 countries. In 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were executed at the end of a trial where most of the accusations had come word-for-word out of Pacepa's book.

 

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The Iraq Study Group Report (Vintage House, 2006) is my most favorite Christmas book. It pioneers the revolutionary concept of war conducted by committee. During the pre-historic era of WWII, when our armed forces were led by their commander-in-chief and his generals, United States policy adhered to the obsolete principle of demanding the enemy’s unconditional surrender. This new book introduces the radical new policy of “peace in our time by any means,” including our own surrender.

 

During WWII, 405,399 Americans died, but their stubborn country still wasted seven more years in a selfish effort to democratize Nazism and civilize Japan. Some dare to pretend that this extended endeavor made America the most influential power on earth. That was then, says the new book. Passé. In today’s world, the democratization of Iraq should be entrusted to America’s greatest “allies”: Iran and Syria. Iraqi president Jalai Talibani said: “We can smell in it the attitude of James Baker.” It seems that, for some obscure reason, Talibani is still unhappy over the 1991 recommendation made by then Secretary of State James Baker that the U.S. trust Saddam Hussein’s generals and sign a gentlemanly cease-fire agreement with them.

 

Just one year before that, my native country of Romania was also cavalierly handled by that same secretary of state. In December 1989 a bunch of Moscow-educated Communists had tried to steal the Romanian rebellion by appealing to Moscow to dispatch troops to Romania, alleging that foreign terrorists had already killed over 60,000 people. Secretary Baker publicly supported the appeal to Moscow. Mr. Baker was undoubtedly disappointed that the Romanians were smart enough to take matters into their own hands and get rid of Ceausescu, with the result that Romania is now part of NATO instead of belonging to the Russian Federation.

 

The Iraq Study Group Report is an epitaph to the war as we have come to know it. It is a must read for anyone who has not yet understood that if we just make nice with primitive terrorists, then they’ll be nice to us.

 

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Mustafa Akyol, a Muslim journalist and author from Istanbul, Turkey. He has written extensively in the Turkish and international press, including many American publications, about Islam and the current Muslim world. His writings are available at www.thewhitepath.com.

 

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I have two suggestions. One is A History of God by Karen Armstrong. It is a classic, from my point of view, which shows the extremely complex history of monotheism, and reveals how different monotheist traditions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, had similar experiences throughout history.


A second suggestion is about the plausibility of the idea of God in the first place. I, as a Muslim, believe in God, of course, but also am think that this is not mere belief, but a conviction based on evidence, such as the design and meaningfulness of the material world. Hence I suggest the new and beautiful book by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World: How the Arts And Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.
 
And Merry Christmas to all.
 
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Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, a journalist and novelist, and the author of 21 books, including the recent Never Quit the Fight, as well as two collections of Christmas stories written under the pen name "Owen Parry," Our Simple Gifts and Strike The Harp!

 

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Christmas is always the high point of the year in the Peters household and, on the literary side, combines stuff-I-feel-like-reading with family traditions clutched closely to the heart.  Typically American, my wife and I descend from an uproarious confusion of sentimental, foot-stomping Germans, all-too-sober Welsh Methodists, craggy Scots refugees from the Clearances and centuries of cultural miscegenation between Celts and Anglo-Saxons--which means there are few Christmas traditions we can't claim (right back to the Christian copyright violation of the pagan Yule log).  So we've got Jesus, the Winter Solstice and no end of ceremonies whose origins lie hidden in the mists of northern Europe.

 

But there are always books: books one finally makes time to read, books given as gifts and books received, books dusted off specifically for the season...and, at the culmination of the holiday, the Good Book.

 
On the lay side, I'm reading the new one-volume history of the Crusades, God's War by Christopher Tyerman.  While the author lacks Runciman's grace and, unfortunately, shares the doctrinaire academic's disdain for narrative thrust, the book remains well worth reading for its superb research and sound judgments.  Given the times in which we live, I find this book far more relevant than yet another journalist's instant history of Iraq.  Next, I hope to read A History of the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch, a critique of the long, grim impact of the Book of Revelation (an awful, unChristian text distinctly at odds with the Gospels).  Uneasy holiday reading, I'll admit.
 
But it's the true holiday reading that matters.  Every few years I re-read John O'Hara's splendid first novel, Appointment in Samarra.  The middle-class twin of The Great Gatsby, this bafflingly underrated tale takes place over Christmas in "Gibbsville" (really Pottsville, Pa., the town in which O'Hara and I were born) and pulls off a stunning end-of-the-Roaring-Twenties take on Greek tragedy, complete with unity of time, place and action.  A wonderful novel, if not exactly offering comfort and joy.
 
Then I re-read some of the old German Christmas stories, re-visiting different ones each year.  My enduring favorite is Unter Dem Tannenbaum by Theodor Storm.  No other work of which I know captures the Heimweh of the season so wonderfully and forgivingly.
 
Christmas Eve is, enduringly, the time of wonder, the hours in which to contemplate the blessings of the year and the ineffable beauty of the Nativity story--whether you're a believer or not, the power of the tale cannot help but move the honest heart.  With the Christmas tree lit and presents beneath it, a fire snapping in the hearth (my farm-maiden wife builds a better fire than I can--a miner's son knows coal, not wood), and the last of the dinner wine--one of God's loveliest gifts to humankind--in our glasses, we read aloud the Christmas passages from Matthew and Luke, up to the Flight into Egypt. 
 
Then we take turns reading out Christmas poems, jumbling the choices and order each year, but always, always including Thomas Hardy's "The Oxen."  And then there is music, the happily militant Victorian carols from the days of "muscular Christianity," and the old English, Irish, Welsh and German hymns--true to type, the Germans do the formal music best (Bach, Schuetz, Praetorious, Luther), but the heart returns to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Good King Wenceslas," and "Joy To The World."  Among modern carols, "Silver Bells" will always take me back to childhood trips to the big city--Philadelphia--just before Christmas and the wonders of yesteryear's John Wanamakers, with the pipe organ booming above the crowd and the inexhaustible possibilities of acquisition (no department store ever offered a finer selection of toy soldiers).
 
Christmas morning comes, and there's no time for reading that day.  But as we drive north to my brother's home for the gathering in of the tribe, Katherine and I listen to Dylan Thomas's incomparable "A Child's Christmas in Wales," in which we discover new wonders each year.  Read it or listen to it--it's wonderful.
 
One year, my brother gave me an a pulpit-size German-American Bible published in 1856.  No Christmas gift could have been finer.
 
And then, a week later, the tree comes down and the pleasure of reading becomes submerged in the business of reading again.
 
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Serge Trifkovic, a former BBC commentator and US NEWS and World Report reporter. He is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and its sequel Defeating Jihad. Read his commentaries on ChroniclesMagazine.org.

 

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Althought I am only in the middle of some 800 pages of Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War by Robert L. Beisner, I know I'll thoroughly enjoy the rest. It monumental but readable, a must for 20th century history afficionados. A rare top-notch American contribution in recent years to the genre dominated by Europeans, it will be considered a classic many years hence.

For something totally different, and on a seasonal note (sort of), don't miss Santa's Twin by Dean Koontz. If you want family values in the spirit of A Christmas Carol don't buy it -- this uproarious little volume is more in the spirit of -- er -- the Addams Family values, as two girls set out to save Santa from his evil twin Bob Claus who has stolen the sleigh, and stuffed the toy bag with cat-do and broccoli, and intends to turn the team into reindeer soup, and...but I've given away far too much already!

 

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Rachel Marsden, a political columnist with the Toronto Sun and the Canadian correspondent for Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. Visit her online at www.rachelmarsden.com.

 

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Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly.  An expose of political correctness gone amok.

The Iraq Study Group Report by James Baker et al.  So the US should place the future of world peace and the Mideast into the hands of terrorist sponsoring states like Iran and Syria?  Whoops, looks like this study group crammed.
 
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Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). His latest book is the New York Times Bestseller The Truth About Muhammad.
 

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At Christmastime, particularly another Christmas celebrated during this time of resurgence of the global jihad, it would be worthwhile for both Christians and non-Christians to recall what is worth defending about the Western Judeo-Christian civilization that the jihadists wish to subvert and destroy. Accordingly (and in preparation for my own forthcoming book, tentatively entitled Why Christianity Is A Religion of Peace -- And Islam Isn't, which will be an exploration of what we have in the West that is worth defending against jihadist incursion), I am revisiting Rodney Stark's The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western SuccessHow the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods; and, on the other side of things, Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, which is simultaneously a jihadist manifesto and a trenchant critique of the inadequacy of Western models of society and culture.
 
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Phyllis Chesler, the author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She is the author of the new book The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom. Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.

 

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Nonie Darwish's Now They Call Me Infidel. A well written, soulful, reasonable, powerful, and very personal discussion of jihad, America, Jew-hatred and Israel.

Alexander Grobman's Nations United. How the United Nations is Undermining Israel and the West. An essential and definitive work on the subject that is needed now more than ever since John Bolton has been forced to withdraw from his post.

George Jochnowitz's The Blessed Human Race. Essays on Reconsideration. Reading this volume is like visiting with a Renaissance intellectual who has invited you for tea. Professor Jochnowitz is as familiar with Chinese and China as he is with the Bible, Plato, Mozart, Shakespeare, Marx, Israel--and that’s just for starters.

Over the holidays, I am hoping to read Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad about his 19th century trip to the Orient

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Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and a columnist for The Washington Post. He is also the author of A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977–1990, and editor, with William Kristol, of Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy. Kagan served in the U.S. State Department from 1984 to 1988. He is the author of the new book Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century.

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I've finished a meticulous and enlightening biography: Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War by Robert L. Beisner.  It really is the only biography that takes Acheson seriously as a thinker and policymaker and thus makes all past biographies obsolete.  It is especially useful for our time, because it exposes as absurd the current efforts to paint both Truman and Acheson as "liberal" alternatives to Reagan and George W. Bush.  In fact, Acheson's approach to the world had little to do with "soft power" and the United Nations, which he openly disparaged as useless, at best.  Acheson believed in power, above all in American power, in service of global security and the forward defense of American principles.  He sought to create "situations of strength" throughout the world and a "preponderance" of American global power.  He strongly opposed negotiations with the Soviet Union until such time as the United States had the clear upper hand and the Soviets came to the table in a state of weakness, which is precisely what Acheson's true heir, Ronald Reagan, managed to do.  This was not a "Wise Man" in the current mold of consensus-building advocates of negotiation at all costs. 
 
Pardon the nepotism, but my two other favorite books of recent vintage are by my brilliant brother, Frederick Kagan.  This summer he published the first volume of his four-volume revisionist account of Napoleon and his wars in Europe:  The End of the Old Order:  Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805.  You've never read such a deft blending of political, diplomatic, and military history.  It will change foreever the way we look at Napoleon and his opponents.
 
Fred has also recently published Finding the Target:  The Transformation of American Military Policy.  It is a brilliant and often critical assessment of the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs.  His main critcism of our efforts so far is that we have concentrated on ever more precise ways of "blowing things up," but we have not concentrated on how to achieve political objectives in war. 
 
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Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He prosecuted the Blind Sheik and his organization for seditious conspiracy in 1995.

 

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Three books I’ve recently read, Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan, Mark Steyn’s America Alone, and Robert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad are just excellent, and complementary (although by no means in complete agreement).  Phillips focuses on the ravaging of British culture as it gradually surrenders to its militant Islamic minority; Steyn – who is without peer among today’s columnists – offers a demographic thesis about why Muslims may not be a minority in the West for much longer; and Spencer demonstrates, by an exacting analysis relying on Islam’s scriptures and authoritative historical writings, why what we like to think of as “radical” Islam is not so radical, echoing as it does the life of Islam’s prophet and ultimate role model.

 

I was also impressed this year by Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death, Alan Dershowitz’s Preemption – A Knife that Cuts Both Ways, and Not a Suicide Pact, which is the latest in Judge Richard Posner’s series of books about national security and intelligence in the wake of 9/11.

 

There are several books I am hoping to get to in the coming weeks, including John Yoo’s War By Other Means; Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope; Douglas Murray’s Neoconservativism: Why We Need It; Theodore Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It; and Ann Coulter’s Godless.  I especially enjoy Ann’s books after all the reviews have come out, since they are not only an immensely entertaining read, but they are always researched with great care and turn out to be about much more than her cherry-picking critics give her credit for.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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