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An Ugly Anti-American (Continued) By: Anders G. Lewis
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 08, 2004

Kolko’s velvet glove treatment of Communist dictatorships is also evident in his analysis of the Vietnam War.  According to Kolko Comintern agent Ho Chi Minh was the best chance the Vietnamese had to create a just and prosperous society. In Anatomy of a War (1985), Kolko praises the Vietnamese Stalinists for their “undogmatic” nature and their genius for “producing brilliant tacticians, above all Ho Chi Minh….” Their “real strength…,” he writes, was their “capacity to relate to the class needs of the majority of the nation.” Ho and his fellow leaders were “collegial” and “cooperative.” They were “free of the problems of egoism…” and their “harmony became a fundamental source of the Party’s strength….” They respected all people and insisted that “nothing could be done to hurt their property….”[26] Hanoi press releases said the same thing.

On occasion, Kolko concedes, the Vietnamese Communists became a bit too exuberant. In the 1950s, during North Vietnam’s land reform campaign, a few “demoralized cadres” who lacked close supervision killed a few thousand landowners. Regardless, by 1957, “the landless and poor peasants had improved their position radically while even the middle peasantry was able to enlarge its land ownership.”[27] Kolko is so taken with Vietnam’s Communists that, in The Roots of American Foreign Policy, he argues that “with a better vision of their own future” Americans should “understand their profound debts to liberation movements everywhere and in Vietnam most of all….”[28] Jane Fonda could not have said it better.

Kolko did not reconsider his Communist sympathies or this laughably rosy picture of Communsit rule when the North Vietnamese overran South Vietnam in 1975, established a dictatorship, executed tens of thousands of “enemies of the people,” incarcerated a million political prisoners, and drove two million Vietnamese into exile. Nor did Kolko reconsider his anti-Americanism in 1989 when the East Europeans who had so benefited from Soviet occupation tore down the Berlin Wall and sent the Red Army home. Instead, he continues to peddle the Communist worldview and in today’s debased academic environment wins accolades from his academic fellow travelers for his political correctness.


Kolko has also made contributions to the Left’s anti-American historiography of the current War on Terror by offering numerous justifications for Islamic violence and hatred towards the West. In Another Century of War? published a year after 9/11, and in a series of articles written in 2003 and 2004 for Counterpunch magazine, Kolko criticizes America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as imperialistic, destructive, and self-defeating. In Kolko’s perspective, blame for September 11, lies not with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but with the United States. American failures abroad, he writes, “led desperate men to crash planes into the symbols of American power on September 11.” “Suffice it to say, that the United States’ sponsorship…of state terrorism is one of the crucial reasons it now has to confront violence on its own soil. History has come full circle.”[29] Indeed it has.


Just as Kolko dismisses the idea that Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China constituted threats to America, so he rejects the view that the Islamic perpetrators of 9/11 threaten the United States today. “Whether they are ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’ depends wholly on one’s viewpoint,” Kolko argues, “because those seeking to attain political goals fight with what they have: hijacked airplanes and concealed bombs [rather than] B-52s and laser-guided rockets.”[30] Of course, the United States doesn’t load airplanes with innocent hostages or deliberately fire rockets into crowded office buildings located in countries with which it is not at war or to whom it has not given a warning first. But real world considerations have no place in Kolko’s ideological creations.


In the end, Kolko’s texts are inspired by an obsessive hatred of America and a consequent sympathy for America’s enemies - whether they are socialist “progressives” or religious fanatics attempting to turn the clock back to medieval times. Anti-Americanism is the thread that unites Kolko’s themes.  Sadly, this travesty of an academic output has not prevented Kolko from earning the respect of his academic peers. Far from it. His books are required reading at many of our nation’s premier schools. According to Arnold Offner, Lafayette College professor and past president of the prestigious Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, “Kolko’s work makes for significant reading, and we are far better off for having it than not.”[31] That Offner would believe this, and that such journals of opinion as the New York Review of Books would praise Kolko for his “first-rate scholarship” speaks volumes about the decline of standards in the academy and the rise of anti-American, Marxist professorial elite. Gabriel Kolko is an ugly anti-American. Within the halls of academia, however, he is a celebrated hero.




[1] Kolko’s reference to America as an evil society can be found in Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), p.135. Kolko’s reference to America as “.intellectually and culturally undeveloped” can be found in Gabriel Kolko, Main Currents in Modern American History (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976), p.vii. For an excellent definition of anti-Americanism see Paul Hollander’s introductory essay in Paul Hollander, ed., Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad (Chicago: Ivan Dee, 2004), pp.3-42. Hollander defines anti-Americanism as “a deep-seated, emotional predisposition that perceives the United States as an unmitigated and uniquely evil entity and the source of all, or most, other evils in the world. Being critical of specific American institutions, policies, leaders, or cultural trends does not constitute the same mind-set.” See p.12.


[2] In addition to the works cited in footnote 1 above, see: Gabriel Kolko, Wealth and Power in America: An Analysis of Social Class and Income Distribution (New York: Praeger, 1962); Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (New York: The Free Press, 1963); Gabriel Kolko, Railroads and Regulation, 1877-1916 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper and Row, 1972); Gabriel Kolko, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, The United States, and the Modern Historical Experience (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985); Gabriel Kolko, Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1980 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988); Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1990); Gabriel Kolko, Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society Since 1914 (New York: The New Press, 1994); Gabriel Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace (London: Routledge, 1997); Gabriel Kolko, Another Century of War? (New York: The New Press, 2002).


[3] Kolko co-wrote The Limits of Power with his wife, Joyce. Hans Morgenthau, “Historical Justice and the Cold War,” The New York Review of Books, July 10, 1969. The quote from Gaddis Smith is on the back of the 1990 edition of The Politics of War, cited above in footnote 2. Chomsky’s quote on Kolko is from Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There (New York: Pantheon, 1982), p.423.


[4] In the introduction to his Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace, Kolko writes that “after 1971, when I began to live in France for long periods, I had continuous, intensive, and deeply rewarding meetings with the National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese personnel….” In the same introduction, Kolko proudly mentions his visits to North and South Vietnam. See Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace, pp.1-18.


[5] Gabriel Kolko, “Aid for Vietnamese Civilians,” The New York Review of Books, May 6, 1971.


[6] Kolko, Main Currents in Modern American History, pp.291-292. Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, p.294. Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy, pp.9-10.


[7] Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy, p.26.


[8] Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a “traditionalist” historian who Kolko wrote against, accurately termed the Cold War “the brave and essential response of free men to communist aggression.” See Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “Origins of the Cold War,” Foreign Affairs (October 1967), pp.25-52.


[9] Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, p.2 and p.23.


[10] Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, p.68. “For public purposes,” the Kolko’s elaborated elsewhere in their book, “especially to conjure up congressional votes for Marshall Plan or military expenditures, Truman and other officials successfully trotted out references to amorphous, imminent dangers.” See p.481.


[11] Kolko, Main Currents in Modern American History, p.353.


[12] On the CPUSA see John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003).


[13] Kolko, The Politics of War, pp.350-353.


[14] Robert James Maddox, The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp.106-107. Victor Davis Hanson, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny (New York: Random House, 1999), pp.305-328.


[15] Kolko, The Politics of War, p.145 and p.170.


[16] Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, pp.56-57.


[17] Richard Hofstadter, Great Issues in American History, vol. 2: 1864-1957 (New York: Vintage, 1959), pp.411- 413. Similarly, the authors of NSC-68 were right to declare that “the issues that face us are momentous, involving the fulfillment or destruction not only of this Republic but of civilization itself.” For NSC-68, see William Appleman William, Thomas McCormick, Lloyd Gardner, and Walter LaFeber, America in Vietnam: A Documentary History (New York: Norton, 1989), p.74.


[18] Robert Service, A History of Twentieth-Century Russia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p.181. On Soviet Communism and Communism in general also see Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, and Jean-Louis Margolin, The Black of Communism: Crimes, Terror, and Repression (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999); Richard Pipes, Communism: A History (New York: Modern Library, 2001); and Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000).


[19] Kolko, The Politics of War, p.629.


[20] Joyce and Gabriel, The Limits of Power, p.401.


[21] Kolko, The Politics of War, pp.209-241. Kolko does insist that Mao ranked “below even Stalin as a thinker….” However, Mao “always knew what was right for the moment, and in this regard he was a genius.” See p. 241 in The Politics of War.


[22] Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, p.293.


[23] Pipes, Communism, p.77.


[24] John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p.71. Also see Gaddis’s chapter in Odd Arne Westad, Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp.27-42.


[25] Kim is quoted in William Stueck, Rethinking the Korean War: A New Diplomatic and Strategic History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), p.72.


[26] All quotes are in Kolko, Anatomy of a War, pp.22-61.


[27] Ibid, pp.65-69. Kolko’s analysis of the North Vietnamese land reform campaign is grossly negligent. During the campaign, Communists killed far more people than Kolko estimates - perhaps as many as 10,000. Top party leaders also instigated the atrocities. As William Duiker has noted, “there is ample evidence that much of the [violence associated with land reform] was deliberately inspired by Party leaders responsible for drafting and carrying out the program.” See William Duiker, Ho Chi Minh: A Life (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p.477. Also see Courtois, et al, The Black of Communism, pp.565-575.


[28] Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy, pp.137-138. Kolko also dedicated much of his work to the Vietnamese Communists. He wrote his Main Currents in Modern American History for the “Vietnamese Revolution and the heroic people who made it.” He also dedicated his Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace to “Ho Chi Minh and those Vietnamese who earned and deserved far, far better.”


[29] Gabriel Kolko, Another Century of War?, pp.8-9. Also see Gabriel Kolko, “The US Must be Isolated and Constrained: The Coming Elections and the Future of American Global Power,” Counterpunch, March 12-14, 2004. Kolko also writes that “America has power without wisdom, and cannot recognize the limits of arms despite its repeated experiences.  The result has been folly, and hatred, which is a recipe for disasters. September 11 confirmed that. The war has come home.” See Kolko, Another Century of War?, 146.


[30] Kolko, Another Century of War?, p.13.


[31] Offner’s quote can be found in his May 20, 2004 posting to the H-Net, H-Diplo website at: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo.

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