[Editor’s note. This is a continuation of the debate between Michael Berube and David Horowitz after the close of part one. For clarity, we have posted Horowitz’s responses to Berube’s original objections to DiscoverTheNetwork.org and then Berube’s replies. The exchanges are separated by asterisks.]
Horowitz: How does the database “blur the distinctions between the mainstream left and the far far left” or “between the far left and liberals such as Barack Obama?” The database clearly identifies five categories of leftists: “Totalitarian Radicals,” “Anti-American Radicals,” “Leftists,” “Moderate Leftists” and “Affective Leftists.” How are the distinctions blurred if they are made? I notice that Michael doesn't single out one statement that we have made about Barack Obama in our profile of him that is either false, inappropriate or misleading. In other words, we have actually made the distinctions he claims we haven’t.
Berube: The database makes “distinctions,” yes. But it insists nonetheless that everyone listed in it is part of a “network.” Now, imagine that I compile a “network” that links Olympia Snowe to Timothy McVeigh, or Bruce Willis to Augusto Pinochet. Wouldn’t sane people see something wrong with that?
Horowitz: Why would they? What you are objecting to is the very idea of a database of the left which includes factions of the left however disparate. This is not blurring distinctions, it is just saying that despite these distinctions there is a justification for including all these people in a database of the left. As I have already pointed out, a database on Communism would include Stalin and also Trostky, even though they were mortal enemies and ideological antagonists. I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with Timothy McVeigh’s ideological perspectives, but assuming that he thought government was oppressive and ought to be limited, and that Clinton administration’s incineration of 80 mainly innocent individuals, mostly women and children was wrong, placing him in a database with Republicans who also believe in limited government makes sense. Including Olympia Snowe. I’m not sure Bruce Willis has a political ideology, but let’s say that he is for lower taxes and the promotion of a business economy, then why not have him in a database of the right along with Pinochet who left Chile a prosperous, pro-business democracy by the time he was through?
The point Berube seems to be arguing is that there are so many points along the spectrum of the left and the spectrum of the right that the very categories left and right have no meaning. This is an arguable point of view but even adopting it does not mean that DiscoverTheNetwork blurs distinctions. It does not.
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Horowitz: What Michael and I seem to actually disagree about is whether Barack Obama is a “liberal” or a “leftist.” My question to him would be: How can anyone who supports racial preferences and income redistribution be regarded as a “liberal?” But whatever conclusion one draws - whether Obama is a leftist, a moderate leftist or a liberal - surely no reasonable person can maintain that we have blurred distinctions when we have actually codified them.
Berube: Here, David is straightforward about what’s at stake: he wants to move the rhetorical goalposts so far right that anyone who supports affirmative action and progressive taxation is labeled a “leftist.” All well and good: that’s David's job, and I respect him for doing it so diligently. My job, then, is to push right back on those goalposts, and to insist that David’s “Network” is the work of a far-right ideologue. More than this, it’s the work of a far-right ideologue who desperately needs to disavow the intimate ideological connections between the Islamist far right and the American far right.
Horowitz; Actually I have always been straightforward about what is at stake. If Berube were to read my book The Politics of Bad Faith, he would find that the introduction itself argues that what is referred to as liberalism today is actually a variety of leftism, and for the reasons given in the statement to which Berube is responding. His argument that this point of view is itself “far right” is his opinion, but it has no historical basis. I have often referred to the case of President John F. Kennedy and the New Frontier as way of measuring how the political spectrum has been shifted to the left by the arbiters of the cultural discourse. In the 1960s, Kennedy was regarded as a liberal. Under the standards the left has been able to establish in today’s culture he would be regarded as a Reaganite or (as Berube would prefer) a member of the “far right.” Kennedy was a hawk on defense, a militant anti-Communist, for a capital gains tax cut and a balanced budget (also weak on civil rights). He appointed Republicans to his three top cabinet posts. He launched the war against Communism in Vietnam. There is not a scintilla of difference between Kennedy’s politics and Reagan’s.
Berube’s suggestion that the Islamist far right is intimately ideologically connected to the American far right has this problem: It is the far right (as defined by him and meaning pro-Bush conservatives like myself) that has been in the forefront of the war against radical Islam and its ideology, while it has been progressive leftists like him who have been at war with the right’s war on radical Islam. Of course, he may mean the far isolationist right of Pat Buchanan, and then he would be right, since Buchanan has linked arms with Noam Chomsky in opposing the war that I support.
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Horowitz: Berube’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi is unintelligible. To say that two people share some views - in this case opposition to American policy in Iraq - is not the same as saying that any critic of policy is an ally of Zarqawi.
Berube: No, it is David’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi that is unintelligible. (The comment was this: “It should be obvious that even the otherwise innocent Barbra Streisand shares negative views of the Bush Administration and its mission of liberating Iraq with anti-American jihadists like the aforementioned [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, even though we are sure that she deplores some of his methods.”) David’s remark clearly implies that if one opposes the war in Iraq, one necessarily endorses “some views” espoused by people who have no conceivable contact with any progressive/left American project whatsoeverlike Zarqawi. On the contrary, part of our criticism of the war in Iraq is that the Bush Administration bungled an opportunity to launch a strike against Zarqawi because it was so obsessed with Saddam Hussein.
Horowitz: The shared view is that America is an imperialist, aggressive power and therefore is in some way responsible for the 9/11 attacks on itself and is suspect in its war in Iraq. Forgive me for not thinking that leftwing criticism of the war in Iraq is based on a concern for more zealous prosecution of the war against Zarqawi. In the first place, Zarqawi was in Iraq when we attacked, which is one of the reasons we did attack: Saddam was part of the international terrorist jihad against the United States. In the second place, anyone reading the mountain of leftist commentary on the war on terror (including the commentary posted on Barbra Streisand’s website) would instantly notice that virtually none of the commentary is about ways to wage the war against Zarqawi and other terrorists more efficiently, and that virtually all of it is about the lies, deceptions, manipulations, bad motives, dishonesty, lust for oil, imperial agendas, contempt for civil liberties, racial persecution of Muslim captives of and by the United States.
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Horowitz: [I do not equate criticism of Iraq policy with anti-Americanism or treason.] As I have explained before (Why We Are In Iraq) not all criticism is the same. Calling Bush Hitler is one kind of criticism, calling him mistaken is quite another.
Berube: Calling Bush Hitler is foolish.
Horowitz: We agree. You are somewhere between a Leftist and a Moderate Leftist.
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Horowitz: And there are many gradations in between. My comment was made to answer the specific question: why are these two people, Zarqawi and Streisand, in the same database? It is a question the left really has to answer rather than me. How can people who claim to be for women’s rights, gay rights, equality and freedom have taken sides in the war with the terrorists in Iraq and come down on the anti-American end? I have answered this question in a book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, that not a single leftist has commented on.
Berube: OK, then, consider this a comment. I’ve read that book, and I endorse women’s rights, gay rights, and egalitarian social justice in the following terms: I believe that all humans born have equal entitlement to shelter, sustenance, health care, education, political participation and representation, reciprocal recognition, and respect. So-called “leftists” who make exceptions to this principle when it comes to Cuba and Cambodia are not my allies. But right-wing ideologues who invoke this principle only in order to take cheap potshots at leftists are not even serious interlocutors. David, let me know when you're willing to endorse my conception of the left. In the meantime, I think the right has to explain why it’s apologized for terror (in Oklahoma City) and torture (in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib) and virulent racism (in South Africa).
Horowitz: I would so like to engage you (allow me to shift to the second person in answering this question) in a discussion of how all humans born have equal entitlement to shelter, sustenance, heath care and education – or more particularly how you propose to pay for this? Is a right a claim on some else’s labor from birth? I’m already supporting enough people thank you. Lenin, Castro and other Marxists tried this formula and made billions of people miserable and poor. I’m glad you take your distance from leftists who support Cuban and Cambodian totalitarians. As I said you are somewhere between a Leftist and a Moderate Leftist in our political taxonomy. I don’t speak for the right (and you have certainly misrepresented the right in saying that it has in any blanket way apologized for terror in Oklahoma City, torture in Abu Ghraib or virulent racism in South Africa). In any case you have not answered the question, which is why the left put itself on the line to defend the Saddam regime from the British and American retribution it so richly deserved, and why the left which claims to support e.g., women’s rights has opposed the Bush Administration’s successful efforts to liberate 20 million Muslim women in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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Horowitz: I have argued that the left today is largely defined by its oppositions, first to the United States and then to Israel. I have even posted a lengthy analysis of the left's history from 1945 to the present that was written by an academic leftist for the socialist magazine Dissent that comes to exactly the same conclusions. I would welcome in these pages a leftist response to these conclusions. So far I have not seen any.
The reason why the left’s behavior after 9/11 suggests that a watershed has been passed in the development of the left itself can be understood by referring to the left’s anti-war effort over America's intervention in Vietnam some forty years ago.
In the Vietnam War the United States was supporting a dictatorship in South Vietnam on the grounds that the dictatorship was anti-Communist. “New Leftists” who believed by and large that Communism was a flawed attempt to create societies governed by the principles of equality and justice had an argument (whether one considers it plausible or not) for opposing the United States defense of the South Vietnamese regime. Perhaps (so they reasoned) a victory for the guerrilla forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam would mean the emergence of a society that honored the principles of equality and justice. This an was incentive to see that America was defeated. And this indeed is the delusional vision that motivated people like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda other anti-war activists.
Berube: Millions of Americans opposed that war not because they desired an NLF victory, but because they feared - in terms that the late George Kennan would surely understand - that the US war in Vietnam would lead us to become more, rather than less, like our enemies who were fighting proxy wars around the globe. And millions of Americans opposed that war on the pragmatic ground that it was not, in fact, critical to the outcome of the Cold War. As I’ve said to you before, David, in one respect the antiwar left has been pretty clearly vindicated on the subject of Vietnam: that war was not, after all, crucial for U.S. national security or to the fate of the free world. We could have walked away in 1954 or 1964 instead of 1975, and the Berlin Wall would still have come down in 1989, the Soviet Union would still have collapsed in 1991. And there would be 58,000 more Americans - and roughly a million more Vietnamese - around to watch it happen.
It is true that some New Leftists, in the “network” you once inhabited, were NLF supporters. Had I been 10 or 20 years older at the time, I would have criticized them.
Horowitz: Millions of Americans may have eventually opposed the war in Vietnam for the reasons you describe. But we were talking about the New Left, which launched the movement against the war in Vietnam in 1962 (I should know because I helped to organize the first anti-Vietnam demonstration, which was staged in Berkeley in June of that year). The two national anti-Vietnam organizations that mobilized all the major demonstrations against the war were run by the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party respectively. Their slogans were Bring The Troops Home Now (which was designed to ensure a Communist victory) and Bring the War Home (which is self-explanatory). The left did not care one hoot about America’s national security and this was not a factor in any leftist’s critique of the war. The left was only vindicated if it willed the slaughter of 2 and a half million Cambodians and Vietnamese by the Communists after America was forced to leave and the destruction of both countries.
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Horowitz: But in Iraq, America set out to overthrow a dictatorship not defend one. What could saving Saddam Hussein -- which was the practical goal of the anti-war left - mean but more corpses shoveled into mass graves, more human beings stuffed into plastic shredders and more terror generally for the Iraqi people? In Iraq the United States overthrew a monster regime, and liberated women and Iraq’s minorities - and the left did everything in its power to prevent this.
Berube: I am glad that Saddam has been captured. I wish that it could have happened in a way that did not so dramatically compromise the United States’ standing in world affairs - and this is not a trivial matter, because the US’ standing in world affairs will set the conditions for our ability to act effectively against al-Qaeda in the future. But has this war really liberated women in Iraq? David, you’d be wise to be more circumspect about this; you might wind up being disappointed by your new Shi’ite friends. And you might do well to read more deeply in the history of Iraq since 1920.
In the meantime, I salute all the American leftists who opposed Saddam throughout the 1980s, when Reagan and Rumsfeld were making their marriages of convenience in the face of the Iranian Revolution.
Horowitz: I’m glad you’re glad that Saddam has been captured (second person again). But you and your political allies did nothing to help the Bush Administration capture him and everything possible to keep him in power, so I’m not quite sure how you expect the rest of us to take this. Even now you can’t bring yourself to concede the remarkably positive developments that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Rice have brought about in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon, and the broader Middle East.
Your incredibly facile references to America’s desperate efforts in the 1980s to prevent either the radical Islamic state of Iran or the fascist state of Iraq from dominating the Gulf shows how removed you are from actually being concerned about American policy, America’s standing in the world or the terrible responsibilities that have been placed on its government. We tilted towards Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war to prevent Iran -- a nation four times the size of Iraq whose leaders had sworn “death to America” -- from overrunning Iraq, and dominating the entire Gulf region and with it the energy lifeline of Europe and the West. If you don’t like balance of power politics, why do you express such concern about the opinion of European states, who are wedded to this principle of realpolitik and have shown themselves to have no particular commitment to moral principles like the defense of democracy or the advance of freedom?
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Horowitz: Some leftists actively support what they call the Iraqi “resistance,” led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Others like Barbra Streisand and Michael Berube don’t like Zarqawi or Saddam but they seem to fear George Bush even more. More importantly they have put their political bodies on the line first to obstruct America’s war of liberation and save Saddam’s oppressive regime, and then to denigrate and undermine America’s post-war effort to consolidate its victory, an effort which if successful would allow Zarqawi to emerge as the ruling power in Iraq.
Berube: This is beyond nonsense. As a supporter of the US-led overthrow of the Taliban and as a liberal-progressive opponent of al-Qaeda, I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed that it would not advance our goals of marginalizing and defeating Islamist extremism. And I argued that it was foolish for Bush to ignore Zarqawi in his drive to invade Iraq.
I believe that American military and intelligence resources should have been deployed to capture bin Laden and Zarqawi. David offers apologies for the policies that have left both of them free men - and then he impugns my patriotism. You’ll forgive me if I find this hard to believe.
Horowitz: Looking at my comment, I do not see any reference to Afghanistan or the Taliban. If you really opposed the war in Iraq because you thought it would not advance the goals of marginalizing and defeating Islamist extremism, now is the time to admit you were wrong. Our liberation of Iraq resulted in an election in which 70% of the Iraqi people voted against terrorism and our efforts have started a wave of anti-terrorist and democratic movement in the Middle East from Baghdad to Cairo.
In case you didn’t notice, Bin Laden has been politically and militarily dead since U.S. forces entered Iraq. His big terrorist act against the 2004 elections was to send a video to Al-Jazeera. That’s because Bush and Rumsfeld’s war has shredded his organization and put him on the run Zarqawi is only in slightly better shape. He declared war on the elections in Iraq – and lost. Time to admit you were wrong, that is if you want to retain any credibility in these matters. BTW: Where did I impugn your patriotism?
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Horowitz: So it's not really myself and the DiscoverTheNetwork team who have to defend our decision to include Zarqawi and Streisand in the broad networks that link disparate elements of the left. Rather it’s leftists like yourself who have to explain to us why you are engaging in a political course of action which if successful would strengthen the global Islamic jihad and its misogynist, homophobic and reactionary agendas.
Berube: No, I’ve made it quite clear, time and time again, that I oppose violent, ultrareligious patriarchy at home and abroad. Let me know when you're willing to disavow misogynist, homophobic and reactionary forces in the US.
Horowitz: Words, Michael. Your political actions – opposition to the war to liberate Iraq, refusal to acknowledge your mistake and give Bush the support he needs in the war to protect the fledgling democracy in Iraq – speak louder, much louder, than your words. As for my deeds in the U.S. my record in opposing the abuse of women (I guess this is what you mean) and in defending the civil rights of gay Americans is a matter of record. And of course I oppose the reactionary left, which I guess is not what you mean.
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[Berube: Then there’s a brief exchange in which I mention David’s Salon essay in defense of Pinochet; FrontPage kept that part of the debate intact. And then they ran David’s reply in full - it runs another six paragraphs after the one below - while cutting my three-paragraph response.]
Horowitz: Well of course I specifically did not defend Pinochet in the article he refers to; in fact I specifically criticized Pinochet. What I did that upset Michael was to point out that Pinochet left his country prosperous and democratic (he voluntarily submitted to a referendum which he lost) and contrasted this to the fact that Castro is the longest surviving dictator in the world and has made his country dramatically poorer than it was when he took power. For this Michael called me a Nazi (to be precise he said he couldn’t wait for my next article defending the Third Reich). Now that’s what I call blurring distinctions Michael, and I have to say it is pretty much a staple of the arguments of the left.
Berube: OK, it’s time to draw some distinctions - at last! I did not call David a Nazi - though I’ve now heard from two sources that he's made this claim on his tours through our nation’s college campuses. But I certainly did argue that all of David's arguments in favor of Pinochet (whom, in all fairness, he did “criticize,” in the course of arguing that Pinochet had been good for Chile) could be made a fortiori for Hitler, who certainly improved the German economy and - unlike Pinochet - was actually elected to office.
But what David refuses to acknowledge here is that I have criticized Castro again and again - not only in the 1990s, but much more recently, when, at the outset of Gulf War II, Fidel imprisoned 80 dissenters and executed three people who’d tried to hijack a ferry to the US. The contrast really couldn't be clearer: I criticize dictators on my left, and David offers half-hearted “criticisms” of a right-wing torturer who “left his country prosperous and democratic.”
I have no problem with the disavowal of extremists to my left; I encourage David to disavow extremists on the right. Break the links between your network and Pinochet’s - and the links between your network and Gary Bauer’s or Randall Terry’s. Anytime in the next few months would be fine.
Horowitz: I think I just said you did not call me a Nazi, merely an apologist for the next Third Reich. I don’t know who your informants are but I don’t remember referring to you on my college speaking tours. Whatever. The case I made was that the average Chilean was better off because of Pinochet while the average Cuban was worse off because of Castro. Hitler is not comparable because Hitler, well, was Hitler. He also did not hold a referendum creating a democracy and ending his rule, and revitalized the German economy only by making it a war machine, which is not what Pinochet did. I don’t know what all this breast-beating about Castro is, since I never suggested you were a Castro supporter – did I? I don’t know what links you’re talking about re: Pinochet. I have publicly and more than once taken on Gary Bauer specifically and members of the Christian right who are at war with gays (you can look up the articles in my archives) and for ten years I have been saying that Randall Terry reminds of everything I detest in the left, in particular its arrogance and self-righteousness and disregard for other people’s rights.