Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shtarker Envy

Norman Podhoretz’s latest book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, was published last week — on September 11, no less.

This blog posted a preview-review based on an article of his in Commentary magazine’s June issue. (See the entry, “Norman Podhoretz’s Big Sandy,” June 16.)

But hats off to Ian Buruma, whose review of the book in the September 27 issue of The New York Review of Books, nails what ails Podhoretz, the most over-the-top militarist since Air Force General Curtis “Bomb ’Em Back to the Stone Age” LeMay, of the good ol’ days of Vietnam and “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Podhoretz’s “Rosebud,” writes Buruma, is his now famous (infamous, to some) 1963 essay, “My Negro Problem — and Ours.”

Calling it an “articulate analysis of the obsession with power and violence,” Buruma notes:

The key to Podhoretz's politics seems to me to lie right there: the longing for power, for toughness, for the Shtarker who doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything, and hatred of the contemptible, cowardly liberals with their pandering ways and their double standards. Since Podhoretz, himself a bookish man, can never be a Shtarker, his government must fill that role, and not give a damn about anyone or anything. And not only the US government, but Israel too. Arik Sharon was a typical Shtarker, and thus much admired. Bibi Netanyahu tries hard to be a Shtarker. The US was enviably tough against the Nazis, and then against the Communists, and is now called to arms once more against the Islamofascists. Since Western Europe seems destined to be "conquered from within by Islamofascism," just as it had been once by Hitler's blitzkrieg, America must go it alone this time, with a little help from the Brits. As in "World War III" against the Soviet Empire, this World War IV against Islamofascism will be "a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations." The words, quoted by Podhoretz, are George Kennan's, who regretted having said them, because they were interpreted as a call for military action, which is not what he had intended. Podhoretz uses them as though he had.
From there Buruma goes on to dismantle Podhoretz’s hosannas for “our great president,” George W. Bush, whom, he notes, Richard Perle and other neocons seem to have abandoned as an incompetent member of the warrior class — as well as Podhoretz’s McCarthyite smears of virtually anyone who does not share his view.

Even more valuable than his critique of Podhoretz — who by now is a stuck needle on a record blaring Sousa marches, 24/7 — is Buruma’s admonition of former liberal and leftist “tub-thumpers for Bush’s war,” such as Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman.

Podhoretz’s “judgments are those of a right-wing ideologue,” Buruma writes. “The fact that neoleftists share his judgments is, in my view, foolish. The fact that some of them do so in the name of liberalism betrays the very principles they claim to be defending.”

You can read Ian Buruma’s entire essay by clicking <here>.

Adam Simms
for JPF

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