Reading reviews in the national press about Norman Podhoretz’s The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism (Doubleday), I was struck by how oblivious to certain facts the reviewers of this book seem to be. Haven’t Ian Buruma of the New York Review of Books, Jay Nordlinger of National Review, Amer Tahiri of the New York Post or any of the other establishment reviewers noticed that Podhoretz knows nothing about “fascism?” His references to this particular phenomenon show all the sophistication of an Abe Foxman tirade designed for ADL donors. Quite conveniently for himself, Podhoretz links all unpleasant Muslims to a European political movement that he identifies with the Holocaust and of course with “anti-democracy”; nonetheless, he never begins to prove that Muslims doctrinally or programmatically resemble interwar European “fascists,” as opposed to being mere terrorist nuisances. Telling us that fascists were “anti-Semitic” is at best a partial truth, and even if real fascists, like fundamentalist Muslims, didn’t care much for democracy or for the free market, that would put them in the same category with 99% of the human race throughout history.
My friend David Gordon, who has actually had the stomach to digest the entire text, (I myself only had the visceral strength to look at it quite selectively), remarked on its references to the “system of Westphalia,” an arrangement that Podhoretz, to his credit, knows no longer exists. But the Westphalia system, contrary to what Norman indicates, began in 1648. It did not, as Podhoretz and his friends may believe, come out of the “sixteenth century,” a period of time that spawned religious and dynastic strife resulting in the later attempt to create a state-system based on different state religions within different sovereign territories. Apparently Podhoretz believes that the recognition of national sovereignty doesn’t work any more, because we face an international “fascist” enemy, and in any case it was never a democratic way of dealing with the world. To this it might be answered that the system of state sovereignty has been ruined at least partly because of global revolutionaries like Norman Podhoretz.
There is a point of reference in Podhoretz’s diatribe that one might have thought his fellow-journalists would be eager to pursue. Podhoretz directs much of his fire against a group that he seeks to combat, namely, “paleoconservatives.” Although motivating him to pen his polemic, this group does not seem to interest his reviewers, or at least not enough to be worthy of mention. From the reviews one might gather that paying attention to those against whom Podhoretz is railing would be an impropriety, comparable to belching at dinner while being seated next to the Queen of England. Moreover, allowing such reactionary types to respond in the national press would be even more upsetting—something on the order of inviting a Holocaust-denier to a meeting of AIPAC.
In one particularly arresting image in the New York Review of Books (September 27, 2007), Times– religious editor Ian Buruma compares Podhoretz and his followers to a “youngish Old Etonian Foreign Office man at a smart London club at the time of the Boer War.” The trouble with this strained analogy is that Buruma is describing not Edwardian gentlemen but grubby arrivistes. And these arrivistes would not have arrived at their present fame, were it not for their establishment liberal contacts, who treat them as first-rate thinkers while excluding from mention the paleo targets of Podhoretz’s invectives. Without forty years of respectful publicity, which have come gratis thanks to Ian and his New York pals, one wonders where Podhoretz and his movement would now be.