Radosh’s Rant Against the Old Right

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A recent posting on neocon-lite website, Quillette, by its go-to authority on foreign affairs, Ronald Radosh, makes unkind references to Pat Buchanan, Pedro Gonzalez, and me:

The current issue of Chronicles, meanwhile, includes an article by Pat Buchanan condemning President Biden’s “vilification” of Putin, while in another, Paul Gottfried cries “Long Live Orbán!” and elsewhere blasts neoconservatives for promoting “Grotesque Ideological Imperialism.”

These maliciously intended references turn up amid attacks on Compact, a new online publication edited by Sohrab Ahmari, which seeks to blend social conservatism with economic socialism, and which shares Chronicles’ long-held noninterventionist foreign policy stance. Radosh’s main complaint is that some members of the Old Right are not sufficiently hostile to Putin, so I’ve no idea why I am cited along with those who have been blasting the Ukrainians, since I have been unequivocal in my condemnation of Putin’s invasion.

Unlike Quillette and its preferred neoconservative publicists, however, I and other Chronicles writers have in our current issue, “Not Our War,” also observed problems with the behavior of America and NATO that may have tipped Putin’s hand. These include the continuing eastward extension of an anti-Russian NATO and the U.S. State Department’s involvement in the 2014 overthrow of the duly elected Ukrainian government. Pedro Gonzalez holds admittedly more negative views of the Ukrainian side of this conflict than I do, but this does not hinder us from working together, since we on the Old Right actually do believe in open discussion.

The open discussion that we affirm at Chronicles is not just about allowing neocons to dialogue with leftists, as is the case at Quillette, National Review, and other neoconservative-dominated publications. We actually think people on the right, including the traditional right, should be allowed to disagree, without having the conservative establishment purge dissenters.

Radosh, meanwhile, seems infuriated that I’ve had nice things to say about a Hungarian conservative democrat, Viktor Orbán, and (to add insult to injury) that I have described Radosh’s fellow neocons as wacky imperialists. Of course, context is everything, and Radosh was citing me as a member of his rogues’ gallery for being critical of the neocon understanding (or non-understanding) of foreign policy, and for not supporting Orbán’s leftist competition in Hungarian politics. That Radosh hates Orbán should come as no surprise. After all, Radosh is also a neocon imperialist. He is in fact a relic of the anti-Soviet left that came into existence in reaction to Stalin but has since profitably merged with the neocon hive. Everything Radosh writes carries the familiar moldiness of the anti-Communist left, which, absent its neocon sponsors, would have mercifully disappeared.

Now that Stalin is gone, Radosh has new enemies to attack, like “isolationists,” a term of abuse for critics of his expansionist foreign policy aimed at inflicting the latest version of American democracy on the rest of humanity. This includes a factually flawed attack on the “isolationists” of the past, like his favorite whipping boy, the prominent post-war senator from Ohio, Robert A. Taft, who we profile in our current issue.

What evidence does Radosh have, as he tells us in his Quillette diatribe, that Taft “thought nothing of the Czech coup that ended democracy and brought the Communists to power”? The Soviets were enormously popular in Czechoslovakia after World War II, and the Communist Party they backed came close to winning a majority vote in postwar elections. If the FDR government, which Radosh idolizes, had dealt more firmly with the Soviets (as Sean McMeekin suggests in his book Stalin’s War), and if the Germans had been allowed to surrender separately (and not unconditionally), much of Eastern Europe might have been spared the horror of a Soviet occupation. 

Radosh also presents us with this extravagant generalization: “The Trump Right bears a striking resemblance to the old Taft Republicans who attacked NATO.” He is really referring to the fact that in July 1948, the Ohio senator voted against the formation of NATO. Taft believed an open-ended commitment to consigning huge numbers of American forces to a war against the Soviets, if any signatory to the treaty was attacked, went too far. Like the foreign policy realist George Kennan, Taft resisted NATO because it would draw more and more countries into an anti-Russian alliance that would increase the risk of a catastrophic nuclear conflict. Taft also feared that keeping the U.S. on a continuing war footing would abridge our constitutional liberties and allow the federal government to invoke war emergencies and the ensuing taxes with fewer and fewer restraints.

Taft’s sensible plan that Europeans be encouraged to defend themselves was a nonstarter, since rearming Germany was totally unacceptable to our foreign policy establishment. In fact, NATO was intended to be an organization that would “keep Germany down, the Americans in, and Russia out.” The Nation, which in the 1940s was the type of leftist publication that Ron Radosh would be at home in, denounced Taft as “super appeaser” in language that sounds strikingly similar to the rhetoric that McCarthy turned against suspected Communists. Although I might have voted differently if I were a senator in 1948, Taft’s position was carefully considered and in some ways prescient. Radosh’s rant, by contrast, seems to emanate from a broken record player that should have been switched off decades ago.

For those who may not know, Radosh, in an earlier more intelligent phase, in which he was just a leftist rather than a neoconservative, wrote one of the best defenses of Taft I have ever read. It would be unfair of me not to praise him for his earlier achievement.

Etching in crayon by W Hebert, c 1770, after C Le Brun (CC by 4.0)

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