Contrary to the views expressed by some people I greatly respect, including Conrad Black here at NRO, I liked my friend Diana West’s controversial book, American Betrayal. I explain why in the new edition of The New Criterion, here. I do not want to belabor the argument — it is there for anyone who is interested. I do want to address something I did not get into in the review: the name-calling that has marred the controversy over the book. Awful things have been said about Diana, who is not “deranged,” “a right-wing loopy,” “McCarthy’s heiress” (that would be Joseph McCarthy) or the like. Awful things have also been said about my friends David Horowitz and Ron Radosh, who have made lasting contributions to the conservative movement and to the imperative of honest, forceful debate, and who are the antithesis of “book-burners” and “closet-Commies.”
There is a worthy debate to be had about the wages of Soviet espionage in the U.S. during the 20th century and what it can teach us about, for example, the contemporary infiltration of American institutions by Islamic supremacists. Unfortunately, that debate has been overwhelmed by the heated rhetoric on both sides, which even more regrettably got very personal. As I detail in the review, Diana has written a serious book, and estimable historians have some weighty objections to her account of the Roosevelt administration’s conduct of World War II. It is, moreover, very difficult to quantify the impact of hostile intelligence operations intended to influence governmental decision-making. Even though it is incontestable that FDR’s administration was penetrated by some Communist operatives and sympathizers, it is very hard to assess how much wartime U.S. policies that favored Stalin’s regime may have been driven by espionage (the ingredient Diana stresses) as opposed to battlefield realities and the imperative of keeping the Soviets on the Allied side of the war (the rationales favored by Diana’s critics). Since I have friends on both sides of the controversy over the book, my sense is that, going forward, there will be less heat and more light. Here’s hoping.