My only contact with Arthur M Schlesinger was at one remove. A few years ago, he used to write periodically to The Spectator to complain to my editor about me that no-one other than Christopher Hitchens so misled the world about America under the Clinton Administration. He began one letter with the words “As one of those disgraceful American liberals…” to which my editor, Frank Johnson, wrote back: “Actually, I’ve always thought of you as a graceful American liberal.” Which he was. His defense of the President during that period – that “a gentleman never tells” – was at least quaintly charming in its preposterousness.
After 9/11, he was less graceful. His fall 2001 paeans to the mighty Pushtun warrior were among the first to predict Vietnam quagmires in the new war, for no other reason than that Afghanistan was in the same vaguely east-of-Martha’s-Vineyard direction as Vietnam. Had the historian troubled himself to pick up any history book, he’d have realized that in a ramshackle way pre-Commie Afghanistan was actually one of the more pacifiable and manageable spots on the map.