Vol. 1 No. 3 2008



REVIEWING


Barak Obama, Read These Books!:
And Be Sure to Look to the Right


In Defense of the Bush Doctrine by Robert G. Kaufman,


$19.95, paperback,
The University Press of Kentucky, 2007
(March 2008), ISBN-10: 0813191858,
ISBN-13: 978-0813191850

Great American Hypocrites—
Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics by Glenn Greenwald


$24.95, hardcover, Crown Publications, New York, 2008,
(April 2008)978-0-307-40802-0(0-307-40802-7)

Reviewed by Jane M. McCabe


To tell the truth I would not have read either of these books had not the founder and editor of NeWorld Review, Mr. Fred Beauford, selected them and asked me to read them, but I have plowed through them (neither was an easy nor a fun read), and I do not consider my time wasted.

The school teacher in me sometimes feels compelled to grade others on their performance, even past lovers. Were I to grade In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, I would give it an “A” for its balanced, carefully reasoned argument. Upon first perusal of Great American Hypocrites, I was so put off by the language Greenwald sometimes uses, like “Republican slime machine,” that I thought I was going to flunk it, but having now read it, I would give it a “B.” In spite of the book's endlessly repetitiveness and poor outline, I was glad. Greenwald had alerted me to just how insidious are the marketing techniques of the Republican right to paint itself as the paradigm of American manly virtue, when so many of its members live in direct opposition of the values they so self-righteously maintain.

Despite the fact that Kaufman supports Bush’s policies, giving historical precedent to them, and Greenwald mostly attacks the character of various Republican lawmakers and right-wing media commentators, both men share a common characteristic: they are both moralists.

At first glance it would seem their philosophies are diametrically opposed, but this is too neat a statement—both books present valid arguments.

Robert G. Kaufman is a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, a former Bradley Scholar and current adjunct scholar at the prestigious Heritage Foundation. He has written a biography on Henry Jackson.

Glenn Greenwald is a former constitutional law attorney. His political reporting and analysis have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Slate.com, and he has been a daily blogger on Salon.

Kaufman has said he wrote In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, because, “several things inspired me to write this book. For one thing, I did a great deal of speaking and public debating on the war since 9/11. I decided to turn what I had done into a book because of the paucity of books that treated the President’s strategy sympathetically, deeply, historically and seriously. In my browsing at bookstores, I noted literally hundreds of critical books. I wrote this book because of my conviction that the Bush doctrine had a more compelling logic and historical pedigree than people realize.”

In Defense of the Bush Doctrine is neatly divided into eight chapters. In the first four—The Impudence of Isolationism, The Perils of Neorealism, The Unrealistic Realism of Classical Realists, and the Perils of Liberal Multilateralism—the author explores four alternate sets of guidelines to that of Bush.

Perhaps he started with Isolationism as a means to establish it in the reader’s mind historically. Since the early 20th Century the United States has become the opposite of isolationist. It is hard now to find a single country around the globe that we do not try to influence.

Our founding father, George Washington, advocated in his Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 (five years after the beginning of the French Revolution) impartiality in the struggle between France and Great Britain. This is interesting because without the aid of the French monarchy, it is doubtful that we would have won our War of Independence. The aid France gave us helped bankrupt the monarchy and had a direct bearing on the success of the French Revolution and thus the course of modern history.

Had we refrained from entering both World War I & II, it is conceivable that Germany could have gained total control of Europe, and Hitler would not have been as easily stopped in creating his world controlled by Aryan supremacists. The Western world owes a big debt to Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for understanding the threat posed by Hitler and not attempting to placate him, as some advocated during those times . Likewise, we are indebted to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for understanding the threat to the free world posed by the Soviet Union and its allies, as well as for standing firm in their opposition to them during the Cold War.

Isolationism is not as difficult to understand. “Neorealism” and “Classical Realism” are. According to Kaufman, “Neorealism draws from classical realist theories, which emphasize enduring importance of power, geopolitics, and rivalry in international affairs, as well as the frequent necessity of war as a means to defend vital interests. It differs, however, from classical realism in one crucial respect: whereas the flawed nature of man is the starting point for classical realists … neorealists claim greater scientific precision by giving primacy to what they call the structure of the international system…. By international system, neorealists mean the distribution of power among the major states that struggle to survive in conditions of anarchy, that is, with no single overriding authority having the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.”

If you understand that, good for you.

Rather than throw more quotes at you, let us move on to those who advocate “Liberal Multilaterlism,” something Jimmy Carter might be accused of doing. My reading of history shows me that the operative law of the world since the evolution of mankind has been: they who conquer rule, because there was no world body of nations to say otherwise. Attempts to rectify this condition have occurred in the 20th Century with the formation of The League of Nations, NATO, and the United Nations.

So far the United Nations has proved to be ineffective in helping to protect nations from outside aggressors, and yet it still is the most important deterrent that we have against this ancient law of civilization.

I remember reading a novel called Rumors of Peace by Ella Leffland. (Harper & Row, 1979) The story tells of how thrilled a young teenager living in Vallejo, California, was when the United Nations established its charter in San Francisco on April 25, 1945. This charter outlaws the threat of force, except for self-defense, or when it involves collective security. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations could do little to stop it. Thus the United States, self-appointed policeman of the world, and some of its allies stepped in to repel the Iraqi Army. Which leads us to the question, how is it that some countries can invade other countries, as we did Iraq in 2003, whereas, others cannot?

Kaufman is a proponent of what he calls in Chapter Five “moral democratic realism,” which “recognizes the importance of power, geopolitics, the Judeo-Christian nature of man and absolute standards of morality to assess the greater and lesser evil. This approach recognizes the importance of the democratic peace, without succumbing to the illusion of perpetual peace of multilateralism as a substitute for the robustness of American power and the willingness to use it. (It) transcends the cynicism and illusions of classical and neo-realism, that underestimates the realm of the possible by not taking into account the benign effects of democratic peace, and overestimates the prospects for stability with totalitarian regimes.”

Moral democratic realism even advocates preemption as a legitimate means to stop such regimes and save “much blood, toil, tear, and sweat.” Kaufman’s heroes are Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman, “both of whom predicated their policies on the correct notion that regime type is critical; that stable liberal democracies do not fight; that the malevolent nature of the regimes of our moral adversaries and their animating ideologies constitute the root cause of the wars we face. Bush also falls squarely in the tradition of FDR and Churchill, who also identified correctly the nature of the Nazi and Imperial Japanese regimes as the root cause of World War II. Accordingly, FDR and Churchill demanded unconditional surrender and democratic regime change as unequivocal war aims. Truman was right. Reagan was right. FDR and Churchill were right. President George W. Bush is right to identify the culture of tyranny in the Middle East as the root cause of this war.”

If Kaufman is right, George W. Bush will be judged much more favorably by history than many of his detractors believe.

*

“For the past three decades, American politics has been driven by a bizarre anomaly,” Greenwald tells us in his book. “Polls continuously show that in almost every area, Americans vastly prefer the policies of the Democratic Party to those of the Republican Party. Yet during that time, the Republicans have won the majority of elections.” This book, Great American Hypocrites, examines how and why that has happened.

“The most important factor, by far, is that the Republican Party has used the same set of personality smears and mythical psychological and cultural imagery to win elections. These myths and smears are amplified by the right-wing noise machine and mindlessly adopted and recited by the establishment media. Right-wing leaders are inflated into heroic cultural icons, while Democrats are demonized as weak and hapless losers. These personality-based myths overwhelm substantive discussion and consideration of the issues.

“Time and again, Americans vote Republican due to their perception that right-wing leaders exude such admirable personality traits as courage, conviction, strength, wholesome family morality, identification with the ‘regular guy,’ an affection for the military, fiscal restraint, and a belief in the supremacy of the individual over government. Ronald Reagan, the wholesome, ‘Everyman’ rancher, and George W. Bush, the swaggering, conquering cowboy, road to victory on the basis of the cartoon imagery and marketing themes that defined them.

“Liberals and Democrats generally are relentlessly depicted as the opposite. Liberals are weak, irresolute, anti-military, elitist, effete, amoral, sexually deviant, profligate, and antagonistic to the values of ‘Real Americans.’ Democratic males specifically are soft, sissified, effeminate losers (‘faggots,’ in the formulation of wildly popular right-wing author Ann Coulter), while liberal woman are threatening, emasculating, icy, frigid, gender-confused dyke-ish shrews (Rush Limbaugh: ‘I mean, where are the real men in the Democratic Party? Where are the real men? Hillary Clinton’s one of them, but where are the others?’)”

Greenwald traces the root of this marketing ploy to John Wayne. Wayne was a draft-dodger during World War II, staying in Hollywood, getting rich by play acting a war hero and spending his life preening around, a swaggering über-patriotic tough guy, whose personal life was a never-ending carousel of adultery, divorces, new wives, shattered families, pills, booze, and unrestrained hedonism.

Many Americans believe the myth of Wayne as the all-American super-hero, and Ronald Reagan transformed himself into a John Wayne archetype cowboy who alone had the courage to stand tall against the Soviet empire.

Combat-avoiding George Bush, spent his entire life wallowing in privileged and sheltered hedonism, while both of his opponents in the past two elections—Al Gore and John Kerry— volunteered to go to Vietnam. Yet he was portrayed as the tough guy, while they were portrayed effeminate, soft, elitist cowards. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s formulation of Gore in 2000, was that he was “practically lactating.” Kerry was portrayed as being dominated by a rich wife and being an effete, windsurfing French pansy.

GOP leaders dressed up in the costumes of heroic icons are engaged in pure deceit, and play acting is more important, more valued, than reality. ETC.! Greenwald elaborates on this theme for the next 200 pages, until, if this reader is any example, by the end of reading it, one feels exhausted and disgusted.

But, do you know what? Greenwald is quite right in showing us the degree to which we are manipulated by the conservative media and how their distortions and sometimes out-and-out lies contribute mightily to how we view various politicians.

Let me give just one example that I found particularly disturbing: Before John Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, I was watching him and listening to what he had to say. More than any other candidate, he spoke my language. Again and again, he assailed the multinational corporations that have in the last 25 years moved hundreds of thousands of jobs previously held by Americans overseas. His sincerity was unquestionable. His wife has been battling cancer for many years, yet she campaigned with him. His devotion to her and his family is also unquestionable.

Now John Edwards is a good-looking man with a pretty-boy look. When the media found out that twice he spent $400 on haircuts from a top Beverly Hills men’s stylist, they went crazy, implying that he was a faggot, an effeminate, vain, girly-man obsessed with his hair. YouTube played a video of him brushing his hair, while in the background played the song, “I feel pretty.”

This attempt to discredit Edwards was not really amusing; it was very effective in creating in the public mind a distrust of Edwards, as fine an individual who was in the running.

Greenwald perhaps does himself a disservice by implying all Republicans are hypocrites who seek to smear their Democratic opponents, however, I think his main point is well taken, and Great American Hypocrites deserves to be read if only to alert us to the degree to which we are manipulated by the press.

Jane McCabe is a writer and painter who is interested in history.

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