Open letter to Michael Berube

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 16 14:00:44 MDT 2002

Dear Professor Berube,

I hope that you don't mind that I respond to your attack on the Chomskyan
left that appears in the Sept. 15 Boston Globe
( through
this email. In fact--come to think of it--I do hope that you do find it
intrusive since I myself have grown sick of people like you, Christopher
Hitchens and Marc Cooper chastising the left from the pages of mass
circulation bourgeois media such as the LA Weekly, the Boston Globe, etc.
Years ago, when people like John Reed spoke on behalf of the left, they had
ties and accountability to a largely working-class base. Nowadays, we find
all too often that journalists and college professors speak only for
themselves and through the auspices of the very publications that are
beating the drums of war. On side of the op-ed page, we get snarling
attacks to remove Saddem Hussein. On the other, we get rueful professors
striking Orwellian poses against the radical movement. Sort of a hard
cop/soft cop combination if you gather my drift.

On to the substance. You are troubled by the wing of the left that another
"opposes all military interventions regardless of their objectives." Since
you were only five years old when the Vietnam war started, it is entirely
possible that you missed out on the rather rich discussion that involved
historians like Gabriel Kolko who questioned whether the USA ever
intervened overseas for the right reason. Along with older scholars like
Howard Zinn, a veteran of WWII who writes for the Z Magazine that disturbs
you so much, they demonstrated in copious detail that the USA only acts out
of material self-interest and never for humanitarian reasons.

Unlike yourself, they have an analysis of imperialism. You say that "The
antiwar left once knew well that its anti-imperialism was in fact a form of
patriotism - until it lost its bearings in Kosovo and Kabul, insisting
beyond all reason that those military campaigns were imperialist wars for
oil or regional power." My dear professor, there is abundant evidence that
the USA only fights for raw materials or regional power.

Let's take a look at WWII, the war that is so often offered up by people
like yourself and Hitchens as a positive example of resisting evil. In
fact, the mushy left that got on board NATO's bombing campaign in the
Balkans must have been reading Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" for
inspiration at the time.

Reading Howard Zinn, you would know that diplomat Sumner Welles assured the
French that they could hold on to their colonies after WWII. He said, "This
Government, mindful of its traditional friendship for France, has deeply
sympathized with the desire of the French people to maintain their
territories and preserve them intact."

Secretary of State Cordell Hull said "Leadership toward a new system of
international relationships in trade and other economic affairs will
devolve very largely upon the United States because of our great economic
strength. We should assume this leadership, and the responsibility that
goes with it, primarily for reasons of national self-interest."
Self-interest? Get it, Professor Berube? That's kind of like saying that
WWII was about regional power and straight from the horse's mouth, no less.

The poet Archibald MacLeish, at that time an Assistant Secretary of State,
predicted the outcome of an allied victory. He declared, "As things are now
going, the peace we will make, the peace we seem to be making, will be a
peace of oil, a peace of gold, a peace of shipping, a peace, in
brief...without moral purpose or human interest.

In any case, I doubt that any of this will mean anything to you because you
are one of those postmodernist leftists who refuse to be burdened by
historical grand narratives. I myself think that this might be intimately
linked to the undergraduate malaise described so frequently in the media as
"historical illiteracy". For example, the Princeton University website says
that 5 out of 43 students in a group selected at random from Ivy League
colleges could not identify Germany or Italy as enemies of the USA during
WWII. Do you suppose this comes from reading too much Derrida?

Louis Proyect

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