A new piece by Tony Judt in the London Review of Books contains more than its fair share of memorable phrases — “Americaâ€™s liberal armchair warriors are the â€˜useful idiotsâ€™ of the War on Terror” — and one is tempted to simply copy and paste the whole thing, but I’ll resist and give you this delightful snippet:
“… [T]hose centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War â€“ the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted â€˜Off the Islandâ€™ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing Americaâ€™s drive to war â€“ are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs. The same Friedman now sneers at â€˜anti-war activists who havenâ€™t thought a whit about the larger struggle weâ€™re inâ€™ (New York Times, 16 August). To be sure, Friedmanâ€™s Pulitzer-winning pieties are always road-tested for middlebrow political acceptability. But for just that reason they are a sure guide to the mood of the American intellectual mainstream.
“Friedman is seconded by [Peter] Beinart, who concedes that he â€˜didnâ€™t realiseâ€™(!) how detrimental American actions would be to â€˜the struggleâ€™ but insists even so that anyone who wonâ€™t stand up to â€˜Global Jihadâ€™ just isnâ€™t a consistent defender of liberal values. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, writing in the Financial Times, accuses Democratic critics of the Iraq War of failing â€˜to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriouslyâ€™. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially. Such insouciance in spite of â€“ indeed because of â€“ your past misjudgments recalls a remark by the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade to Edgar Morin, a dissenting Communist vindicated by events: â€˜You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong.â€™”
Judt, you’ll remember, authored a perceptive piece on the Mearsheimer-Walt controversy, speaking of which: the London Review of Books is sponsoring a debate on the question “The Israel Lobby: Does it have too much influence on American foreign policy?” September 28, at 7 p.m., in the Great Hall, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Cooper Square, New York. Debaters: John J. Mearsheimer, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Martin Indyk, Tony Judt, Rashid Khalidi, and Dennis Ross. Go here for more information.