Bush’s Useful Idiots

A new piece by Tony Judt in the London Review of Books contains more than its fair share of memorable phrases — “America’s liberal armchair warriors are the ‘useful idiots’ 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 – the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ‘Off the Island’ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America’s drive to war – are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs. The same Friedman now sneers at ‘anti-war activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in’ (New York Times, 16 August). To be sure, Friedman’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 ‘didn’t realise’(!) how detrimental American actions would be to ‘the struggle’ but insists even so that anyone who won’t stand up to ‘Global Jihad’ just isn’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 ‘to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously’. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially. Such insouciance in spite of – indeed because of – your past misjudgments recalls a remark by the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade to Edgar Morin, a dissenting Communist vindicated by events: ‘You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong.’”

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.