La Follette’s Anti-Imperialism is Still Controversial at the Wall Street Journal

(By Richard Drake)

On 11 January 2014, Lewis Gould reviewed my book, The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion, in The Wall Street Journal. One of the chapters in particular, “La Follette Discovers the Middle East,” inspired claims and charges by the reviewer that I answered in a letter published by the newspaper on Wednesday, 29 January. You can find the letter here. There is much more to be said about the neoconservative fervor and historical inaccuracies in this review. The newspaper’s 300-word limit for letters to the editor, however, limited the range of my rebuttal.

Gould’s comments about the Middle East reflect a cast of mind that sees anti-Semitism, or—in my case—a tolerance of it, in questioning attitudes about the status quo there and the historical process leading to it. It is easy to see why Gould became so upset with my critical interpretation of the Middle East decisions made by the victors after the First World War: the status quo in the region has been such a brilliant success down to our time. What did tyros of that distant and yet completely contemporary era, such as T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, know in warning of the disasters for the world certain to ensue from a peace that made perpetual war a certainty?

To see the book’s page on Amazon, click here.

For Paul Buhle’s review of the book in The Wisconsin State Journal, click here.

Mirrored from Richard Drake’s blog

Richard Drake is professor of history at the University of Montana and author of The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion

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5 Responses

  1. Outside of the cat fight between writers, can someone address the substance of Gould’s sentiments regarding Jews. Arguing on behalf of Louis Brandeis’ candidacy for the Supreme Court isn’t revealing one way or the other. Brandeis was a brilliant jurist and his appointment was a no-brainer. Tell us more about Crane and what he said and wrote on the topic.

    • And, of course, I mistakenly referred to Gould in the first reference in my above post. Obviously, I meant Crane.

  2. I asked myself the same question and discovered that Gould’s review in its entirety is available at the WSJ on line through a google search. It does not comport with typical professorial civility, so I can understand why Professor Drake appears a bit out of sorts and labels Gould a “neoconservative”.

    As Gould IS described as a neoconservative I, for the first time ever, looked for a definition and found this description which I would like to share, Dr. Cole willing:

    “To neoconservatives, real-world conditions are not of great importance. By exerting their will, they change reality, in fact create their own reality. To the neoconservative movement, the reality-based community is a thing of the past. There is, in other words, a kind of neoconservative “triumph of the will.”

    “The recent election may have relegated the neoconservatives to academia, but the impact they have had on America and the world since the disputed 2000 presidential election is dramatic.”

    (From Andrew E. Kersten’s review of The First Cold Warrior…. by Spalding, E.E., Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, p. 764, date not available on the one page preview)

    • The term “Neoconservative” has taken on a generic definition now, as you point out in your post above. Originally, however, “Neoconservative” was the term applied during the Carter Administration to former Democrats and liberals who thought Carter showed a lack of spine and fiber in dealing with the Soviet Union in particular and in defending U.S. interests in general.

      Such individuals as Richard Perle (once an aide to Democratic senator Henry Jackson), Paul Wolfowitz, Irving Kristol (father of Bill Kristol), Jean Kirkpatrick, and others turned from being Democrats and centrists to liberals during and after Carter. Subsequently, as noted, the term has taken on a generic definition far removed from its beginnings.

      • To correct my sentence above.

        Such individuals as Richard Perle (once an aide to Democratic senator Henry Jackson), Paul Wolfowitz, Irving Kristol (father of Bill Kristol), Jean Kirkpatrick, and others turned from being Democrats and liberal-centrists to being conservatives during and after Carter. Thus, the term NEOconservative.

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