The Axis of Drivel
"I Coin 'the Axis of Evil' and My Wife Gets Me Canned for It"
Frum has just "taken on" the antiwar right in an article
called "Unpatriotic Conservatives."
It is one of the most pathetic pieces of writing ever to appear
in National Review, composed almost entirely of illogic and
ad hominem attacks. Frum is so distraught at the thought
that there is an antiwar right that the ability to form coherent
sentences deserts him at times: "But here is what never could
have been: Some of the leading figures in this antiwar movement
call themselves 'conservatives.'"
first problem is one of labeling. The antiwar right is a broad coalition
of people with divergent views. Within it are people who would call
themselves conservatives, populists, paleoconservatives, libertarians,
paleolibertarians, market anarchists, and probably more labels of
which I haven't thought. But this is inconvenient for Frum: The
bulk of his article will consist of trying to assign any view ever
held by anyone on the antiwar right to everyone on
the antiwar right. Therefore, he needs to treat it as a homogeneous
group with a basically unified view. So, he lumps the entire antiwar
right under the label "paleoconservative."
Robert Novak really a paleoconservative? Is the market anarchist,
open-borders advocate Walter
Block a paleoconservative? Are Reason
Magazine writers Brian Doherty and Jesse Walker paleocons?
Is the Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez? Sheldon Richman of the Future
of Freedom Foundation? High Clearing's Jim Henley? The Independent Institute's Robert Higgs? Are
Age" writings of Butler Shaffer paleoconservative? I think
Frum is trying to pull a fast one on us.
next lists the charges against the antiwar right:
the antiwar conservatives… have made common cause with the left-wing
and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They
deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling
defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of
them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies."
take up his charges one at a time.
cause: Frum lists several leftists to whom the antiwar right
likes to link. No evidence is given that a single one of them is
an Islamist or "anti-American" (rather than anti-American-foreign-policy).
Doesn't National Review link to, and even publish, pro-war
leftists like Christopher Hitchens? Of course they do. Everyone
likes to bring in someone from the other side of the political spectrum
with whom one agrees on a particular issue. First charge dismissed.
denial: Here, Frum cites Robert Novak's disagreement with Condoleezza
Rice about whether Hezbollah or al-Qaeda is the world's most dangerous
terrorist organization. Frum is apoplectic that Novak did not mention
two Hezbollah attacks on US personnel in Lebanon in claiming that
Hezbollah focuses on Israel. Well, Hezbollah attacked US forces
when it saw them as defending Israel's interests, so Novak's point
stands. In any case, it wouldn't constitute "terror denial"
even if he were wrong and Rice correct. Frum's charge is completely
fatuous: Not a single person he names from the antiwar right, nor
any other member of it that I know of, has ever denied that terrorists
exist, and that they sometimes target the US. Second charge: rubbish.
defeatism: Frum goes after Novak once more, for claiming that
bombing Afghanistan would not defeat al-Qaeda. But that is not "defeatism,"
that is a disagreement over tactics. Novak didn't recommend we offer
bin Laden the presidency! And it's not at all clear that Novak was
wrong: After all, bin Laden escaped and al-Qaeda is still in operation.
In any case, the evidence presented has nothing to do with the charge.
Here, Frum points to Pat Buchanan explaining why the US was targeted
for attack on September 11th. The notion that explaining
terrorist acts is equivalent to excusing them is so stupid that
it shouldn't require refutation. But since the neocons use it again
and again, I suppose it does require it. I've already addressed
this elsewhere, so I'll
just explain again quickly: When an historian says that Hitler was
moved to act against the Jews by his belief that they were responsible
for Germany's defeat in World War I, he is explaining Hitler,
not excusing him. Do you neocons get it yet? Charge dropped.
Frum simply describes two theories put forward by Justin Raimondo.
He makes no effort to dispute either theory, despite the fact that
Justin and others (such as that bastion of paleoconservatism, Fox
News) have assembled a number of facts defending the theories. (I
have no idea if the theories are right or not, as I haven't had
the time to research them myself.) Merely adhering to a conspiracy
theory is supposed to be enough to discredit someone.
Frum want to deny that conspiracies ever exist? Does he deny
that the 9/11 attacks were the result of a conspiracy, on
the part of al-Qaeda? In fact, the neocon case for attacking Iraq
relies on a conspiracy theory, namely, the one that holds
that Hussein has been conspiring and will continue to conspire with
al-Qaeda. Does Frum mean to say that only Arabs have conspiracies,
but Israelis never do?
out that a single person on the antiwar right holds some particular
conspiracy theory gets Frum nowhere. The entire staff of
National Review has been engaged in "conspiracy-theorizing"
for months. They just like their own conspiracy theories better
than Justin's. If Justin is nuts, Mr. Frum, refute his case. Otherwise:
for defeat: Frum contends that Eric Margolis was "yearning
for defeat" when he advised the Arab world on how to "prevent
a war of aggression against Iraq." But Margolis was writing
about how to prevent war, not how to beat the US in a war.
I am sure he realizes that even a united Arab world could not prevent
the US from taking over Iraq if it attacked. He was simply hoping
to forestall the attack. So were most of the other people in the
world. Once again, there is a complete mismatch between the charge
and the evidence. Dropped.
next delves into history. He attempts to explain away the entire
antiwar right by attributing its rise to disgruntled people who
couldn't get jobs they wanted due to neoconservative opposition.
He then cites exactly two cases: Mel Bradford and Paul Gottfried.
I know nothing about the circumstances of either of their claims.
But if the claims turned out to be entirely baseless in each case,
how would that be relevant to Frum's case? The antiwar right is
putting forward a number of ideas about the nature of America
and its proper role in the world. If two "paleos" were
wrong about what happened to their careers, how would this have
any bearing on "paleo" ideas? But actually engaging the
ideas of the antiwar right is not something Frum plans on doing.
Frum delivers what he hopes will be the coup-de-grâce to the antiwar
right: he charges it with racism and anti-Semitism, the prime bogeymen
of our day and age. Now, it is no doubt true that some people on
the antiwar right hold to theories that different races can be "sorted"
based on intelligence as determined by their genes. As a person
who puts his faith in the human spirit, I give little credence to
such schemes. I believe our genes are like a car our parents bequeath
to us, while how we drive it depends on our own efforts.
in any case, so what? How is holding to a genetic theory of intelligence
relevant to one's views on attacking Iraq? Didn't National Review
itself defend The
Bell Curve, a book that posits just such a theory, when
it came out? Didn't the magazine (September 12, 1994) sympathetically
review the work of Philippe Rushton, who also posits a genetic theory
of intelligence? Didn't Ernest van den Haag, a regular contributor
to National Review, support William Shockley's sterilization
program for those with a low IQ? Doesn't John Derbyshire publish
ideas similar to the ones Frum is shocked by, right in
National Review Online? And hasn't the pro-war right been full
of racist theories about Arabs? I bring this all up only to point
out that one's views on racial issues are irrelevant to the issue
at hand. Frum drags them into the discussion only to smear people
with whom he is unable to argue intelligently.
next turns to the "anti-Semitism" of the antiwar right:
"Who was the first paleo to blame Israel for 9/11? It's a close
call, but Robert Novak seems to have won the race. His column of
September 13, 2001, written the very day after the terrorist attack,
charged that 'the hatred toward the United States today by the terrorists
is an extension of [their] hatred of Israel.'"
Frum has confused quite deliberately I would imagine an explanation
for a justification. Whether Novak is correct or not, he does not
"blame" Israel. Clearly, the people who flew the planes
are to blame for 9/11. Novak offers our support for Israel as an
explanation for why those terrorists decided to attack. Does
Frum deny the obvious fact that our support for Israel bothers many
Arabs? (Of course, that doesn't decide the issue of whether that
support is right or wrong.)
continues: "Raimondo himself soon began work on a book that
alleged that 9/11 was in the broadest sense an Israeli plot."
Now Frum is just making things up. Justin's view is that Israel
knew 9/11 was being plotted by al-Qaeda but let the plot proceed.
True or not, that is very different from the view Frum ascribes
proceeds to his melodramatic conclusion. "And now it is time
to be very frank about the paleos," he tells us. At least Frum
admits he has been b-s-ing us up to this point!
continues: "There is… a fringe attached to the conservative
world that cannot overcome its despair and alienation. The resentments
are too intense, the bitterness too unappeasable." Let me assure
you, Mr. Frum, I ain't got no despair or alienation. My resentments
aren't intense: my main one is that I mildly resent my doctor for
telling me I shouldn't drink, due to a digestive ailment. And my
bitterness is easily appeased: just buy me a beer, but be sure you
don't tell my doctor.
know that the neocons' day in the sun will be brief, like that of
all empire builders. In the end, they will face the truth: "Except
the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except
the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." I
neither rejoice in nor wish to hasten the inevitability of their
fate. However, in the meantime, without hatred, without resentment,
without bitterness, but merely because it is my duty, I will do
what I can to control the damage that their rampaging egos will
closes by saying, "The paleoconservatives have chosen and
the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned
their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them."
now I am filled with despair! David Frum is turning
his back on me? How will I ever go on?
2003 Gene Callahan
Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives