One good thing about an Al Qaeda press release, is that you can analyze it to see what the enemy is thinking. These days, the same logic applies to the domestic enemy. In this case, I am writing about the Boston Globe, which published an interview with purported historian Morris Berman, along the now-familiar argument that when 9/11 happened, it was somehow not an atrocity committed by fanatical madmen, but actually a desperate response to American aggression. Utterly false and so offensive as to strain belief that it should be given credence by any national publication, this lie nonetheless has been pressed so often that it needs refutation once again.
To examine Berman’s screed in the full light of daylight, it seems to me best to begin by summarizing his main points from the interview. They are as follows (all cited claims are direct quotes from Berman):
• "Bush is essentially Wilsonianism or Trumanism with the sleeves rolled up."
1. Comparing sitting Presidents to past leaders is a common parlor game. And you may note that Berman does not bother to define his terms, when he speaks of ‘Wilsonianism’ and ‘Trumanism’. Instead, he simply throws them out together as implicit examples of evil American greed. Real Historians however, the kind who actually know about such individuals, would remind Berman, rather strongly, that the extant world environment each of those three men inherited is quite different from each other, and so comparing them so casually is not merely invalid, but so false as to be either deliberately deceitful or incredibly stupid. Wilson, for example, desperately wanted to keep the United States out of World War I, but events forced the issue, and a reluctant Woodrow Wilson submitted to an outraged public and Congress. As for Truman, he inherited a full-blown war in its final phases, and had to resolve the conflict to the best of his ability, in a job he neither wanted nor for which he had been properly briefed. The way in which George W. Bush is like those men, is that he, as they, did not desire war, but had the matter forced upon him, and he was compelled to address the crisis to the best of his ability. The fact that all three of these men were seeking peace but took up war only because there was no other sane recourse, rather proves the lie to Berman’s ‘Empire’ fantasy.
• "We feel that the world is at our disposal. And when other nations move to protect their resources, for example, we get enraged and interpret it as anti-Americanism."
2. Berman’s ‘other people’s resources’ shot is just a thinly veiled reference to the old ‘War for Oil’ fable, which is as false now as it ever was. Again, Berman makes no attempt at all to support his charge, but lets it hang as if it were a universally-accepted truth. The beauty of the lie is that it takes a lot to explain the true situation in the Middle East, but for here, I would remind the reader that in every contract or negotiation, the United States has always paid a fair market price, by mutual agreement, for everything purchased from any company or country with which we do business. The record shows the United States has a better track record for fair prices and compliance with contractual terms than any of its rivals on any continent.
• "By the late 1790s, virtue here was defined as success for yourself and your family in a competitive market."
3. Berman slanders every decent person in the United States, by his claim that ‘virtue’ here is defined in material terms. The millions of Americans who served in the military took real material losses to do so, but chose country and duty over profit. The thousands of charity workers who continually send out more food, clothing, medicine than the rest of the world combined do so for ideals better than anything Mr. Berman understands. Millions more Americans regularly participate in community and social projects which improve living conditions for the poor and homeless, provide hope for the unemployed and the disabled, and comfort for the lonely and sick in measures which Berman has managed to overlook only through deliberate blindness. That Berman could toss out such a blatantly false charge demonstrates only the meanness of his own cold hard soul.
• "We undertook, after all, to annex half of Mexico in the middle of the 19th century. That was hardly foisted on us; it was part of Manifest Destiny and a religious vision."
4. Berman, like many Socialists (for that is how his perspective reads to me), hopes to play on the poor knowledge of History by Americans, and so to place guilt where a better understanding would lead to Berman’s immediate rebuke. Mexico, to speak bluntly, wanted to become an empire in much the same fashion as the Spanish Empire they threw out. Corruption, Militarism, and a cruel Aristocracy were not only defining characteristics of Mexico under Santa Anna, but in large part continued in Mexico through the 20th Century. Berman makes the false submission that American foreign policy in the 19th Century must be judged in the light of 21st Century Nirvanism – the mythical presumption that America must be blamed for all ills, and that the solution is always American defeat. The concept of Manifest Destiny was not so much a government initiative, as a phrase used to describe the national mood of the day, and Berman ignores the clear advances which expanding the union brought; improved social order and services, a standardized education program and the closest thing to a universal standard of human rights known to the 19th Century. America circa 1890 compares well indeed to the rest of the world, if one considers the conditions found in 1890 Mexico, Canada, or any other country.
• "[F]rom the time of Truman until the present -- with one exception, Jimmy Carter -- nobody could become president unless they indicated that they were going to serve and expand the national security state."
5. The ‘National Security State’ canard plays on the fears of Liberals, especially Socialists. Berman is again deceitful, in that he ignores the very real threat from the Soviet Union, as if the KGB was not in fact pursuing ways to learn our secrets – Berman hopes that his readers have forgotten that the first Soviet atom bomb was developed early, because Soviet spies stole U.S. plans – and find holes in our defense. And now Berman hopes to deceive people into forgetting that there are governments firmly resolved to destroy the United States of America, if they can find a means to do so. Berman ignores the very careful balance used by President Bush, protecting civil rights while vigorously pursuing the defense of the nation.
• "Americans have trouble getting their minds around the fact that what happened on 9/11 was reactive rather than offensive. We had been doing certain things to the Arab and Islamic worlds for decades, and finally they decided they weren't going to take it anymore."
6. The notion that the 'Arab World' was just striking back on 9/11 is grossly insulting, especially to the Arab World. Berman is lying, front to back, to pretend so. The last 40 years, at the least, of American actions in the Middle East have been those of a nation which keeps its promises, which filled the security void brought about when Britain abrogated its agreements, especially with the Littoral States (look it up). Unlike many European and African powers, the U.S. has been constant in its positions and has honored its commitments. Berman, like many Socialists, hopes to sell the lie in order to hide the actual record of countries like Russia, France, and China in the region.
• "I say that there are two possible paths: One is that we decline rapidly; the other is that we decline gradually… By 2030, maybe a bit later, we'll be pretty much a second-rate power in the world."
7. Berman finally lets his mask slip a bit, when he admits that his view of the future is only loss and despair. Again he proves himself quite a fool by such a notion. Many men before have claimed that America’s best days were behind her; they have been and continue to be pathetically wrong. The strength of America is not her material wealth, though she owns that. The strength of America has not been her force of arms, though thank God for the men who take up the weapons when we are at need. The strength of America has always been the continuing blessing from God, made manifest in her leaders and armies in every aspect where we are challenged. Berman only shows his weakness, by pretending the challenge we face now is anything but of the moment.
• "What have we become, finally? A civilization dedicated to turning everything into a market."
8. The final point by Berman is no more than a feeble repeat of his failed claim, the braying of a despondent mule. I only need mention this, because too many people have taken to listening to mules for their advice and counsel. America needs better than mules and barking dogs for its information, which is why the Blogosphere is not merely a convenience, but an essential component of the century to come.
UPDATE: I edited the piece, moving claims and responses together point-by-point, because even I thought the first version was hard to read!