There is a ferocious debate going on in the US at the moment over a book written by an American journalist of the right, Diana West. The book is titled, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character and to give you its essence, is about how communist infiltration of the Roosevelt administration ultimately meant that America’s war aims during World War II were, for all practical purposes, determined in Moscow. But what is most peculiar about the book is that it has created such a major and intense schism on the right between those who agree with West and those who think everything she wrote is delusional.
To give you some idea of the nature of this debate, there has been a furious correspondence at The New Criterion following its publication in December of a review of the book. The editor has now published a defence, not so much of West herself, but of the importance of maintaining an open mind. His editorial is titled, Premature historical closure: Why it’s important to continue debating the historical record, in which he refuses to take sides. The correspondence that follows the editorial, which is different from the correspondence found in the magazine itself, is generally quite dismayed at this evenhanded approach since if you are the type of person who subscribes to The New Criterion you are not apt to find it all that farfetched to hear that Roosevelt’s White House was riddled with communists or that it made a difference in how the war was fought.
As it happens, I read the book myself before it had become quite as controversial as it now has and wrote a review of it that has just been published in the January-February issue of Quadrant. At the start of the review, I write what I feel even more to be the case now that I have witnessed this continuous harassment of West by others who one would have thought would be on her side, our side.
No book has ever frightened me as much as American Betrayal. The only thing wrong with reading it is that you find yourself so surrounded by impossible odds that it seems there is no way you can go that isn’t in the wrong direction. Trying to fix things is as bad as just leaving them alone. But because the story the book tells is so incredible, you realise just how unbelievable her thesis would be unless you had read the book yourself.
And while the issue is narrowly about Soviet infiltration of the American foreign policy apparatus, the book has much wider implications that not only matter in the present but will remain a concern as far into the future as one might try to look. As I say in the review, I don’t wish to tell you what the book is about since it is the breadth and detail that matter. It is over 400 pages long with every fact footnoted and referenced. By the time you are finished, you will know why I have titled the article, “America, the Big Dumb Ox”. And if you read the book, you will also see what makes me so fearful about the future of the Western world.