The Diana West Controversy
24 July 2014
Diana West’s book, American Betrayal, has aroused controversy. It appears to have caused an emotional reaction that has prevented a scholarly discourse.
Diana West recently published her correspondence with American Thinker editor JR Dunn. She objects to American Thinker’s policy of editing the content of her response to three articles that appeared in AT critical of her book, American Betrayal. AT naturally have the right to edit what it publishes. David Horowitz has the right to remove a favorable article about the book from his website. People have the right to insult and misrepresent. But do these things encourage scholarly debate? Insults and vitriol have been used by both sides. However, it is important to note who initiated this. If you check the correspondence you will find that Diana West's defenders are often more civil than her opponents. This is still a highly emotional subject. AT claims it represent the high ground. AT finds her "superciliousness and scarcely veiled insults troubling." Yet AT called Edward Epstein "another damnfool journalist." AT published Ron Radosh's claim that she has proposed "a cockamanie and warped theory."
AT claims that there are several errors of fact in her response. Let the reader be the judge of that. These errors can be corrected by a response to her response. If the errors are egregious enough people will consider the source unreliable. People are free (at least in the United States) to claim that the Holocaust did not occur, the earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese. If writers value their credibility they will steer clear of implausible claims. All works have flaws. As Jeff Nyquist has pointed out Dr. Lipkes refers to Pavel Sudoplatov as a Soviet “defector.” He was not. AT refers to Diana West's book as "America Betrayed." To err is human.
The major objection to American Betrayal is West's thesis that U.S. strategy was "driven by Soviet infiltrators active in Washington policymaking circles." She puts aside "the established record" and uses "odd bits of unrelated, isolated information" to construct her “cockamanie theory.” She relies on quotes. This is a violation of "one of the major principles of historiography." Yes, quotes are often self-serving or even mendacious. However, they are an important part of history even when unreliable. In an effort to disprove West's theory Ron Radosh has enlisted Harvey Klehr, a respected Soviet expert, to make the absurd claim: “In our more than twenty years of archivally based research on Soviet espionage in America, we have uncovered ample documentation of Soviet intelligence obtaining American technical, military, and diplomatic information but very little indicating successful policy manipulation.” I found this statement unbelievable.
Ron Radosh was offended by American Betrayal because it "besmirches conservatism and allows liberals and the Left to use it to paint conservatives as a bunch of nutcases." She is accused of exaggerating the extent of Soviet influence. If Vasili Mitrokhin can be believed, Diana West underestimates the extent of Soviet infiltration. West claims there were about 500 Soviet agents in the U.S. government. Mitrokhim lists about 1,000. When commenting on the second front debate AT claims "communist influence on European strategy was minimal." I am not competent to defend West's assertions about the second front. However, I consider myself an expert on Soviet influence on American postwar policy. I have documented how Soviet agents designed America’s postwar policy (the Morgenthau Plan) that nearly destroyed the economy of Europe and almost resulted in France and Italy going Communist by 1947. I have based my conclusions on facts. I use quotations in violation of one of the major principles of historiography. I compare these quotations with other quotations and to the relevant documents. Call me a nutcase and refute every one of my arguments. Or you can come around to the logical position.
To: JOHN DIETRICH
Thanks for this, John, but we must pass. We don't take pieces in the second person, which are for all intents and purposes open letters. This is explicitly laid out in our guidelines.
Drew J. Belsky
Unfortunately, I had not refreshed my memory about American Thinker guidelines.