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Ron Radosh

Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book

August 7th, 2013 - 1:14 pm

As his biographer John B. Judis wrote in 2001, Buckley and National Review,“drew the line when the John Birch Society and its founder, Robert Welch, began to maintain that the American government itself was being run by Communists rather than liberals. Such a position not only ran directly counter to that of National Review; it also threatened to cast the Right into what [James] Burnham called ‘crackpot alley.’” As readers of Diana West’s book know, she argues that during World War II and the early Cold War, the American government was “occupied” and run by Stalin’s secret police, through its agents who controlled the White House. This is, indeed, thinking that echoes Robert Welch.

Of course, Buckley was talking about a movement, and not about a book. But the analogy holds. Diana West’s thought pattern indeed bears a strong resemblance to that of the Birch Society and Robert Welch. As Buckley himself wrote in Commentary in March of 2008, Birch thinking went like this:

The fallacy is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence; we lost China to the Communists; therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.

Readers of Diana West’s tome will no doubt quickly see the similarity in what Buckley attacked as the method of the conspiratorial mind. West believes that since Eastern Europe was lost to the West and conquered by Stalin, it meant that the American and British leaders, including FDR and Winston Churchill, were presiding over an “occupied” and controlled government. As I write in my review, West thinks that “The Roosevelt administration [was] penetrated, fooled, subverted, in effect hijacked by Soviet agents… and engaged in a ‘sell-out’ to Stalin” that “conspirators of silence on the Left…would bury for as long as possible, desperately throwing mud over it and anyone who wanted the sun to shine in.” According to West, it was only because Washington was “Communist-occupied” that the United States aligned itself with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and, later, that the President allowed Stalin to gain Eastern Europe.

The other question I wondered about is why so many conservatives, who I believe should really know better, have responded so favorably to her book. I think the answer is that they are fed up with the leftist narrative that there was no threat from Communism in any way; that the 50s were a period of witch-hunts against non-existent enemies; and that, therefore, anyone who realizes this was not an accurate picture of that era must be correct in their analysis about what happened.

As I believe I show in my review, West takes this understanding one step further — to argue that not only was Communism an actual threat, and not only had Communists infiltrated the government during the New Deal, but that they actually controlled and ran the White House and made the major foreign policy decisions. She also castigates all of those, including me, who have written for decades about Soviet espionage and Communism. While she acknowledges at times that scholars like me, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, Alexander Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein have done a yeoman’s job of revealing the extent of Soviet espionage, she condemns all of us for not accepting her judgment and conclusion that American policy was made for the benefit of the Soviet Union, and that the spies literally ran both the American and British governments.

She knocks down straw men continually. For example, on the question of espionage, she argues that all of us view Soviet espionage as a matter of personal conscience and “not as an issue of national security.” This is preposterous, and I point specifically to article Steve Usdin and I co-authored  in 2011 that appeared in The Weekly Standard, in which among other things we specifically reveal what real damage the Rosenberg spy ring did to our national security, above and beyond trying to obtain material pertaining to the atomic bomb. Telling the truth, however, would interfere with her narrative in which she is continually trying to show that, in essence, even those who have exposed the extent of Soviet espionage are part of the great conspiracy to cover up the truth.

I end by asking readers to carefully read my review, and to reconsider jumping on the Diana West bandwagon. To continue to give her very bad book credibility will only work to harm the integrity and reputation of conservative intellectuals. After all, it has been decades since William F. Buckley Jr. acted courageously to push the Birchers out of the movement he was building. Do we really want to welcome their successors into it now, after so many lessons have been learned?

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Attacking the John Birch people is one side of the coin, however, remember Wisconsin Senator "have you no shame" Joseph McCarthy? A lot of his paranoid rantings about Communist infiltrating our government and institutions turned out to be spot on, and it was the Soviets themselves who proved almost all of McCarthy's wild accusations to have merit. Don't forget Ron we had Anita Dunn and Vance Jones for brief period in this administration, don't forget we have a Supreme Court jester who doesn't not recommend the Constitution she has sworn an oath to uphold. Don't forget almost all levels of government are infested with government unions, and during this administration we have witnessed the unleashing of Government agencies against the political thoughts of an opposing ideology. Why do you think government workers are almost universally opposed to conservatism? Am I being paranoid? I can't drink the John Birch koolaid and believe that Roosevelt knew that the Rising Sun was about to attack anymore than I would believe that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, however, the evidence is very clear our government is infested with anti constitutionalists anti conservatives and yes even commies.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is nothing "fanatical" about the right when it comes to our corrupt government and the corrupt media. There are many in Congress who know damn well that Obama is a FRAUD and they refuse to do anything about the criminal activity he has been part of. He has been flaunting an April 27th, 2011 computer generated pdf file that is 9 layered with a seal that can be moved anywhere on the document which makes it a complete and utter FORGERY. His Selective Service registration is fraudulent, they would want you to believe that the registration was done in 1980 when in fact it was done in 2008. His SS# was flagged several times by E-Verify for crying out loud. Become fanatical and connect the damn dots. Obama is a FRAUD.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I read West's book and find Radosh's remarks less than compelling. There is no doubt that Roosevelt's administration was home to communists working for Stalin.

His conflating this book with the Birchers is doing just what he is accusing Ms West of doing, isn't it? Anti-anti communism was not the fault of the Birchers, it existed well before the Birch society. Many American institutions are so thoroughly controlled by communist sympathizers that it is simply taken for granted.

Among them is the entertainment industry. Here is an example. Is the name Sean Penn familiar? Sure it is. Sean Penn's father, Leo Penn was a communist. Not a communist sympathizer, a communist. A real 'card carrying communist.' Now his son Sean, visits Venezuela, makes adoring statements about the marxist Chavez, berates the US on foreign soil, and no one says a word.

Why, because the anti anti-communist Pavlovian response is right there, intimidating anyone who would be so crude as to mention it. So, Radosh is mistaken, West is right and pretending something isn't happening because of fear of the response is not smart, it's not sophisticated, it is surrender in slow motion.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (180)
All Comments   (180)
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I and Mr Radiosh disagreed on illegal immigration but the John Birchers favorite Candidate Ron Paul who had dealings with them opposed e-verify or other measures to punished employers that hired them. His is secure the border which is never 100 percent full proof and some system needs to be developed more to stop the job magnet. This proves the John Birchers who didn't like Eisenhower are off since Eisenhower unlike Reagan deported 2 million illegal immigrants that one has problems now doing.
Two, the extreme socialists versus free market view has lead a lot of Conservatives to hate New York or Kalifornia as they say even though some of up state New York votes Republican or Placer, Orange and Kern vote more Republican than Houston, Dallas or Austin. Front Mag use to published Neo-Cons have I disagree on some issues but now its Tea Party Paul Gottifeild that opposed illegal immigration but will censor you if you disagree with him on taxation. I'm with Ben Stein in order to have a strong defense you may also have to rise some taxes but not just on rich people or if you don't them you need to tightened up the loop holes.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ron, the sad fact is that the great American Conservative, William F. Buckley, went to his grave in denial that liberalism, no matter how "patriotic" and well-intended is a communist plot and all liberals are agents of communist influence, whether they know it or not. Now in California we will have boys claiming to be girls signing up for girls sports and going into the girls bathroom. It is illegal to pray to Jesus in school, but the Hindu rite of yoga is promoted. All of the goals of the American Communist party stated in the early 1960's, when Buckley started his anti-anti-communist campaign, have now been achieved, partly in thanks to Buckley silencing critics of communism.
The Soviets themselves defined the agent of influence as not necessarily having to be aware that he was helping to promote communism and the USSR. Buckley himself was duped into thinking that attacking the John Birch Society would help the conservative cause. What a tragic mistake!
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I cannot countenance conspiracy theories, ..."

Ron, as far as I'm concerned, this, all by itself, puts you in a category of closed-minded people, of people not really suited to proper inquiry. For years, I resisted even the hint that this or that in history might be conspiratorial. I considered it inherently "wackoid."

But I can no longer deny that individuals, including high-placed and even highly visible ones, collude, that they do so secretly or that they gaslight those who spot it. This is the very definition of conspiracy.

There is so very much evidence today of collusion, much of it secret: the meshing of government and business, especially the banking cartel, the tilting of the economic and regulatory playing field, ... the list just goes on and on and on! How can you deny this stuff? If it were an eye chart and the "subject" were 70% blind, the subject could see it. How could it be that you "refuse to countenance" what is so blatantly obvious to even the marginally sighted? Amazing!

http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/08/reds_under_the_beds_diana_west_cant_sleep.html [http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/08/reds_under_the_beds_diana_west_cant_sleep.html] I was very impressed with this review. It was concise and had both critical and complimentary elements, and I suspect was reasonable in its analysis of the real essence of the "cat fight" that you, with Front Page, seem to have started with West.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Indeed! The case is closed before it can be opened, and this we are expected to regard as careful scholarship?

I've never read anything by John Birch or his society, so I can't comment on them, but history has proven "the Wisconsin Senator", Joe McCarthy, to have been right. (Though not to have always acted rightly.)


All you need to do is to read the enemy's own writings, which he openly flaunts. Read the Manifestos (Marx, Humanist 1&2), read Alinsky and the like, then compare them to the newspapers over the last hundred years or so.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have not read D. West's book or any book by Mr. Radosh. I prefer a serious book review to be less antagonistic than Mr. Radosh has done with D. West's book. Of course, she may have questioned his and other's scholarship or conclusion. If so, be specific rather than dancing about.
Any reader of WW 2 materials, especially on intelligence work in the US and UK and elsewhere understands that Yalta was a sell out in favor of Uncle Joe Stalin. We condemned millions in Eastern Europe to a hell in this world. FDR, sick and naïve and with guidance of Harry Dexter White and others of like mind, did not give FDR sound advice.
Churchill shares the blame but as our "junior" partner, he was an echo some of the time. Churchill's main concern was protecting what was left of the British Empire.
As for Joe McCarthy, read his book and explanations rather than condemn the man who, obviously, had a lot of faults.
Martin Dies, of the House Un-American Activities Committee, has given us a good read also on communists influence.
Finally, I commend to reader's attention Medford Evans, "The Secret War for the Atomic Bomb."
I suspect these books would give Mr. Radosh and Mr. West food for thought beyond what they have provided.
Thank you for reading this post.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two words come to mind Ron.....Thank You.

Way too much viewing the world in conspiratorial terms for my tastes.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I found this a bit humorous. Ron's article titled McCarthy on Steroids is posted at a site whose tagline is "Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out."

LOL! And Diana West is the Bircher?

Anyways, I think you could have been a little more collegial Ron, both you and Horowitz. I agree there is some stuff to criticize in Ms. West's book...but remember Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment. Throwing around the terms McCarthyist and Bircher is irresponsible and highly objectionable, IMO. Diana West deserves respect. I highly value her contributions to the Counter-Jihad. Tearing her down isnt going to help the cause.

35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really Ron "Diana West Down Crackpot Alley?" You see that is just mean spirited. You and Horowitz should have handled this in a more amiable manner.

Shame on both of you.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Radish wants his "conservatism" to be tame, bland and dying, he likes it that way, Mr. Radish does not question things he accepts the establishment's version of everything.

Mr. Radish is the problem every bit as much as Obama and his ilk are.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed, but the name game is juvenile.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually I would say he wants it to be...accurate....and not wearing a tin foil hat.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please don't ever read Marx, or the Humanist Manifestos. Stay away from Alinsky and the like, too.

Such things would upset you.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
The holy Christian laments how the west has cut off Christian roots and become secular in the name of progress. Thomas Jefferson behaving like Zeus having sex with his chained slaves just like his father was a man of his times not another Ariel Castro.
The holy Christian does not compromise and sees Jefferson as an immoral man just like Ariel Castro and Martin Luther King in need of repentance.
God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow but he sent the son to bring mercy to the repentant sinner
So the secular west is in rebellion from God. They may use Islam ,Jews, and Christians but is is not to make them holy people but make them serve the state. Christian serves the state but must obey God as ruler rather than man or the secular state that behaves like Zeus, unites with China to gain more power and one wonders when the State will do what the King of Babylon did to those Jews who worshiped the True God.
The Christian who refuses to fight for the Zeus controlled west may sweat blood making such a stand as he prays to God and Asks God to give him the strength to resist worshiping the state as it replaces to True God by secular brainwashing so it seems
Christian are commanded to always be on watch for the 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus Christ
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you Mr. Radosh for your honest review of Diana West's book. It is shoddy scholarship (as you've pointed out) at best, revisionist history designed to sell books to gullible readers at worst. Thank you Mr. Radosh.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am sorry to have to say that Mr. Radosh's review comments, here and at FrontPage, are misleading about Diana West's book. I was critical of some aspects of it in my own review at The Optimistic Conservative blog, but I urge PJM regulars to read her book and decide for yourselves if it is an essay in Bircherism. I don't find it to be so, and I was as well aware as Mr. Radosh beforehand of the history of Soviet agents in the US government.

It is by no means a tinfoil-hat question whether we would have conducted WWII differently if our federal government had not had so many Soviet agents in it in the 1930s and 1940s. I note that points like whether Harry Hopkins was "agent No. 19" are really secondary; indeed, can be considered red herrings. The record of Hopkins's diligence in promoting Stalin's strategic themes in US decision-making about the war is there in black and white. It doesn't actually matter if Hopkins was, in a technical sense, a KGB-run asset. The point is that he endorsed and promoted Stalin's priorities and stated interests on numerous matters. If he, and documented agents like Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White, and Alger Hiss, had not held their positions in the US government, it is a perfectly reasonable question whether we would have made different strategic choices about the war.

To characterize that question as "Bircherism" is to suggest that no one can legitimately bend a critical eye on our narratives about history. Yet this is something we do all the time -- and it is badly needed as regards all narratives relating to FDR's tenure in office, about which gigantically false stories have been woven in the academy and the media.

Decide for yourself whether West's thesis has merit. It can be hard for us to accept that there is reason to question the narratives we are comfortable with, but West builds a compelling case on some important topics. For more discussion on this, see the exchange at my blog:

http://theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/facts-and-implications-notes-on-diana-wests-american-betrayal/
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
JE - I respect your opinion, but don't agree here.

West, in her blog, cites the decision of the allies to land in France and drive into Germany, rather than fighting North from Italy and SE Europe, as evidence of the USSR guided conspiracy to control US strategy.

I guess somebody could argue for an “Italy-centric” strategy rather than Overlord, but why, absent convincing evidence, assume that key leaders such as George Marshall (and also Hopkins, even if he was sympathetic to the USSR), who argued for a landing in France and armored thrust into Germany, were motivated by anything other than their best military judgment and a desire to prevent the USSR from making a separate peace with Hitler? Why would Stalin stay in the war and keep spilling Soviet blood if the US/UK evidenced a desire to just hang out south of the Alps and in the Balkans, fly bombers over Germany and then stroll into Central Europe in 1946 after The Nazis and Soviets had exhausted each other?

It seems to me that the primary factor guiding US strategy was FDR and Marshall subordinating other considerations to the defeat of the Nazis.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good to see you around, MarcH. It was actually my main criticism of West's book, that she didn't go into sufficient depth on the military-factors discussion of this and other topics. I mounted a spirited defense of her proposition over at the blog, but it remains an open question, in my view.

Harry Hopkins had no "military judgment," we must recognize. That was not a quality he possessed. For the rest, you can check out the exchange at the blog for the complete debate up to now. I note this, however: if FDR thought that handing Eastern Europe to Stalin was the best or only way to prioritize defeating Hitler, then he was seeing the strategic situation through Stalin's eyes, and not through the eyes of an American strategist. A strategist in the American tradition would have see the situation from a more zoomed-out perspective, with seapower figuring prominently in it, the threat of Stalin decisive enough to warrant a more comprehensive approach, and clarity on the relative economic strength and survivability of all parties.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hello JE,

Thanks for your reply. I don’t post on the Jewish Sabbath so please forgive my tardy reply.

Two quick points: 1. If Marshall and his circle supported a focus on Overlord, as opposed to Italy, Rhodes, etc. then it is certainly a legitimate product of “military judgment”. Whether it was ultimately the best strategy is a question for military historians and buffs to debate (such as the ongoing debate over whether the US should have prioritized a SW Pacific vs. Central Pacific strategy) but holding the position is not evidence of a lack of American loyalty on the part of FDR or Hopkins. 2. I’ve only read some reviews and a few posts by West, but she seems to grossly simplify and miss many issues. For example, in late 1943, the Soviet position was seen as supporting a Med strategy in order to open up a supply route to the USSR via Turkey. The British service chiefs supported a Med strategy on that basis. I saw the same thing in her nasty piece of Dave Kilcullen (Petraeus’ Aussie COIN advisor) in 2007

For me one interesting and worrying point about this fun debate over West’s book is what it indicates about the unity of the Republican Party in 2016. I worry that the US and the R’s are not up to identifying and analyzing immediate foreign threats, such as the Iranian WMD developments which you so ably describe at your blog, The Optimistic Conservative, which should be required reading for all intelligent patriots who seek expert opinions in security affairs.

Please forgive me if I don’t reply any further on this excellent thread but I’m taking the family on our beach vacation. Hopefully Chris Christie has fixed the Jersey shore.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Enjoy the Jersey shore, MarcH. I don't know that we're agreeing to disagree, so much as agreeing that we won't settle this to mutual satisfaction, here or probably ever. That's OK.

I do agree that the dust-up over Diana West's book has seemed to indicate fraying seams in party unity. I actually wrote a rather extended response on that issue to a reader at my 8 Aug post on the al Qaeda threat warning and NSA surveillance. When you get back, you may enjoy it.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
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