Sleeper, who obviously is content to do nothing to help Ukraine, condemns Wieseltier and the conference organizers as engaging in “a politics of self-affirmation through moral posturing.” Rather than address the argument and analogy Wieseltier makes, he condemns him for arguing in a previous article that President Barack Obama is weak — a truth if there ever was one — while failing to engage in the usual litany of proceeding to attack the foreign policy of George W. Bush. Moreover, clearly, Sleeper is probably furious that Wieseltier dared to say that Ronald Reagan was correct in dubbing the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Nothing infuriates his type of liberal more than saying anything positive about Reagan.
Next he brings up the late Jeane Kirkpatrick’s famous essay “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” the thesis of which has nothing at all to do with the situation the conference participates are addressing. I cannot recall any instance in which Snyder or Wieseltier is supporting or has supported “fascistically inclined anti-Communist dictatorships.” Bringing up the Kirkpatrick essay is mainly yet another way to smear those he disagrees with.
Finally, Sleeper cannot refrain from using the old canard — made public already decades ago — that the CIA financed the Congress for Cultural Freedom and many of its European journals of opinion, like Encounter in Britain. I have long argued, as does Coleman in his book I mentioned before, that the CIA was only giving intellectuals who said what they thought on their own the ability to have others hear their arguments. They did not dictate what they should write. The Agency allowed liberal Western opinion, as well as that of conservatives, to be heard by those who were reading the slew of publications financed in Europe by the KGB and in the United States as well. In our own country, Soviet financing sustained the left-wing weekly the National Guardian, as well as a book club and publishing house run by the American Italian-born KGB agent Carl Marzani.
Whether or not Sleeper approves of Wieseltier’s earlier support for regime change in Iraq when it was run by Saddam Hussein (and that — horrors — he once sat on the board of a group championing a free Iraq along with Bill Kristol and Karl Rove) is also irrelevant. He does not mention, of course, that Wieseltier has long since said publicly he thought he was wrong about his early support for the Iraq war. That is more than many Democrats have done, who pretend that they too did not support it, and instead join the crowd attacking Bush and Cheney.
Strangely, Sleeper ends by writing that he too thinks that “Ukrainian democrats deserve ardent support, and Putin’s Russia deserves condemnation.” So why is he so up in arms about Snyder, whom he sneeringly refers to as “comrade Snyder,” and so angry at Wieseltier?
The answer is simple: unlike the pure Sleeper, Wieseltier is to be condemned for his serious effort because “working in concert with people whose politics and purposes contravene one repeatedly proclaims are antithetical to one’s own is disgusting, and one needn’t charge guilt by association to note that for an insistently self-described liberal, Wieseltier works frequently and cozily with vulcan neoconservatives whose follies have weakened America.”
So that’s it. What Sleeper is warning people against, despite his phony assurances that he too stands with Ukraine, is that one of the people who did something has at times worked with conservatives. He did not add that next week, Wieseltier is joining Robert Kagan and David Brooks in a discussion of foreign policy and President Obama’s role in it at the Brookings Institution.
Perhaps he fears that were he to mention it, some of his readers in the D.C. area might register to attend, and perhaps learn something.
Sleeper should reflect on what it says that some conservatives and some liberals are willing to ally with those with whom they have differences in an area in which they agree, and believe that pressure must be put on the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Certainly, these principled liberals cannot join together with those supportive of the administration, whose disastrous policies they oppose. The reason for that is something Jim Sleeper should think about.