A giant of American intellectual and political life is gone: Herbert London left us last weekend at the age of 79. He leaves a gap in the conservative firmament that cannot be filled. As the author of thirty books (I had the honor to co-author one of the these), Herb’s direct influence on American thought was enormous. But his organizational energy and personal generosity gave a platform to numerous others, and multiplied his infuence many-fold. His last great project was the London Center for Policy Research, where I am a fellow. Through the work of collaborators like Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the London Center had a deep impact on American military thinking.
At the beginning of his career, Herb assisted the founder of the Hudson Institute, Herman Kahn, one of America’s great strategic thinkers. Herb wrote most of Kahn’s books; the great man was brilliant but disorganized, and need the younger man’s help. He later directed the Hudson Institute at the peak of its intellectual vigor.
Herb went on to direct the Gallatin Program at New York University, one of the last remnants of the high culture of the West. He was equally at home among the great books as he was among the great men of his time, and his wisdom was profound as well as practical.
There is so much to tell about a man who contributed to much in so many ways. I would like to tell one story that might not be widely known. Herb had become a trusted counsellor to the President of Egypt, Mohammed al-Sisi, as well as to other Middle Eastern leaders. President al-Sisi several years ago came to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and asked Herb for a meeting. As it happened, President al-Sisi’s arrival coincided with the first night of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the High Holy Days. Herb turned down the meeting. He told me, “I wanted al-Sisi to understand that I am a Jew.”
Herb feared no-one, and stood up to everyone. But he disagreed without rancor. He never took personal offense at ideological opponents. He knew no road but the high road. Many who disagreed with him felt better for having known him. I shall always miss him as a friend and comrade-in-arms. He was one of the best of a good generation, the generation that won the Cold War. We cannot replace him. We can only mourn and keep fighting the way Herb would have fought.