Rich Lowry—A Goldberg Variation

With what purports to be historical erudition,
National Review
editor Richard Lowry (NRO
April 9
) jerry-builds a “telling historical
analogy,” between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
the Spanish Civil War. Although “imperfect,” this
analogy is nonetheless described as “telling,” and Lowry
rushes to talk about those who have already made it,
namely, New York Times columnist

Thomas Friedman
. Such authorities are to be
accorded the same credence as scholars in modern
European history: after all, they are people who may be
taking Lowry to lunch.

In the current Palestinian-Israeli struggle and in
Spain during the 1930s, Lowry says, “both sides are
armed by rival powers.” And 

“as in
the Spanish Civil War, the argument over this [Middle
Eastern] conflict mirrors the larger argument to come.
Is terrorism and Islamic extremism to be negotiated with
and accepted like other political phenomenon or should
it be shunned and necessarily fought?”

Lowry does manage to make one observation with which
I concur: that the Palestinians, like the Republican
side in the Spanish Civil War, have been “portrayed as
the virtuous David staring down a brutal Goliath.” As
Lowry says, this judgment in the case of the Spanish
situation overlooked the “ruthless political ideology
and cynical violence” associated with the eventually
Soviet-controlled Republican side.

But inexplicably Lowry insists that this knowledge
about the leftist side in Spain “took decades” to
surface and has only recently been treated in

published form.
In fact, of course, George Orwell`s

Homage to Catalonia
presented the

anti-Stalinist brief
while the Spanish Civil War was
still raging. Orwell had fought for, and barely escaped
with his life from, a unit aligned with extreme but
non-Stalinist Left. As early as 1961, a longtime Hoover
Institute researcher,

Burnett Bolloten
, published an
exhaustively-documented tome The Grand Camouflage,
which recapitulated the arguments definitively.
Subsequently works aplenty, e.g., Hugh Thomas`s

popular history
of the war and Paul Johnson`s

Modern Times
, had pushed the same point
so often that one would have to be cognitively
challenged not to pick it up. The wholesale killing of
Trotskyists and Anarchists by their leftist allies has
been publicized for over sixty years.

What is really curious, however, is that Lowry then
reverses his “telling historical analogy.” He quotes
Senior Editor David Pryce-Jones

that “the Fascist victory meant…that there
was no chance to stop Hitler in his tracks.” Lowry says
this means that  

“…if the
U.S. bends to the Palestinian/Iranian/Iraqi forces, it
seems that there will be little chance to begin to roll
them back in earnest with an invasion of Iraq.”

Never in
my life have I read anything quite so muddled, even
while meditating on columns by

Jonah Goldberg.
It crosses my mind that Lowry does
not actually know which side was which in the Spanish
Civil War, or that maybe he thinks that the “Fascists”
and the Communists were the same thing (both foreign,
nasty, from the mists of the prehistoric past etc.),
neither of which would surprise me, given my
excruciating experiences as a college teacher.

What is really significant here, however, is the
further evidence of the collapse of all institutional
memory at National Review. The old American Right
was sympathetic to Franco–because he was
anti-communist and because he defended the Roman
Catholic Church (once an interest of National
) against the

leftwing murderers of priests and nuns.

And the Right, of course, was right. There was no
“fascist” outcome because of Franco`s victory. The wily
authoritarian general, as shown by

Stanley Payne

Arnaud Imatz
, jailed even the anti-German Latin
Fascist followers of the Spanish Phalange, the closest
parallel to Mussolini`s Fascists in Spain. He pointedly
refused to lend bases to Nazi Germany after the fall of
France, though he did opportunistically provide this
service to the British toward the end of World War II.
Judging by his remarks, Franco despised Nazi ideology.
He did what he could to

repatriate Sephardic Jew
s (from whom he himself was

probably descended
) in the path of the Nazi SS.

In any case, Middle Eastern conflict is definitely
not a civil war. And there is no international terrorist
Axis. Palestinians, as even William F. Buckley has

pointed out
in a rare moment of lucidity (has he
checked with his editor?), are not Afghan terrorists or
part of an Iraqi invasion. They may be deranged and
violent but they also have legitimate grievances, which
will have to be addressed sooner or later, for the peace
and stability of the region.

The fascinating thing about Lowry`s “telling
historical analogy,” however, is not that it`s confused
or plain wrong. What is served up is a leftist
analogy. It might have come from

The New Republic

The Nation,
which always favored the Spanish
Republicans, but hardly from the self-proclaimed
“America`s Conservative Magazine.” It completes a
process of lobotomization that quickly became evident
soon after Lowry replaced the deposed John O`Sullivan as
editor in 1998 and

Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley`s
revealing investigation

Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film
Industry in the 1930s and 1940s
was accused of
McCarthyism in NR. The reviewer, Jonathan Foreman
– the son of a blacklisted film producer – was allowed
to swing away at 1950s anti-Communists in this magazine
whose raison d`être had

once been
the lonely defense of McCarthy.

This is what I`ve called

–the hollowing out of conservatism
through the stealthy importation of leftist attitudes
and sensibilities.

Or as Orwell put at the end of another expose of

Animal Farm:

creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to
pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was
impossible to say which was which.”

Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of

After Liberalism

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory.

April 16, 2002