June 10, 2007


Ruthie Blum of the Jerusalem Post interviews her father, Norman Podhoretz on a range of topics from American anti-Semitism, to their differences of opinion on Israeli disengagement from Gaza, to the current war, which Podhoretz calls World War IV. He is generally optimistic...maybe because he takes the long view. Here are two clips as appetizer...

RB: You talk about the world's preoccupation with this "tiny speck." If you look at the Palestinians and the Israelis as a microcosm of the global conflict between radical Islam and the West, how can you possibly be optimistic about the outcome?

NP: We're into year six of World War IV. At the same point in World War III, or the Cold War, things looked even worse than they do now. You had a stalemate in Korea, where over 30,000 Americans had been killed, not 3,000, as in Iraq. There were powerful communist parties in countries like France and Italy, and communist influence was growing all over the world, accompanied by an anti-Americanism very similar to what we see today. If you were betting on the outcome in 1952, you probably would have bet that we were going to lose. Even though I myself was a dedicated cold warrior, this is how I felt then and also at other dark moments later on.

RB: So you're saying that it was the fall of the Soviet Union that made you see things differently?

NP: Yes, it had a profound effect on me. In the days before Henry Kissinger and I became friends - when I was what he considered his most bitter enemy - I used to argue against the premise behind his policy of detente, which was that the Soviet empire would last forever and that we therefore had to find a way of living with it. I asked why we should assume that the Soviet empire was the only empire in history that would never collapse. And yet, like most people, I was very surprised that it collapsed as suddenly as it did. Once again, as in World War II, it turned out that we were ultimately a lot stronger than we looked to ourselves and to our enemies.

...and in the current war against Islamist terrorism:

RB: What, then, would constitute victory?

NP: Something similar to what happened in World War III. Communism fell; the Soviet empire disintegrated; and the countries that had been living under Soviet domination were set on the path to democracy. Some are doing pretty well, like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Others are not doing so well. Russia has backslid, but it's still better than it was under communist rule. In general, many millions of people have already benefitted, and they can reasonably hope that things will continue to improve. That's what I think will victory will mean in the broader Middle East. The despotic regimes in the region - which were created not by Allah in the seventh century but by British and French diplomats in the 1920s, and therefore have shallow roots - will be replaced by more or less democratic systems, and some will do better than others.

Posted by dan at June 10, 2007 9:53 PM