Berube Responds To More Severe Problems

My reply is as follows.

Ed Herman is playing on his home field, and therefore deserves the last word in this exchange. For that reason I will let stand most of his reply, “Much More Severe Problems on the Cruise Missile Left.” But Herman makes two remarks about my November 29 Chronicle of Higher Education essay (“Toward an Ideal Antiwar Movement: Mature, Legitimate, and Popular”) that need to be addressed. I will be brief, and if Herman chooses to reply, once again he is entitled to the last word.

First, Herman scores me for my obvious self-righteousness: “The title of his Chronicle of Higher Education article could hardly be surpassed for self-righteous moral posturing as he lectures the antiwar movement on proper behavior.” Like David Horowitz, who was similarly offended by the essay’s title (Horowitz called it both pompous and Marxist (!); my diverting exchange with Horowitz is available at, Herman clearly does not know that Chronicle essayists do not title their own essays. Those who consider the title self-righteous and posturing should take their complaints directly to the editor of the Chronicle Review, who, I’m sure, will be pleased to hear from you.

Second, Herman writes, “It should be noted that Berube’s warm feelings about the enlarged capacity of ‘great powers exercising coercion’ in the New World Order has not been impaired by the coup d’etat, rule, and plans of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld business administration.” Actually, this should not be noted, because it is not true. I argued, in response to the Not in Our Name statement, that “great powers” should intervene whenever a nation is systemically exterminating a group of people within its borders, and that I would have supported such international intervention “especially in cases like [those of] Suharto and Montt, whose regimes the United States had supported.” As for the Bush junta, leaving aside everything else I’ve said about Bush since the stolen election, here’s what I wrote in the Chronicle: the antiwar movement I advocate “would distrust US claims to be acting on behalf of oppressed Iraqis, on the grounds that the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Perle axis showed no interest in oppressed Iraqis before now and has already demonstrated its remarkable indifference to nation-building on behalf of oppressed Afghans in Afghanistan.”

I know this will not be enough for Ed Herman, but that’s all right. I do not expect him to change his mind about me, any more than I expect him to entertain the proposition that progressive political aims might be hindered rather than furthered by Chomsky’s recent habit of exaggerating US crimes beyond all plausibility and Herman’s more entrenched habit of distorting the positions of leftists less singleminded or vehement than he. But I know there are plenty of readers — and writers — associated with Z and the “real left” who are more discerning political thinkers than Herman, and who can distinguish between a retaliatory military campaign waged against the Taliban and its terror camps, on the one hand, and an unprovoked and unjustifiable war in Iraq on the other. To them I say: there are only two groups in the US who believe that the war in Iraq is identical to the war in Afghanistan – the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Perle axis of hawks, and the “real leftists” who side with Herman. The first group is beyond all hope of persuasion about anything. I do not yet want to believe the same about the second.

Best regards, Michael Berube

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