There is a bizarre but noteworthy feud erupting between the absurd “Spengler,” now a resident blogger at First Things, and some of the more appalling neoconservatives. In some ways, it resembles the dispute between Andy McCarthy and Max Boot I mentioned last week. On the one side, you have completely irrational fanatics who also favor perpetual war and on the other side the hawkish interventionists that are embarrassed by them. In light this comparison, it is appropriate that Goldman recently wrote an entire essay claiming that the non-story about Petraeus was a deeply significant episode in American politics.
It is true that David Goldman, a.k.a. Spengler, has been making absurd claims about Obama for years. I first noticed this about him a little over two years ago. It has been obvious to me for a while that there was something awry with Goldman. In April 2008 I made what I think is the most important criticism against Goldman’s thinking:
There is something far, far more insidious and twisted than cultures of defeat, and these are cults of triumphalism, to which Spengler makes his contribution here. A cult of triumphalism is far more dangerous first of all because it sanctifies violence in a way that Lost Causes cannot do, and because it implies that there are wars that are not only just, but that the victor in war can literally do no wrong (and in any case the defeated deserved whatever they got, according to this circular reasoning, because they lost). A culture of defeat teaches humility and reminds that justice and military strength do not have any necessary direct relationship with one another. Triumphalism teaches the opposite: victory is the proof of righteousness, and not only did the enemy deserve to die, but we should have killed more of them to keep them down longer. Spengler approves here of the abandonment of restraint and total war and endorses the narrative of the victors. In fact, he endorses not just the cause of Unionists, as he specifically does in this case, but the narrative of every victor, whether it is the Mauryans and the Romans or the Mongols, the Ottomans, or the Aztecs. It is, of course, a filthy lie that “whole peoples can go bad.” This is the argument of the genocidaire and the totalitarian, and it gives a pass to anyone who would commit genocide against a weaker people. After all, we must allow the losers to lose! Except that when Spengler says “lose,” he means “die.”
It is telling that it was not the abhorrent ideas contained in this article that prompted attacks on Spengler. No doubt many hawks will cite this article in his defense. Spengler’s error was instead simply a slightly more aggressive form of the garbage that anti-Obama hawks routinely encourage in every argument they make. He seems to have made the mistake of actually believing the nonsense that other Obama critics utter for political advantage.