At Taki’s Magazine, Marcus Epstein makes quite a lot, indeed too much, out of the publication in the forthcoming TAC of the fairly negative Lukacs review of Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War and explains it in terms of the magazine’s difference from paleoconservative outlets. That must be why Tom wrote a post attacking the review…on TAC’s main blog. If that weren’t enough, the editors have been very cunning in masking this distance from paleoconservatism when they brought Eunomia in to be part of their website as recently as three months ago, and I then went and confused things even more by writing a critical post against the review. As ever, I hope my views on Churchill and Lincoln, among other things, remain anything but boring or conventional, but this is hardly the first time that an argument in support of a more conventional view of American, to say nothing of British, involvement in WWII has appeared in TAC. Prof. Andrew Bacevich wrote an article (sorry, not online) on FDR and WWII back in June 2005 to which I took great exception, but I never supposed that his argument demonstrated anything about TAC other than the intellectual diversity of the magazine’s contributors that has been one of the great qualities of TAC and also something that I believe is fairly typical of paleoconservative outlets. Certainly, that is something to which we ought to aspire if it isn’t always the reality. Both Takimag and TAC publish Austin Bramwell, yet he has in the past written things far more critical of paleoconservatives as a group than anything that Prof. Lukacs has ever written, and so what if he has? Healthy criticism and pushback are vital to making our arguments better and keeping us from drifting into intellectual torpor. The last thing the right needs are additional echo chambers in which we congratulate one another on our purity of belief.
For whatever it’s worth, the editors also ran a fairly critical review of June 1941 in June 2006, which prompted a rare rebuke from Lukacs in the letters section. (As it happens, I also wrote a letter protesting that review, but understandably the book’s author took precedence.) That review made rather exaggerated and uncharitable claims about Lukacs’ alleged greater comfort with communism on account of his long-standing judgement that the Soviets posed the lesser threat. Viewed in one way, one might read the new review as a response to that earlier one, and whatever is unfair in this one is more than balanced out by what was in that one. More simply, and with much less gnashing of teeth, it is easy to understand why someone such as Prof. Lukacs, who has researched and written extensively on Churchill, Hitler and Europe before and during WWII, would have strong views about a book that, so far as I can tell without having read it in its entirety, directly challenges or rejects central judgements that he has made about all of the above. One might more appropriately view the publication of such a review as part of TAC‘s ongoing effort to maintain lively debate and welcome differing perspectives within the same magazine. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that a magazine that abandoned that original goal would quickly become as boring and conventional a paleo journal as some mainstream magazines have become in their way.
So I would close by saying that it is absolutely crazy for us to be attacking one another in such terms over legitimate differences of historical interpretation. Obviously, invoking the name of David Irving was quite unnecessary for the purposes of the review (though I understand why Lukacs used it to make his traditional point about the danger of half-truths), but then so is throwing around the epithet neocon or accusing John Lukacs of all people of holding neoconservative views. I am not normally confused with someone who makes a lot of irenic arguments, so I hope this may help persuade everyone to keep this review in perspective and refrain from flinging accusations or charges at people with whom we agree perhaps 95% or more of the time.
P.S. Think of all this another way: what is TAC’s position on Barack Obama? Can you gauge that from what has been published over the last year? If you looked only at Steve Sailer and the critiques of his foreign policy, you would think that the magazine is unreservedly hostile to him, and if you looked only at Scott’s piece on Obama’s views on Israel and Prof. Bacevich’s “conservative case for Obama” you might think that the magazine was cheering him on, yet the editors have published all of these.