Jonathan Schwarz, editor of MichaelMoore.com, wrote a brilliant takedown last week of Sean Wilentz, historian and friend of Hillary Clinton who was angered by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s Untold History of the United States. Wilentz’s long diatribe against Stone and Kuznick’s book (also a 10-part film series on Showtime) in the New York Review of Books isn’t much worth reading. He never really challenges the main thesis of Stone and Kunzick that, with his generally unprovable and superficial objections, he is trying to undermine: that the United States is really an empire, and that empire has been, and remains today, the driving force of U.S. foreign policy; and that actual “national security” concerns have only rarely had anything substantial to do with our wars and assaults on other peoples, including involvement in dictatorships, the overthrow of democratically elected governments, and even genocide. (Stone and Kuznick’s response is here.)
But Schwarz’s response is a very nice read. He nails it when he says that if Cold War liberals like Wilentz were right,
“U.S. cold war policies should have ended with the cold war itself. If the leftists were right, U.S. policies would have continued almost completely unchanged – except for the pretexts provided to Americans.”
A couple of billion people or so throughout the world understand how that turned out. But Schwarz hammers it home because it is apparently not so clear among some intellectuals and journalists here in the heart of the “free world.”
Cold War liberalism was a curse during the Cold War, and remains so today. It is the dominant framework in discussions about Latin America today, and not just on the right – which conjures up fantasies about left-leaning Latin American countries supporting terrorist camps with Iran – but also among the liberal foreign policy establishment that occupies most of the media space. In 2009 almost all of these liberals, including journalists, editors, and prominent human rights groups, looked the other way when Washington helped the coup-installed government of Honduras legitimize itself. Most of them even pretended that the Obama administration was trying to help restore democracy, when there was a mountain of evidence to the contrary. The deposed, democratically-elected president Mel Zelaya eventually told the world that the Obama administration was actually behind the coup, and there is every reason to believe him, given all the circumstantial evidence. But don’t expect any investigations or even investigative reporting to shed more light on what the Obama administration actually did to support the coup.
The good news is that Washington today is mostly limited to preying upon weakest, poorest countries in this region, like Honduras and Haiti. Most of the rest of the region, for the past 15 years, has finally been free to elect their own governments without a U.S. veto. But we can’t thank Cold War liberals like Sean Wilentz – who felt compelled to raise questions about Obama’s relations with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers during the 2008 presidential campaign – for that progress. This positive change is due to the fact that their friends have lost power in the hemisphere and the world.