Britain

What Maisky Knew

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In the November 21 issue of The Weekly Standard, I have reviewed The Maisky Diaries, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. This fine volume covers the personal writings of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to the United Kingdom during the critical period of 1932 to 1943. Here’s a bit of my judgment of the man:

In the 1930s, British foreign policy was still a matter of balancing the continental powers, particularly France and Germany; and if we avoid the arrogance that hindsight can bring, we should also remember that Neville Chamberlain genuinely thought he was securing a course for peace in Europe. Britain knew how weak its armed forces were—its army, especially—and this knowledge, as Lloyd George told Maisky, was doubtless a factor in Chamberlain’s “deal” with Hitler at Munich.

Maisky, however, had nothing but contempt for such calculations, coming across at certain times here as a kind of thirties neoconservative. Indeed, it’s hard at times to discern that Maisky was a Communist at all, or that he represented a brutal, totalitarian government. His comportment in these pages is measured; his language free of cant. Even his looks—the well-fed, portly body, the kindly eyes, the authentic smile—will strike the reader as very different from the dour, self-defensive faces of that era’s most prominent Soviets.

Read the whole thing here.

Why “Left” and “Right” Are Outdated Political Terms

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In the July 15 issue of The Catholic Herald, I write about how our concepts of “left” and “right” are Cold War-era relics. The rupture of these obsolete ideas is behind the current breakdown in conventional politics in both the United States and the United Kingdom:

Millions of Americans and Britons don’t accept a bipartisan consensus that was formed without their input or permission. Its partisans grew so resistant to reform they treated their own citizens as a kind of plague to be contained in the hinterlands, not as stakeholders with genuine concerns.

How did this mushy consensus come about? That’s a difficult question. One thing’s for certain: The political elite misread the fall of communism. They thought, as the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama did, that history had ended, and that at the climax of this great Hegelian unfolding was a Western liberal democracy that would never die.

This bred arrogant complacency – the belief that you could sit back, relax and think only about small matters like tax rates. Why worry about immigration? After all, history was over. We had won. The little people would soon see how glorious the future would be.

Read the whole thing here.

Are We “Hypocrites” If We Mourn Victims In Paris More Than Those In Beirut?

In my first piece for Quadrant, the great Australian journal, I mount a brief offensive against this notion:

Owing to the shared history and values between the United States, where I live, and the United Kingdom, I would be much more profoundly enraged by a terror attack on British soil than by one in, say, Botswana. Seeing an attack on France, a pillar of Western civilisation and both America’s oldest ally and a NATO partner, affects me in a way that thinking about attacks in Lebanon or Yemen simply does not. One might as well approach a widow at her husband’s funeral and ask indignantly why she never wore black for the millions of other men who went before her dear departed.

Since it is impossible to be equally outraged by every single atrocity in human history, it is, by the “progressive” standard, impossible to be outraged by any atrocity. To the anti-Western left, there is always an infinite cornucopia of reasons why we shouldn’t be too upset about the latest mass slaughter of our friends abroad — or, indeed, of our own fellow citizens at home.

I am proud to contribute to Quadrant, which fought the good fight during the Cold War. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

In Which I Criticize Gender-Based Publishing

Writing at PJ Media, I have criticized the decision of a small British publishing house to publish only women writers for the year 2018. I argue from both an economic and moral standpoint:

The implicit admission is that the publisher does not, on average, find the women writers who send them their manuscripts to be as good as the men: if it did, there would be no need for this pledge, as the proportion of women writers in its output would already be higher than it is, if not as high as it would be if the company adopted a women-only policy. In promising to publish only women under these special circumstances, the publisher is demonstrating that it would not do so under normal circumstances.

One could argue in return that the problem is a general lack of submissions from women writers, not just lower rates of acceptance. Still, unless every woman who submits a manuscript is accepted automatically, this excuse doesn’t hold: And Other Stories is normally willing to reject women writers, even when they submit at much lower rates than men.

Furthermore:

There is no way to disprove the theory of “structural discrimination”: the alleged oppression has been moved to a level of abstraction that shields it from all empirical evidence. Thus there is no way of knowing when the “oppression” has been eradicated. What exclusionary measure, then, would not be permissible during the never-ending struggle? Once you submit to the basic logic, it’s hard to resist the more creative applications of it. What if many companies in many sectors began pledging to hire only women for a year? What if, to correct perceived “structural” imbalances in healthcare outcomes, a clinic decided it would accept only patients of a particular racial or ethnic group? And what if this were a matter of law and public policy, rather than of private enterprise? How could a supporter of gender-based publishing possibly oppose these measures, if their purpose is to correct structural injustice? It isn’t surprising that those who believe in collective victimhood also believe in collective punishment.