The Spine

Tony Judt, Some Historian


For Tony Judt, any analogy will do. So, in a Sunday op-ed in the Times, Judt compares General David Petraeus to General Douglas MacArthur...or
rather how they were treated. Petraeus, he says, has been protected by the
"conventional wisdom that liberals should never disparage the
military." On the other hand, the cashiering of MacArthur "was a sign of
robust civic health when generals are pilloried for getting into policy
issues." But, as Judt admits, MacArthur was "cashiered" by Harry Truman
"for insubordination." The general was saying and doing precisely the
opposite of what the civilian president wanted him to do. Petraeus is
doing what his civilian president wants him to do, that is behaving rightly
and in conformity with the expectations of the constitution. Had he gone
against President Bush, Petraeus would have been out on his ass. And Judt
would have been cheering not the civilian but the military.

Judt also appropriates Albert Camus to his cause in Iraq which is to let
the civil war proceed into a genocide. Given Camus's philosophically
complicated view of the Algerian war, I'm reasonably sure that he would be
standing with Paul Berman on "Islamic Fascism" and not be so delicate as simply calling Ahmadinejad a
"demagogue." After all, he is already a murderer of tens of thousands of
his own, via his leadership of the Basiji, the fanatical and suicidal human wave militia employed during the Iran-Iraq War, the story of which Matthias Küntzel told in our pages last year. And he is a would-be genocidalist, besides.

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