By Contributor on February 03, 2014

By Richard Drake

On 11 January 2014, Lewis Gould reviewed my book, The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion, in The Wall Street Journal.

One of the chapters in particular, "La Follette Discovers the Middle East," inspired claims and charges by the reviewer that I answered in a letter published by the newspaper on Wednesday, 29 January. You can find the letter here. [Editor's note: Drake's full rebuttal to Gould's review also follows, below.]

There is much more to be said about the neoconservative fervor and historical inaccuracies in this review. The newspaper's 300-word limit for letters to the editor, however, limited the range of my rebuttal.

Gould's comments about the Middle East reflect a cast of mind that sees anti-Semitism, or -- in my case -- a tolerance of it, in questioning attitudes about the status quo there and the historical process leading to it. It is easy to see why Gould became so upset with my critical interpretation of the Middle East decisions made by the victors after the First World War: the status quo in the region has been such a brilliant success down to our time. What did tyros of that distant and yet completely contemporary era, such as T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, know in warning of the disasters for the world certain to ensue from a peace that made perpetual war a certainty?

I can't list all the points of disagreement that I have with Lewis Gould about my book, "The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion."

To pick one example of Mr. Gould's imprecision, he presents Charles Richard Crane, a key figure in La Follette's career, as a man fit only to be remembered as an anti-Zionist and hater of Jews. Mr. Gould admonishes me for failing to point out these grievous faults in my analysis of the 1919 King-Crane Commission report about the state of Middle East public opinion after World War I.

In fact, Crane's thoughts and actions at the time of the report didn't reflect the prejudices that Mr. Gould makes his defining character flaws. It is true, as I write in the book, that Crane became increasingly critical of Zionists for what he perceived to be their partisan manipulation of American policy in the Middle East and their heartlessness toward Arabs, whose interests he resolutely defended.

Yet Crane's correspondence, right up to the time of the famous report, is filled with references to his Jewish friends and, in particular, to Louis D. Brandeis, whose candidacy for the Supreme Court he ardently promoted in 1916. Ordinarily, anti-Semites don't lobby to make Jews Supreme Court justices.

Mr. Gould dismisses the King-Crane report as if it were nothing more than a monument to anti-Semitism. The report's debatable flaws aside, it remains the best historical source available for understanding Arab concerns about the Middle East in 1919. We live today with the consequences of having ignored the Arabs at that fateful moment.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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