Arnold Beichman recently wrote a column attacking my latest book, Treason — which he at least admits he didn’t read — claiming he has the “names of ‘innocent lives’ Mr. McCarthy ruined.” I was excited to see it. I’ve been asking for just one innocent person ruined by Joe McCarthy for six weeks, but until now all I had gotten was wild speculation about my personal life.
But strangely, while Beichman claims to have the names of McCarthy’s innocent victims, he declines to mention them. (It’s been almost 50 years and these people still won’t name names.) Instead he offers to send me an article that gives “one of the most important testimonies about McCarthyism” by “one of our leading Sinologists”–if I provide my address. Since Beichman ain’t getting my address, I’ve looked up the article on my own. It contains the names of precisely two people allegedly destroyed by McCarthy.
The author of this “illuminating article on Joe McCarthy” is one Richard Walker. He didn’t allot much space for the discussion of McCarthy’s victims, inasmuch as the article consisted primarily of Walker’s reminiscences about himself. I quote:
Beichman wearily explained he refused to read my book because “life is too short.” But life is not so short that it cannot be filled with days reading Dick Walker quoting people lauding Dick Walker. (How can I add my name to the list of people whose lives were ruined by Dick Walker?)
But the point is, anyone who advertises his own pathological need for establishmentarian approval is not likely to be found praising Joe McCarthy. Still–though Beichman finds it absolutely urgent that I read Walker’s piece — the only specific charge against McCarthy in the entire groaning article is this: “McCarthyism destroyed the careers of a number of fine China specialists in the Foreign Service. What happened to Oliver Edmund Clubb and John Paton Davies was a discreditable chapter in the defense of State Department professionals who were rendering honest service to their country.”
Davies and Clubb were among the WASP three-names who helped relinquish China to communist mass murderers–John Carter Vincent, John Stewart Service, John Paton Davies and Oliver Edmund Clubb.
Leaving aside the intriguing facts about Oliver Edmund Clubb, this was not a case instigated by McCarthy, but rather by one of Beichman’s heroes, Whittaker Chambers. Indeed, Chambers says as much in his book “Witness”–a book Beichman has praised, saying “few autobiographies are as moving and as instructive about the meaning of communism.” I’ve read the article by Richard Walker. Now Beichman ought to actually read “Witness.”
As for John Paton Davies, as a Foreign Service officer, he issued flagrantly pro-communist propaganda in his reports from China, insisting that the United States abandon our ally Chiang Kai-shek and work with the communists. The future of China, Davies said, is not Chiang’s, but theirs. Or, as The Washington Post put it in Davies’ obituary, Davies’ reports “advised a more nuanced approach to communism in China than was politically palatable.” (In the sense that Benedict Arnold took a more “nuanced” approach toward the American Revolution than was politically palatable.)
In addition, a Senate committee recommended that Davies be tried for perjury for denying that he had recommended various communists and communist sympathizers to the CIA. He was investigated more than half a dozen times by the State Department. Eventually, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles—no fan of McCarthy’s–asked Davies to resign.
Evidence that Davies’ career was “destroyed” by McCarthy consists of rafts of platitudinous, worshipful mentions of his name, hagiographic obituaries, the “John Paton Davies Lecture Series” at Deerfield Academy–and even his return to the State Department in 1969 to work on disarmament issues.
Most important, there is an iron-clad taboo against blaming communist-sympathizing Foreign Service officers like Davies for the loss of China. You can say the neoconservatives single-handedly took the nation to war with Iraq, but you cannot say that a band of pro-Mao Foreign Service agents in China had any effect on Mao’s triumph in China.
Democrats lose entire continents to totalitarian monsters, lose wars to bloody tyrants, lose countries to Islamic fascists, and then insist that everyone recite the liberal catechism: “No one lost China,” “Vietnam was an unwinnable war,” “Khomeini’s rise to power was inevitable.” (Conversely, Ronald Reagan didn’t “win” the Cold War; it just ended.)
At the time, the State Department even issued an 800-page “White Paper” purporting to prove the communist takeover of China was inevitable. Despite these heroic efforts, a Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans did not buy the “inevitability” excuse. If Foreign Service officers like Davies can’t be blamed for the loss of China, why is Joe McCarthy blamed for the loss of Davies’ job? Maybe that was “inevitable,” too.
It is not clear how one goes about delineating with absolute certainty where “inevitability” ends and “traitorous incompetence” begins. I will leave that to metaphysicians like Arnold Beichman. Still, what kind of argument is that?
The claim that nobody could have saved China is the most amazing Democratic dodge ever. Perhaps in the chaos of Weimar Republic, Hitler’s rise to power was also inevitable. But it is unlikely that we would feel much warmth toward Nazi stooges feverishly working in the State Department to reach out to Hitler on the grounds that his rise was “inevitable.” Would our anger be assuaged if we were informed their hard work didn’t really help? They tried to help Hitler, but their assistance was superfluous. Let’s move on.
Whether or not China could have been saved from communism, it is a fact that the WASP three-names like John Paton Davies weren’t trying to save it.
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