The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives, Lecture 3 with David Gordon - Mises Academy
Betrayal of the Old Right,
The Cold War and National Review
The Communists and World War
• After the German invasion of Russia, June 22,
1941, America and Soviet Russia were allies.
• American Communists were very influential in the
Roosevelt administration. Harry Dexter White, a
high official of the Treasury department, was a
Communist spy. According to some accounts,
Harry Hopkins, a key Roosevelt adviser, was also
Communists and WWII
• Alger Hiss in the State Department was also an
espionage agent. Owen Lattimore, an adviser to
Chiang Kai-Shek, was sympathetic to the Chinese
• The Russian army made gains in Eastern Europe.
The Russians kept the part of Poland they had
occupied in September 1939 and the rest of Poland
was under a Communist government.
Reaction After the War
• After the end of WWII, there was a reaction
against Soviet gains.
• Republicans claimed that Roosevelt had
made unnecessary concessions at the Yalta
Conference, Feb. 1945.
Reaction After the War
• In China, there was a civil war between the
nationalists, under Chiang Kai-Shek, and the
Chinese communists. When China fell to the
communists in 1949, critics charged that
communist sympathizers in the State Department
and elsewhere were responsible.
• The Amerasia case (1945) attracted attention as an
example of Communist espionage. The left-
leaning magazine published classified documents.
The Old Right and the
• During WWII, the Old Right had been suppressed.
Garet Garrett lost his position at the Saturday
• The Old Rightists were smeared by Roosevelt
supporters as fascists and pro-Nazis.
• After the war, many on the Old Right wanted to
pay back the communists by exposing their
influence. John T. Flynn wrote The Lattimore
Story. (1953). The Old Right was sympathetic to
Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist investigations.
The Old Right and the Cold War
• Sympathy with attempts to investigate and expose
American communists did not imply that the Old
Right was sympathetic to the Cold War.
• When relations between the US and Soviet Russia
started to worsen, the policy of the Truman
administration was containment. This meant that
the Soviets were held to seeking to expand in
Europe. They shouldn’t be allowed to go farther.
• George Kennan was the main person who
provided a rationale for containment. Note
that for him, Europe was primary.
• Examples of containment include Truman
Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the NATO
• Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State under
Truman, favored containment.
The Old Right and Containment
• The Old Right did not approve of
containment. They thought the main danger
from communism was internal, not external.
• Garet Garrett and John T. Flynn warned that
an interventionist foreign policy would lead
to a militarized society.
The Old Right and Containment
• This was also a concern of the leading ally
of the Old Right in Congress, Senator
Robert Taft. He opposed the NATO
• Herbert Hoover and Joseph Kennedy also
The Korean War
• When the Korean War broke out in June 1950,
President Truman deliberately did not ask
Congress for a declaration of war.
• Instead, he claimed that he was acting under the
authority of the United Nations.
• For the Old Right, surrender of American
sovereignty was a vital issue. Taft denounced
Truman because he violated the Constitution on
the declaration of war.
• The revisionist historians, led by Harry
Elmer Barnes, tried to start a popular
movement against WWII, just like the
revisionist movement after WWI.
• Although they published a number of
important books, they were unable to
change public opinion on the war.
Revisionist History Continued
• Among the important revisionist books
were George Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor:
The Story of the Secret War; Charles
Tansill, Back Door to War; Charles Beard,
President Roosevelt and the Coming of the
War, 1941; and the collection edited by
Barnes, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.
Campaign Against the
• The Council on Foreign Relations, which
was the successor to Wilson’s Council of
Experts, sponsored a two-volume work by
William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason.
Specifically designed to head off a
revisionist movement. The CFR was
concerned that “the debunking journalistic
campaign following World War I should
not be repeated.”
• The Rockefeller Foundation gave Langer
and Gleason a grant of $139,000 for
research. They got privileged access to
State Department documents.
A Third Alternative
• We have so far discussed two policy options:
containment and the Old Right policy of
opposition to the Cold war. There was another
• Some people thought that US foreign policy was
not going far enough. Why stop at containment.
Soviet conquests should be “rolled back”, even at
the cost of a preventive nuclear war.
• Among the people who favored preventive war
were many ex-Communists. E.g., Willi Schlamm,
an influential editor who worked for Henry Luce,
was a former German Communist.
• Frank S. Meyer had been an official of the US
• James Burnham was a former Trotskyite.
• All of these became editors of National Review
More Preventive War
• These writers retained some of the images
of world struggle that then had learned
• Whitaker Chambers, who exposed Alger
Hiss as a Communist spy, viewed the Cold
War as a conflict between the forces of God
and the forces of Satan. See his book
More Preventive War
• Views that favored preventive war had some
support in the US military and the CIA, especially
before Russia exploded an A bomb in 1949. Curtis
LeMay, the head of the SAC, is one example.
• Burnham worked for the CIA.
• Another influential editor at National Review,
Willmoore Kendall, also worked for the CIA.
Before this, he had been a Trotskyite.
• William Buckley, Jr. was the son of a wealthy
oilman. His father was a friend of Albert Jay
Nock, and Buckley started out with libertarian
• Buckley was for a while a disciple of the
libertarian Frank Chodorov.
• Buckley attracted wide attention with his first
book, God and Man at Yale (1951) This was an
attack on professors at Yale who were anti-free
market and anti-Christian.
Buckley and the Cold War
• Buckley thought that while the Cold War was
going on, libertarian programs would have to be
• In 1952, he wrote in Commonweal:
• …we have to accept Big Government for the
duration – for neither an offensive nor defensive
war can be waged given our present government
skills, except through the instrument of a
totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores…
• And if they deem Soviet power a menace to
our freedom (as I happen to), they will have
to support large armies and air forces,
atomic energy, central intelligence, war
production boards, and the attendant of
centralization of power in Washington –
Even with Truman at the reins of it all.
Buckley and National Review
• Buckley worked for the CIA for two years. His
boss for part of this time was E. Howard Hunt,
later famous as one of Nixon’s Watergate
• Buckley set up National Review in 1955.
• We don’t have positive proof the CIA was behind
this, but we do know that the CIA subsidized
magazines to help promote American foreign
policy in the Cold war. The British magazine
Encounter was an example.
Buckley and Foreign Policy
• Buckley agreed with Burnham, the main foreign
policy figure in the magazine, that the US should
risk nuclear war in order to liberate the world from
• One theme in his work was that if one wished to
avoid nuclear war because of the risk to human
life, one was displaying an atheistic and
materialistic attitude. One should willingly accept
death if this were needed to wipe out communism.
Buckley and the Old Right
• People who openly disagreed with this view
of foreign policy would be purged.
• There were some people who wrote for NR
who were not bellicose, e.g., Russell Kirk,
and Richard Weaver, but they didn’t write
about foreign policy very much.
• Buckley refused to publish an article by
John T. Flynn critical of the Cold War.
Buckley and Rothbard
• Rothbard wrote a number of articles and
reviews for Buckley on economics.
• Most of the contributors who wrote on
economics supported the free market,
although Burnham, Kendall, and Ernest van
den Haag allowed a great deal of
• Chambers attacked Ayn Rand and Mises.
Buckley and Rothbard Continued
• Rothbard helped Buckley on the research
for Up From Liberalism.
• They split over Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to
the US. Buckley opposed it, viewing
Khrushchev as a mass murderer, because he
was involved in Stalin’s purges.
• Rothbard welcomed the visit as a step