Word Mongering

While I am flattered to be described by Stanley Kutler, in his glowing review of the crude anti-Bush polemic America Alone (Book World, Aug. 15), as an "influential" intellectual and writer, I must take issue with his cartoonish distortions of my views, which he seems to take on faith from Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, the book's biased authors.

He correctly quotes my assertion in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. sweep through Iraq in 2003, based on speed of advance and number of casualties, made "Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison." Kutler then adds a snide aside: "Well, they were not fortunate enough to fight Saddam's vaunted Republican guard." Yes, but Rommel and Guderian were fortunate enough to fight the vaunted armies of Poland, Holland, Belgium, Britain and France. Incompetent foes can always make an army look good, but sometimes one's own competence contributes to the failings of the other side.

Kutler really gets scurrilous when he suggests that I wrote a book "celebrating the United States' 'splendid little wars' " and that I "love war." My book, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (2002) was an objective account that noted both the good and bad of U.S. small wars. Perhaps for this reason it garnered positive reviews, including one in Book World.

Kutler or anyone else would search my work in vain for any hint that I "love" war. In fact I have often written about the "butcher's bill" that comes with fighting, warning against the 1990s delusion that war can be casualty-free. He is right to say that I envision the United States "like the British Empire of old, always fighting some war, somewhere, against someone." This is not because I glorify conflict, a la Teddy Roosevelt. It is because I believe conflict is inescapable for any country with as many interests around the world as the United States has. As my book showed, we have been fighting small wars continually since our Founding (and, actually, before), a trend that has continued unabated since the end of the Cold War, under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Kutler is welcome to deplore this trend, but to note its existence is hardly to be guilty of war-mongering.

MAX BOOT

New York, N.Y.

And While We're at It

In his review of American Soldier, by Gen. Tommy Franks with Malcolm McConnell (Book World, Aug. 15), Max Boot writes that Franks compliments his bosses then proceeds to tell us how Franks feels about Vice President Dick Cheney.

I don't care whether Boot knows what a ghostwriter is (he calls McConnell one, even though McConnell is fully credited on the jacket), but I do expect a senior fellow in national security to know how the American chain of command works.

There is no circumstance under which a vice president is one of the "bosses" of an American general. The chain of command runs from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commanders (of whom Franks was one). Vice President Cheney does not have the authority to order a military member to do so much as pick up a pencil.

ROBERT F. DORR

Oakton, Va.

Max Boot replies:

Robert Dorr is being pedantic. I am fully aware that the vice president is not technically in the military chain of command. However, in a broader sense, the vice president is clearly one of the "bosses" of any administration, and his views and questions are invariably treated with respect even by four-star generals.

Mirror Image

Christopher Hitchens's review of my late husband's book, From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map (Book World, Aug.15)is full of accusations the reviewer attributes to Edward W. Said which could just as easily be attributed to the reviewer. The reviewer himself was "embarked on the polemical," writing as if he were the appointed "spokesman and the interpreter" of the present pro-administration position. He himself was tempted "to be propagandist." Furthermore, the review is cheap, "slandering," filled with deliberate omissions, "written with subliterate violence and containing allegations" that the reviewer knew "to be false and defamatory." I refer to Edward's section about Iraqi dissident author Kanan Makiya, which the reviewer summed up as an allegation of "a direct subsidy from Saddam Hussein." Following is what Edward wrote on page 233 of the book in a well-researched essay entitled "Misinformation on Iraq" :

"One of the first media rousing of the Gulf War, The Republic of Fear seemed to have been written -- according to a fawning interview with Makiya that appeared in The New Yorker -- while Makiya took time off from working as an associate of his father's architectural firm in Iraq itself. He admitted in the interview that in a sense, Saddam had financed the writing of his book indirectly, although no one accused Makiya of collaborating with a regime he obviously detested."

Edward refers the reader to the source of the information, The New Yorker, and to Makiya's own words: "And there was further irony. . . . When he [Kanan Makiya] was establishing the board of directors to oversee things after his departure . . . he awarded himself a sizeable stipend as a member of that board . . . a sort of pension. Thereafter, he would be getting a slice of the office's annual profits -- enough, for example, to allow him to go off and write a book about Saddam Hussein. In effect, Saddam Hussein became not only the principal subject of Kanan's book but, unwittingly, its principal sponsor as well" (Lawrence Weschler, The New Yorker, Jan. 6, 1992).

This proves that the power of Edward's message (as Andrew Rubin once wrote in an essay) "could be measured by the level of outrage of his critics."

MARIAM C. SAID

Trustee of the Edward W. Said Estate

New York, N.Y

The Baptism in Question

Kenneth L. Woodward's review of my book, The Church That Forgot Christ (Book World, Aug. 2), in which he consigns me to hell, begins with the most important thing of all: He gets my name right. He then writes: "In a typically implausible scene, for example, he reports a baptism in which the priest uses this intimate family occasion to denounce pro-abortion politicians. 'We have been ordered that at every liturgical ceremony, we must make a statement against abortion,' the unnamed priest replies when questioned by one of Breslin's friends. I've covered the Catholic church for as long as Breslin has been writing, and I don't believe this ever happened."

On Feb. 8, 2004, in Mary Immaculate Church in Bellport, Long Island, Father Patrick Fitzgerald baptized Peter Joseph Verity. Upon finishing the blessing, Father Fitzgerald announced that the infant had to fight against abortion. Was he going to hand the kid a sword and tell him to crawl out and slay people?

He also announced, "Kerry talks crap. All politicians talk crap." Everybody looked at my friend, Ed Ward, who is in politics. They hoped he wouldn't get up and say something right there. The family had the church and priest scheduled for a big wedding.

Now Ward is told that he never attended this church service. "I even used the kneeler!" he says. He wants a great big retraction.

The baptism story is dead right, down to the water on the kid's head. There was a church filled with witnesses. The rest of Woodward's review is the sour work of somebody getting a little old and spiteful. At this stage, he feels he owns the subject on which he has spent a lifetime. How dare Breslin come out of some grubby Queens parish and write about Catholics he knows?

Shame on your newspaper for printing this.

JIMMY BRESLIN

Long Island, N.Y.

Kenneth Woodward replies:

Every time Breslin tells this story he tells it differently, with different details. I did and still do disbelieve the quote he ascribed to a priest, now identified as Fr. Patrick Fitzgerald. Conveniently Breslin leaves out my next sentence: "If a priest ever did make such a claim, a serious journalist would investigate whether such a policy existed, not simply tell a story." Breslin did not investigate, cites no sources for this or any of his other outrageous assertions in the book, but still asks us to believe that such a church policy exists. Now, however, the entire scene does indeed appear to be fictional. Fitzgerald, who is a British missionary, has told reporter Rachel Donadio in the New York Observer (Aug. 5) that he has "never referred to abortion" at a baptism. It also turns out that Breslin never heard, as he claims in his book, a conversation he retails there between Fitzgerald and his friend Ed Ward about the alleged incident. Ward is Donadio's source on that. I buttressed my review by citing six errors of fact that Breslin has yet to acknowledge or defend.

Who Killed Communism?

The Washington Post has done it again! It assigned Jack Matlock Jr.'s Reagan and Gorbachev, written by a former Reagan administration official, to Robert G. Kaiser, a Post editor with demonstrated liberal Democratic leanings (Book World, July 25). In his review, Kaiser reveals his sentiments at the outset by calling the Economist magazine's assertion that Reagan defeated communism as "smug" and "imagined." Kaiser attempts to discredit Reagan's role by anointing Mikhail Gorbachev as the hero. Kaiser undermines his own premise, however, with the statement, "When Reagan made it clear to [Gorbachev] that the price for arms control agreements with the United States would be Soviet respect for human rights at home and the end of Soviet imperialism abroad . . . Gorbachev decided to make fundamental reforms inside the U.S.S.R."

Kaiser's final stab at discrediting Reagan's role is a convoluted implication that Reagan only attempted to negotiate with the Soviet Union because he was "preparing to run for a second term." Kaiser then confesses his astonishment that Jack F. Matlock Jr., thought the Iran-contra dustup was not "such a big deal." Mr. Kaiser, please!

Matlock's book describes the work of Ronald Reagan in bringing an end to the Cold War along with other dedicated Americans and some Soviets who saw the handwriting on the wall. You will have a lot of trouble reaching that conclusion from Kaiser's review.

THOMAS J. RYAN

Bethany Beach, Del.

Ah, Josephine

I very much enjoyed Kunio Francis Tanabe's review of Andrea Stuart's The Rose of Martinique, the biography of Empress Josephine (Book World, Aug. 8). I thought The Post's readers would like to know that the reigning Swedish monarchy are direct descendants of Josephine. Her son Eugene's daughter, Josephine, married King Oscar of Sweden, who was coincidentally the son of Napoleon's first fiancee, Desiree Clary, and one of his most outstanding marshalls, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, to whom the crown of Sweden was offered in the early 19th century.

LAURA DONNELLY

Columbia, Md.

Heroes Can't Be Wimps

Borges: A Life, by Edwin Williamson, may leave its readers thinking -- as it did Michael Dirda (Book World, Aug. 8) -- that the Argentine writer was "essentially a wimp, probably impotent, certainly indecisive and weak-willed, thoroughly self-pitying, suprisingly vindictive and often cowardly," but I would submit that such vituperation is not worth reading. It errs on the main point: Borges's courage as a public figure. Whether he was criticizing nationalists and Nazis in the '30s, Peronists in the '40s and '50s, left-wing guerrillas in the '60s or the military in the '70s, he always stood out for his biting intelligence and a total disregard for the safe and fashionable.

EDGARDO KREBS

Bethesda, Md.

Author's Query

For a biography of M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, I'd welcome personal accounts of the influence of his books, copies of letters, personal recollections of meetings or his lectures. Arthur Jones, 9 W. Churchill St., Baltimore, MD 21230. Arthurjones@comcast.net.

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