It is not paradoxical that so many intellectuals profess pacifism? After all, intellectuals are some of the most violent creatures of the animal kingdom. The wars they wage in their own realm are not only fierce and terrifying, but there is a deviousness about the execution of these wars that would stagger most generals, even the generation of lady generals now rising in our incomparable American war machine.
Since the fall of Southeast Asia, intellectuals have been ferociously having at it over the question of who is responsible for the Cambodian slaughter. The answer is obvious to anyone competent to read a newspaper. Those who plunged the daggers into millions of Cambodian hearts are responsible for the slaughter, namely; the bloodthirsty Khmer Rouge, But who is responsible for the Khmer Rouge?
Much hangs on the answer to this question. During the last stages of the Southeast Asian war some intellectuals grew downright affectionate toward the Khmer Rouge. Others pertly preached that only the withdrawal of American troops from Southeast Asia would bring peace and contentment to the area. Obviously both groups have a lot at stake in how history answers this question.
This is why they greeted William Shawcross' 1979 book, "Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia," with such rhapsodic praise. Shawcross, as the title of his book suggests, argues that the Cambodian holocaust was caused by those who fought to prevent it. As Orwell would say, "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."
But the aforementioned intellectuals have more at stake than merely their reputations for bringing a happy ending to their peace demonstrations. Over the years they have excogitated a set of foreign policy prescriptions based on the premise that the use of the American military in far-off lands only makes matters worse. It is crucially important to them that it be demonstrated that the use of the American military in Cambodia caused the terror.
Thus they are ardent to enshrine the cerebrations of Shawcross in all our minds. In fact, he has become one of the most sacred icons of the late and great peace movement -- the movement whose members now venerate themselves for bringing peace to Indochina, while growing desperately evasive about the unsavory consequences of that peace. Shawcross is also a renowned figure with the current appeasement lobby whose members automatically begin murmuring "No More Vietnams! No More Cambodians!" whenever fresh outbreaks of revolutionary violence presage an advance in the Marxist crusade.
Anyone who would make bold to scrutinize Shawcross' scholarship will suffer for his profanations. Doubtless, this explains the enduring obscurity of one Peter Rodman, a thoughtful foreign policy expert, a former member of the National Security Council, an assocaite of the nefarious Dr. Kissinger. Rodman has reviewed the Shawcross book from stem to stern and esteemed the work "a fraud."
Rodman has taken Shawcross' statements, compared them with the original documents on which Shawcross bases them, and adjudged "Sideshow" "a compendium of errors, sleight of hand, and egregious selectivity; he [Shawcross] has suppressed entirely a mountain of evidence that contradicted his principal points." This is a breathtaking display of scholarship, yet it has hardly received a word of public comment. Shawcross is acclaimed far and wide, but Rodman remains unknown. Perhaps Rodman is an idiot, but when he writed letters critical of Shawcross to publications in which Shawcross is praised and quoted, poor Rodman's criticims are not even published in the correspondence section. As suggested earlier, when the intellectuals have at it there is violence. Sometimes there is deviousness.
Shawcross himself is more honorable. He is not afraid to appear on the field of battle. This he has manfully squared off with Rodman in the pages of The American Spectatot. It is a head-to-toe confrontation -- one of the liveliest exchanges I have ever read. Shawcross is responding to Rodman's criticism of "Sideshow." Rodman in turn responds to Shawcross. Here is an epic struggle over whether Shawcross is correct to blame the Cambodian holocaust on the policies of Nixon and Kissinger. Will those who have accepted the Shawcross position bother to review this exchange? Or will they fatuously hold to the notion that the Cambodian holocaust can be laid to American policy? My guess is that the public discussion this momentous issue deserves will never take place. The Cambodian holocaust is too embarrassing to too many.