Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a nasty attack on President Bush by self-styled ‘controversial’ military historian Correlli Barnett (HT: Riehl World View). It’s essentially a rehash of the argument that the War on Terror is a struggle between fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity as espoused by President Bush (which Correlli appears to think is interchangeable with neo-conservatism).
No-one has paid much attention to the 80-year-old Barnett for several years now – he’s trying to plug a new book at the moment, which is presumably why he’s flogging his outlandish opinions to anyone who’ll print them. He made his name with a series of vitriolic accounts of Britain’s military and industrial decline, and you’ll find a withering review of last installment here. This line sums up the man and his work nicely:
[Barnett’s] language is often coarse, more suited to a brawl in a raucous bar than to a serious history. His open contempt for manual workers as prone to sloth and ignorance is simply vulgar abuse. More worryingly, Barnett seems unaware of the recent wealth of important literature on British decline that has destroyed many of his simplistic, unchanging arguments.
Barnett's nasty streak manifests itself in an admiration for strong national leadership that borders on the fascistic. He's also an old-school ‘stability’ enthusiast who opposed the humanitarian interventions in the Balkans and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an advocate of closer relations between the UK and Europe.
The article itself is a mess of half-truths, sweeping generalisations and cherry-picked facts that suit Barnett's conclusions. Not that the Mail's standards are especially high. With the exception of the excellent Melanie Phillips, it's a dreadful newspaper, obsessed with murdered children, celebrities and health scares, and normally takes little interest in international affairs, apart from occasional forays in polemics and conspiracy theory such as this.
Suffice to say Barnett thinks Britain should detach itself from US foreign policy and negotiate with ‘moderate’ mullahs in Iran; how this leads to the overthrow of the current regime, and the abandonment of Iran's nuclear weapons program, he doesn't say. He also thinks replacing US troops in Iraq with UN peacekeepers from Muslims states would help stabalise the country (because the Shia militias and al-Qaeda would never harm a fellow Muslim, would they), and believes that the War on Terror, insofar as he acknowledges that it exists at all, is essentially a job for the police and intelligence services.
From his claim that President Bush is engaged in a struggle to convert the whole world to American-style capitalist democracy (he's got his work cut out to finish the job in a little over a year), to his description of US troops in Iraq as ‘Darth Vader-style stormtroopers’, Barnett's style brings to mind an angry 16-year-old high on Michael Moore videos. Perhaps it's occurred to this miserable old man that pseudo-intellectual teenagers are about the only people likely to be interested in buying his new book.