This article originally appeared at FrontPage Magazine, on November 23, 2007.
I guess it’s noteworthy when George Soros singles you out for attack. On the other hand, when you have been targeted by as many leftists as I have, one more billionaire doesn’t make much difference. These assaults have been inspired by my efforts to organize an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” whose goal was to identify America’s enemies as more than just “terrorists,” and specifically to link them to a radical movement within Islam, which has declared war on the West. One salutary aspect of the Week is to have exposed the breadth of the coalition that now functions as a frontier guard for our enemies. Members of this coalition are apparently determined to run interference for America’s enemies, because, in their view, a greater danger to America is posed by conservatives such as myself and George Bush.
According to Soros, Bush has made up the war on terror, and thereby created the terrorist threat. In a notable article titled “A Self-Defeating War,” Soros wrote: “A misleading figure of speech applied literally has unleashed a real war fought on several fronts — Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia — a war that has killed thousands of innocent civilians and enraged millions around the world…. We can escape it only if we Americans repudiate the war on terror as a false metaphor.” As a principal funder of the Democratic Party, Soros is probably the inspiration for Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the terrorists are only in Iraq because we are there and will leave when we do, and is certainly behind John Edwards’ suggestion that the war on terror is a “political bumper sticker” and the way to fight the terrorists is to treat them as individual criminals rather than members of a fanatical religious movement with tens of millions of adherents.
Even as leftists project onto America responsibility for the war against us, so they seek to blame conservatives for the scorched earth politics they have adopted at home. Thus Soros describes me as a political manipulator who is unwilling to argue issues with my opponents, and instead focuses on destroying them: “Another technique [of conservatives] is transference: accusing opponents of having motives or using methods that characterize the accuser himself. For example, David Horowitz, who accuses me of being ‘the Lenin of the anti-American conspiracy,’ is a former Trotskyite for whom opponents are never adversaries to be debated, but rather enemies to be crushed.”
For the record, I was never a Trotskyite, nor have I ever accused Soros of being the Lenin of a “conspiracy.” More to the point, Soros’ claim that I never debate my adversaries on the issues is refuted by my writings and actions in the twenty-five years I have been a conservative. Few public figures have answered the arguments of their critics more copiously than I have. I have written hundreds of thousands of words of specific argument, which can be found in my articles archives titled “Replies to (Leftwing) Critics” and “Debates With (and About) the Left,” at Frontpagemag.com, and in published works such asRadical Son, The Politics of Bad Faith, Left Illusions, Hating Whitey, Uncivil Wars, Indoctrination U, andUnholy Alliance. Contrary to Soros, my entire intellectual work can be seen as an extended argument with the left, not an attempt to dismiss it with labels.
The basis for Soros’ claim is a passage in my work, which has been frequently mis-quoted by leftists, and which is actually a description of how the left itself deals with political opponents. A recent reference to this passage by one of my critics, Michael Berube, illustrates the point. “Here’s Horowitz in his 2000 bookThe Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits: “you cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can only do so by following Lenin’s injunction: ‘In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.’”
People who have actually read The Art of Political War, which was written as advice to Republicans, will recognize that that this is a description of how I believe Democrats (and leftists like Berube) fight their political wars. It was not my recommendation of how conservatives and Republicans should fight them. Moreover, I said so, in so many words, and in the very next sentence, which Berube deliberately omitted: “Well, we needn’t go as far as Lenin. After all, we’re not Bolsheviks. But destroying an opponent’s effectiveness is a fairly common Democratic practice. Personal smears accomplish this. And Democrats are very good at it.”
My thirty-year effort to engage an argument with the left has not been reciprocated. Except on occasions when I have invited leftists into the pages of Frontpage or onto my public platforms for the specific purpose of debate, few on the left have considered it necessary to engage my work except to ridicule and slander me, as a way of warning others not to take the issues I raise seriously – in short, to “crush” me (as Soros puts it), and eliminate me from the discussion. In a typical encounter, during a debate at Reed University, the Dean of the Faculty opened his remarks by describing me thus: “So, I hypothesize, engaging in political warfare, doing and saying whatever it takes to win, this is what Mr. Horowitz does for a living. It’s his job, it’s his way of life. And, of course, if this is true, then clearly what it means is that it’s simply impossible to take anything he says or does seriously, including anything he says today.” The Dean was hypothesizing from the same mis-represented Lenin quote used by Soros and Berube.