The Nation editorialized last week, “As the democratic awakening sweeps across the Arab world, the Obama administration is struggling to find the right balance between short-term crisis management and the longer-term need for a new approach that breaks with Washington’s dark history of military intervention and support for autocratic regimes.”
Pot kettle black?
That “dark history” of “support for autocratic regimes” seems projection on the part of The Nation upon, well, the nation. The editorialists have forgotten, or perhaps hope that their readers have forgotten, the publication’s ignominious past as a booster paper for tyrants.
Take Muammar Gaddafi, dubbed a despot in the aforementioned editorial. He wasn’t always thought so in the magazine’s pages. In the aftermath of his 1969 coup, The Nation played up the twentysomething dictator’s professed socialism. The magazine described him as an almost saintly figure, “a slender, soft-spoken teetotaler who sets an example by not smoking, and eats only those foods prescribed in the Koran.” The flagship publication of the American Left wrote approvingly of Libya’s transformation under Gaddafi. “All privileges have been abolished, all Libyans are now equal under the law,” The Nation gushed, and “no form of racism exists in Libya.”
By Gaddafi’s ascendance, the template had long been set. Any revolution that mouthed anti-American bromides, and that could be viewed as exhibiting some Marxist dimension, would be cast in the most exuberant light.
Though The Nation has existed since 1865, its incarnation as despotism’s cheerleader didn’t occur until the Russian Revolution. Upon Lenin’s bloody coup overthrowing the people who overthrew the czar, The Nation informed its readers that “the franchise is more democratic in Russia than in England or the United States,” “opportunities are greater than have ever been the opportunities of intellectuals anywhere,” and that the revolution produced “so little killing, looting, burning.” An enthusiastic, and pseudonymous, Lincoln Steffens explained: “The revolution in Russia is to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, now; in order that Christ may come soon; and, coming, reign forever. Forever and ever, everywhere.”
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