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Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First Hardcover – January 1, 2003

3.5 out of 5 stars 177 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Syndicated columnist and CNN commentator Charen offers a moral indictment of those public figures-politicians, entertainers and professors-who, she says, stubbornly refused to see communism for what it was: a brutal, dictatorial death machine. Throughout the Cold War, some public figures and activists cheered the Communist movement and berated America for its capitalist ways. Famous actors traveled to Cuba to smoke a cigar with their favorite dictator; posters of Che Guevara, Castro's military leader, adorned college dorms during the '60s; the Soviet Union was praised and defended for its social progress. Charen particularly singles out the media as having played a significant role in distributing tendentious if not false accounts of world events. One example tells of Katie Couric's visit to Cuba in 1992. Upon her return, according to Charen, Couric raved about Cuba's "terrific health-care system," but uttered not a word about the men and women detained in Cuban prisons. The author highlights the kind of historical revisionism and self-hatred that marked some of America's most noted public figures and warns that the lessons learned from communism are just as relevant today. The tragedy of September 11, Charen says, has produced a cadre of left-leaning pundits who wasted no time in blaming America for the violence perpetrated by terrorism. Charen is operating as a polemicist here, and some readers will object to her tarring all liberals with the same brush. But there is a strong market for conservative polemics today, and many readers will cheer Charen on.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Political gab-show regular Charen does a bang-up job of summarizing one of the Right's oldest complaints: that left liberals--whom she distinguishes from anticommunist liberals such as Vietnam-era U.S. senator Henry Jackson--never saw a communist regime they didn't like. She opens the indictment at the cold war's end, which left liberals wouldn't report as a free-world victory because, she says, they idolized Mikhail Gorbachev, overvalued communist full employment, and were (and are) knee-jerk anticapitalists. In subsequent chapters on Vietnam and its aftermath, liberals' love affair with Stalinist Russia, and the overturning of Grenada's and Nicaragua's revolutionary regimes, Charen quotes one liberal's embarrassing statement after another and juxtaposes them devastatingly with the tolls of death, imprisonment, and impoverishment in communist states. She is wonderfully convincing until she comes to the Elian Gonzalez affair and the war on terrorism, where principled conservatives may demur that the Clinton administration did the right thing--returning Elian to his father--very poorly, and that the present administration is reacting wrongly to what are crimes, not casus belli. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing; 1st edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895261391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895261397
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
No doubt, the liberal apologists for America will attack this book from every direction. It can hold its own, nonetheless. If you're old enough to have watched U.S. political drama from Korea to September 11, Mona Charen's analysis is crystaline in clarity. Exceptionaly well researched and documented, it is also riveting... and scary. But it's a book that might make a difference. It's a book that should make a difference. If you loved Mondale and admire Fidel Castro, well, you'll not be pleased with it. If you liked Ronald Regan you'll probably do some cheering. If you are half-way objective it may scare the hell out you. How U.S. foreign policy has evolved and been reported in the main-stream press over the past 50 years is not a pretty picture. As this book underscores, blaming the world's problems on America has become a drum beat for many of our own "leaders" and too many of our "journalists." Both, by the way, take a beating in "Useful Idiots." And the book makes a powerful case they deserve it.
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Format: Hardcover
Charen gives an impassioned defense of Cold Warriors by pointing out the lingering blindness of most liberals to the evils of Communism. Quick. How many movies can you name that portray the horrors of Stalinism? As Charen says, this is not a failure of imagination, but a moral meltdown. There are hundreds of movies of varying quality that demonize Hitler and Nazism. Yet, Communism, a wholly comparable evil, gets a pass from Hollywood.
As I perused the customer reviews here, I was not surprised to see the invective hurled at Mona and her work by people who have either not bothered to read the book, or decided not to comment on its substance. Can there be a better indirect proof of Charen's thesis?
She does differentiate among liberals, citing and quoting a number of anti-communist liberals. She points out some startling and heartbreaking word pictures of suffering and death taken from the recently opened Soviet archives. She does criticize the elder Bush. So this is not just one-sided hate mongering as the other reviewers may have you believe. In fact, it is clearly on a more serious and sensitive level than the Ann Coulter book.
From Moscow to Havanna to Cambodia to North Korea, liberals just don't get it. And, unlike people whose reputations were ruined for their lack of judgement about the Nazis (Chamberlain and Lindbergh for example), liberals have just gone merrily on their way without suffering a loss of credibility. Hmmm, could it be that they largely control the media? Ah, but that's another book review!
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Format: Hardcover
This book examines the American Left's farcical inability to accept the notion that not only was the Cold War real, but the United States won and the Soviet Union (although not the Russian people) really was the bad guy. The Left just can't just come out and admit that the world, especially formerly enslaved Eastern Europe, is better (not perfect but better) subsequent to the USSR's demise.
Hollywood pumps out film after film about the alleged evils of United States domestic and international shortcomings (of which there are many) and one-sided sympathetic portrayals of left wing heroes, but Charen says "Quick: try to think of a single movie about the horrors of Stalinism. This is not a failure of imagination. This is moral meltdown."
Charen provides a memorable metaphor for American liberals' inability to realistically perceive the relative successes and moral positions of the United States and its Cold War adversaries. She points out that liberals turn the Lords' New Testament words inside out to the effect that liberals couldn't see past the speck of sawdust in the United States' eye in order to see the plank in the Soviets' eye.
Useful Idiots is well written and makes its points, but for many readers Charen will be preaching to the converted. I recommend challenging your left-oriented friends to read and discuss this book with you.
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Format: Hardcover
What seperates this book from other simliar neoconservative books is the lack of inflamatory rhetoric. Ms. Charen lays out her case through extensive research and quotes. She does not demonize her opponents. She does does not pull quotes of context. She does not twist facts to make a point. She simply quotes those who hate America and yet defend the bankcrupt system of communsim. Only the title could be misconstrued as name-calling, but once you read the full quote, you understand why she chose it.
Communism must never be defended. It is a system that denies man's nature and has consequently led to the brutal death of tens of millions of people, and the enslavement of over a billion people. (Not to mention the devastation of the environment.) This book should be required reading.
The only way to deny Ms. Charen's arguement is to ignore it and instead resort to the tired game of name-calling. (Read the nagative reviews.) Both conservatives and liberals would benifit from Mona Charen's approach.
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Format: Hardcover
Mona Charen revisits the Cold War era in light of the events of 9-11 and draws a parallel between those dupes, like Walter Duranty, who lauded the former Soviet Union during the 1930's as a "worker's paradise" in the midst of Stalin's vicious purges, and those in the media and public life today, who, in the wake of 9-11-01 insist on blaming "American foreign policy" for those attacks.
Charen hasn't shied away from controversy in the past and this book is no exception. Liberals who purport to "love America and criticize it only to improve it," will despise this work for lumping all Leftists in with those nefarious folks whose real agenda has been to undermine the cornerstone of American prosperity, private property rights, and would like to see our republic (government action limited by our Constitution) replaced with some form of "pure democracy."
I believe that Mona Charen is right though, in at least most of her assessment of the Left (especially "the true believers"), that much of American Liberalism has been anti-American and anti-freedom. I also believe that her title is also right on the money - those who espouse anti-American sentiments while living in the freest, most prosperous nation on earth, who condemn American government without considering the broader worldview (2/3 of the "modern world" still practices chattel slavery), or decry "American Imperialism" in the face of America's history of liberating and rebuilding nations from Grenada to Kuwait to Serbia - are indeed "useful idiots," for any anti-American cause.
If you believe in the founding principles of Americanism (private ownership, free markets and a Constitutional Republic) you're going to love this book, if not, you may very well hate it.
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