Jeffrey C. Isaac’s review of Frances Stoner Saunders’s The Cultural Cold War (“Rethinking the Cultural Cold War,” Summer 2002) argues, in effect, that the end justifies the means. The end was the cause of liberal anticommunism. The means was the covert collaboration by any number of eminent intellectuals in several countries with the Central Intelligence Agency, which funded and guided the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
The argument is dubious. Certainly, figures such as Raymon Aron, Daniel Bell, Isaiah Berlin, Sidney Hook, and Edward Shils did not need to have the CIA call their attention to the fact that Stalinist politics were repugnant. They used the funds placed at their disposition in ways that were hardly conspicuous for spiritual disinterestedness. They established networks of patronage from which intellectual adversaries were systematically excluded. Many of the other figures involved in the operation were egregious intriguers and strivers, mediocrities for whom the CIA’s money was a godsend. One understands why Irving Howe termed the whole thing a racket.
There is a further point. The CCF established canons of political respectability that narrowed western political...
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