The Ukrainian crisis has instigated an effort by the West to get into Putin’s mind, and this has inevitably led to his advisor, Prof Alexander Dugin, a leading Eurasianist and the architect of Putin’s geopolitics.
Inevitably, Dugin’s anti-liberalism has been a source of grave concern for American commentators. His book, The Fourth Political Theory, has been read with interest by a minority of them, who, though not necessarily in concert with Dugin’s geopolitical aims, do share his negative conclusions regarding liberalism and do recognise the need for something better. Needless to say, these commentators are outside the American mainstream.
Those inside the mainstream, being liberals to a man, have felt very threatened. For them, liberalism and Americanism are one and the same, and Dugin must therefore be a mad philosopher calling for the end of the world.
Among those most threatened, apparently, are the folk at the National Review. They have not only felt the need to publish multiple hit pieces about Dugin, but they have also enlisted a rocket scientist to write them. Enter Robert Zubrin.
The stridency of these pieces has been such that it’s difficult to believe they have appeared in a “respectable” conservative publication.
Last March, Robert Zubrin took time off his planned colonisation of Mars to lay into Dugin a couple of times. The first time, he called Dugin a Nazi, stating
Without Ukraine, Dugin’s fascist Eurasian Union project is impossible, and sooner or later Russia itself will have to join the West and become free, leaving only a few despised and doomed islands of tyranny around the globe. But with Ukraine underfoot, the Eurasianists’ program can and will proceed, and a new Iron Curtain will fall into place imprisoning a large fraction of humanity in the grip of a monstrous totalitarian power that will become the arsenal of evil around the world for decades to come. That means another Cold War, trillions of dollars wasted on arms, accelerated growth of the national-security state at home, repeated proxy conflicts costing millions of lives abroad, and civilization itself placed at risk should a single misstep in the endless insane great-power game precipitate the locked and loaded confrontation into a thermonuclear exchange.
The second time, he talked darkly about Dugin’s plan for the “domination” of Europe.
Now, three months later, he has come back to lay into Dugin a third time, this time calling Dugin’s Eurasianism “a satanic cult”. I am not joking. Zubrin actually said that, and those words appear both in his copy and in the subtitle of his piece.
Zubrin’s hit piece is filled with all manner of distortions, misrepresentations, lies, exaggerations, and yet more obsessive visions of a thermonuclear apocalypse. There is no evidence in all the of Zubrin’s high-pitched hysteria that he has read even part of The Fourth Political Theory, because what Zubrin describes and what Dugin actually says in that book bear no resemblance whatsoever. The following paragraph says it all:
In order to be so united “from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” this Eurasian Union will need a defining ideology, and for this purpose Dugin has developed a new “Fourth Political Theory” combining all the strongest points of Communism, Nazism, Ecologism, and Traditionalism, thereby allowing it to appeal to the adherents of all of these diverse anti-liberal creeds. He would adopt Communism’s opposition to free enterprise. However, he would drop the Marxist commitment to technological progress, a liberal-derived ideal, in favor of Ecologism’s demagogic appeal to stop the advance of industry and modernity. From Traditionalism, he derives a justification for stopping free thought. All the rest is straight out of Nazism, ranging from legal theories justifying unlimited state power and the elimination of individual rights, to the need for populations “rooted” in the soil, to weird gnostic ideas about the secret origin of the Aryan race in the North Pole.
Note that Dugin has not developed a “Fourth Political Theory”. There is no such thing. Dugin simply argues that one is needed. This is because liberalism, the first political theory, remains triumphant, while the second and the third (communism and fascism) were both defeated. So, after exploring the three ideologies of modernity, and describing the present political topography, he simply proposes ways in which a fourth could be developed. It is all wide open. He explicitly states that he sees this as a collective effort, and invites others to join in a conversation.
Now, if there is no fourth political theory, if it is merely a proposal for a project, and if it is to be developed collectively, with others contributing their own perspectives, how can Zubrin speak of a totalitarian dogma?
Yet, this poses no difficulty for Zubrin, who characterises those willing to work in concert to challenge the liberal political class as “Quislings”, willing to “betray their nations to Kremlin domination”. The implication is clear: you are either a liberal or a traitor.
For the most part, Zubrin relies on a recently published book by one James D. Heiser, titled “The American Empire Should be Destroyed”: Alexander Dugin and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology. Zubrin welcomes the fact that Putin’s Duginist ideas have now finally been given “a book-length treatment”. Zubrin selects a couple of quotes from Heiser’s “chilling” analysis, and ends by recycling the “thermonuclear” paragraph from three months ago that I quoted above, adding, predictably
Only this time, our cold-war opponents will not be secular Communists, but true believers of a death-worshipping cult that would like to bring about the end of the world.
Every victory for their expansionist program abroad enhances the Eurasianists’ power within Russia. As a result of the Western capitulation so far, the Duginite movement is growing exponentially, while the forces of sanity are being cowed or crushed. If Ukraine falls, Vladimir Putin may discover that, like the German generals who empowered Hitler, he has fostered the birth of a monster he can no longer control.
Heiser’s book was published by a tiny religious publisher, Repristination Press, and appears to have been written very quickly. It is extremely short, nearly a pamphlet. The layout is poor. It currently has just two 5-star reviews in Amazon, and one of them by a David W. Heiser—a relative. Needless to say that it is a hyperventilated attempt to demonise Alexander Dugin, and from what can be read online, not exactly an example of careful research. Moreover, Zubrin is quoted in the description, praising Heiser’s effort with the following words,
A penetrating analysis of the dangerous totalitarian dogma of the man who has become Putin’s Rasputin. If you want to understand the new threat to Western civilization, you need to read this book.
Now, Heiser serves in the Steering Committee and also serves in the Board of Directors, of the Mars Society, of which Robert Zubrin is founder and president. So these two men know each other well, and are close colleagues. You are invited to draw whatever conclusions you may concerning Zubrin’s neutrality.
Turning back to Zubrin’s piece in the National Review, we see that it links to the Amazon page of Dugin’s book. There, among the 1-star reviews, we find, guess who, Robert Zubrin, trashing Dugin and again calling him a Nazi:
Dugin calls himself a “National Bolshevik.” If that sounds like Nazi to you, you are on the right track. All of his heroes (van Der Brock, Schmitt, Heidigger) are Nazis. He calls for a global crusade against liberal society. It is frightening that he is an advisor to Putin.
“Van der Brock”? “Heidigger”? I suppose Zubrin is referring to Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Martin Heidegger, whose names he is unable to spell correctly, obviously because he has never read them. The fact that he calls Moeller van den Bruck a “Nazi” also says something about the quality of his scholarship and qualifications to write in this subject area. If Moeller van den Bruck belonged to any movement, it was the Conservative Revolutionary movement. He died in 1925, at the height of the Weimar era. Moeller van den Bruck met Hitler once in 1922 and rejected him for his ‘proletarian primitiveness’.
Zubrin’s scholarship is worth examining. He is the author of various books. Obviously, a number deal with Mars. Unfortunately, he has ventured into political writing, his most recent example being Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism. It has received eight 1-star reviews so far, and the running themes are accusations of shoddy scholarship and conspiracy theorising. A reviewer writes:
This book is horrible. It goes from mistakenly connecting Thomas Malthus with Charles Darwin and then accuses Darwin of being the cause for the Nazi eugenics program . . . It then goes to make even more broad conspiracy connections on par with Jesse Ventura, Natural News, Breitbart and Alex Jones.
Another reviewer calls Zubrin a “Merchant of denial”. Yet another writes:
Zubrin’s book is so filled with mistakes and sloppy research that it would take an equally long book to correct it. A book such as this is what happens when an ideologue starts with a premise–“government regulation of the market is always bad”–and picks (and misrepresents) data to prove it.
A slightly more generous 2-star reviewer dubs the book a “tirade”.
Think what you may about Dugin, but concerning Zubrin, Pliny’s expression, Sutor, ne ultra crepidam, comes to mind.
Robert Zubrin is a prolific contributor to the National Review, so I guess this is no oversight on their part: they are fully behind this contributor and his is, indeed, the standard of journalism we ought to expect from that publication.