THE DRAGONS OF EXPECTATION: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History

Robert Conquest, Author
Robert Conquest, Author . Norton $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-05933-5
Reviewed on: 11/22/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-7156-3597-1
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-393-32759-5
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-7156-3426-4
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This occasionally brilliant and at times idiosyncratic book is a frontal assault on the pieties of the left. At its heart is Conquest's critique of a deluded idealization of the Soviet Union and the underestimation of the danger it posed to the West—the focus of Conquest's long and distinguished career (The Great Terror, etc.). But his targets here are far broader: if dreamy-eyed socialism has died, its ghost lives on, he says, in a mishmash of icons and fetishes ("democracy," "liberty," "progress"), held together by uncritical utopianism and reducing our intellectual culture to cerebral jelly. The original nursery of dragons, he suggests, was the French Enlightenment; today, these beasts dwell in academic corridors, where professors speak in jargon and channel the repressive spirit of the medieval Inquisition. His St. George, bearing the banner of the "Law-and-Liberty" tradition, is English-speaking: the United States and the United Kingdom. Responding to the war against Islamist barbarians, Conquest assails veneration of the U.N., the EU, the International Criminal Court, a knee-jerk intellectual anti-Westernism and the presumption that benevolent colonial intervention is necessarily bad. This pithy book, which concludes with a strange, poetic composition masquerading as an epilogue, will infuriate as many readers as it gladdens. But Conquest has thrown down a gauntlet to which we should all respond. 3 b&w illus. (Jan. 24)

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