This is the second part of my radio dialogue with an icon of the Left, Howard Zinn, professor emeritus of Boston University, author of "A People's History of the United States." The intention of this ongoing series of what major leftists think is to enable people to see clearly what they believe. Then people can much better make up their minds about which side of the culture war they wish to identify with.
After Professor Zinn argued in Part I that America has not been a force for good in the world, I proceeded with the following questions:
DP: I believe that we [Americans] fought in Korea in order to enable at least half of that benighted peninsula to live in relative freedom and prosperity; the half that we did not liberate is living in the nightmare, almost Nazi-like, condition of the North Korean government. Why don't you see that as a great good that Americans did?
HZ: I think that your description of the North Korean government is accurate. It's sort of a monstrous government. But when we went to war in Korea the result of that war was the deaths of several million people. And I question whether the deaths . . . were worth the result. . . .
DP: If America had never intervened, do we both agree that Kim Il-sung, the psychopathic dictator of North Korea, would have ruled over the entire Korean peninsula?
HZ: I think that's probably true.
DP: Do you believe that that would be a net moral or immoral result for the Korean people and the world?
HZ: That would have been an immoral result, but the result of the war itself was also immoral -- I'm talking about the killing of several million people. And what I'm suggesting is that the answer to . . . tyrannies like that is not war, which in our time always involves the massive killing of innocent people. . . . I think we have to find ways other than war to get rid of dictatorships and tyrannies.
DP: I would love that. But this is where we often consider people on the Left, at best, to be naive. . . . Let's talk about that naivete. You believe that there would have been another way to get rid of the Korean communists -- whom we both agree are monstrous -- as opposed to the Korean War. . . . This is the naivete of the Left, that ugly things can be gotten rid of in sweet ways.
HZ: Not sweet ways. I wouldn't say that. And I wouldn't say either in totally peaceful ways . . . by struggle and resistance but not by war. We have historical examples of what I'm talking about. The Soviet Union, Stalinism, was not overthrown by war. . . . Stalinism was really replaced, in time, by the Russian people themselves. . . . What I'm suggesting is that there are a number of places in the world where we have had tyrannies that have been overthrown without war. . . .