Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 7, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

CONDI RICE: 20 YEARS AGO TODAY....Condoleezza Rice's first book, written in 1984, was called The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983: Uncertain Allegiance. It turns out that it was met with immediate skepticism from at least one scholar of Czechoslovakian history who seemed to think that she, um, had an unfortunate tendency to formulate opinions without regard for the actual facts on the ground.

Joseph Kalvoda, a history professor at St. Joseph College, apparently had a bit of trouble of his own figuring out whether Rice was male or female, but otherwise his criticism of Rice's methods in the American Historical Review still rings eerily true two decades later:

Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this "former military scientist" (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago.

....Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example....Rice's discussion of the "Czechoslovak Legion" that was "born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire" (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was "born" on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought.

Let's review: Problems distinguishing facts from propaganda. Too quick to pass judgment without adequate knowledge. Failure to properly assess sources who have an obvious axe to grind. Ignorance of regional history.

Does any of this sound familiar?

(Thanks to Washington Monthly intern Jason Stevenson for digging this up.)

Kevin Drum 6:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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