The Paris Massacre and the European Future: A Conversation with Mark Helprin

with Mark Helprin

Award-winning novelist Mark Helprin is also one of the most significant voices writing on American foreign policy. Liberty Law Talk interviews Mr. Helprin about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and what they mean for France, the European Union, and the United States.

Reader Discussion

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on December 02, 2015 at 14:42:17 pm

I've only today, December 2, 2015, come across your website because I followed a link from Mark Helprin's site in order to listen what he had to say about Paris. I don't know whether it is the norm, or whether your rules for your announcers are loose to a degree where you allow for them to editorialize, let alone during what is simply an introduction to your guest, but what almost made me turn the whole thing off was your announcer stating "he doesn't know what he is talking about" in regards to not only President Obama's statement about ISIS being contained, but his idea of the threat at all. I came to hear Helprin's thoughts, which although I find I disagree with him more than not, I find engaging, thoughtful, and scholarly. I didn't come to hear an interviewer tell me his sophomoric attitude towards one comment of the President, let alone taking it completely out of context. (That is to say, anyone giving the President the slightest break would understand that he meant in terms of the territory they hold, and even he would understand the more amorphous uncontained threat of unannounced terrorist activity. It was a very cheap shot by someone whose position should simply be to ask questions of the guest, not espouse opinions even before the guest has yet to speak. Please pass this along to him with my sincerest regards. Jim.

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James Cricquette
on December 02, 2015 at 16:42:30 pm

James Cricquette, My comment mentioned that Obama had on the morning of the attack referred to ISIS as "contained" implying that it no longer constituted an growing threat to the West. I was referring to this comment and to other comments he has made about ISIS ("JV squad"), which have demonstrated to most observers that he downplays the true capabilities of this terrorist group. That an attack of immense proportions occurred the same day he made the aforementioned remark struck me and many others as an instance of irony and giving us further reason not to take his assessments at face value. Hardly sophormoric, but a considered judgment weighing evidence and the accumulation of statements by the President on ISIS that don't equal reality.

Moreover, to say that Obama's comment only referred to territory that ISIS holds is to bend over backwards in order to find it accurate. ISIS is an organization that is about, per its own words, aggressive and expansive action against infidels utilizing any means necessary. Containing ISIS or making the observation that they are "contained" will require much more strenuous action against the organization before such a judgment could be made. Secondly, judging that ISIS is contained proper or assuming that they will gain no new territory is also, at this point, a more generous and hopeful prediction than I would make.

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Richard M. Reinsch II
on December 04, 2015 at 16:54:47 pm

Hi Richard,

I understand your sentiment, but I think you must know that James was likely referring to your comment that the President "doesn't know what he is talking about." While you might not agree with the President, I'm pretty sure he has more information than any of us. What conclusion you might draw having that same information and his responsibilities is another conversation, but I have to agree that that comment in your introduction was unnecessary and somewhat inappropriate.

Thanks for interviewing Mr. Helprin. I am a huge fan of his fiction. I wish you both the best.

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Thomas Wirth
on December 04, 2015 at 17:08:39 pm

Thomas, It's not sentiment, it's logic and evidence. We judge political leaders by their actions and its consequences not as peasants and subjects. i.e., "He must have more information than me, therefore who am I to judge?"

Did he have more evidence and credible evidence to support his earlier assertions and judgments about ISIS? He has consistently downplayed their power only to be shown in error days and weeks later. I reference again his statement that they ISIS was a "JV" terror front and then we watched over the next few months as they extended their territory over huge portions of Iraq and Syria. I know, right, he must have had more information than me.

Did he have more evidence when he said that "Al-Qaeda is on the run" before we witnessed a resurgence of their power in the Libya attack and now their likely return to power in Afghanistan?

Again, what do we see from the administration in the wake of an Islamic terrorist attack in California? He downplays and diverts from the origin and source of the attack, focusing instead on gun control.

These are fundamentally political judgments he makes. ISIS can't be a threat. Islamic terror can't be a threat. Why? He judges that to embrace such a view is to put him on the wrong popular footing. No need for a very hesitant President if we face a renewed Islamic terror threat from various quarters and regions of the globe.

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Richard M. Reinsch II
on December 12, 2015 at 16:40:22 pm

Dear Mr. Reinsch,

Your comment that the President “doesn’t know what he is talking about” seems charitable. That the President "has more information than any of us" makes his response even more troubling.

Thank you for the interview. I have enjoyed all of the books by Mr. Helprin.

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Steve VT
on December 17, 2015 at 18:32:27 pm


Please allow me to express here my strong dislike of what was said in this talk. Everything you guys said was about fearmongering. The guest served in the Israeli Army, and calls Iran a terrorist state. Now Iran is definitely a terrible tyranny, but is Israel not as much of a terrorist state? I mean, the Israeli army has killed thousands of innocent Palestinian men and women and even children over the past decades. I refuse the highly emotional content this talk gives, it sounds all like Fox News. This kind of speeches only work on people that have no education, that do not question what they are told by people who support the wars because it first helps divert the population from the real economic issues that are far worse of threats, and second it enables the American corporations to sell weapons. Anyone who fails to notice this, I think, does not see what motivates these speeches.

Also, I am French, how dare you say the refugees that came here were mostly young men? You are lying. The information you are giving your audience is wrong information, that aims to screw the uneducated masses' worldview and make it easier for the powerful people to continue dominating the American people.

Only talking about security, because you're targetting what's sensitive in people. How about you stimulate people's brains and invite people like Noam Chomsy, Norman Finkielstein, Michael Moore, Mehdi Hasan, Tariq Ramadan, Russell Brand or others? I doubt you're actually concerned about truth.

I hope my critiques get a response, although I have no trust in you anymore.

Sad fearmongering elites.
We are all humans, regardless of race or religion. Stop hate. :-)

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on April 23, 2016 at 19:41:07 pm

Richard : You called it right from the Jump ! I loved the interview and you owe no apologe to anyone !

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Gary L. Holmes
on December 20, 2017 at 09:56:01 am

Mr. Reinsch,
My apologies in advance for replying two years later. I thought I subscribed to receive new comments, but I failed at doing one step, and I'm only discovering your reply now. It's a good thing I have because now with 2 years since, and if not fully annihilate, ISIS's back put against the wall, it gives me a bit more ammunition to point to your conclusions about Obama's seriousness in regards to ISIS a bit hasty to say the least. While you don't delineate every bit of evidence that lead you to conclude Mr Obama's naivity, using that one single remark as a yardstick strikes me as being as facile as you accused him of being.

At this point, I'm not aware of what lead him to call them contained, but I would venture an educated guess that after some 6 years of his administration, he was presented color-coded maps with areas of control from 2009 to 2015, and saw them noticeably decreased. That may or not be a legal definition of contained, but Obama had reason to assure the public. And now two years later, that assurance was more than justified.

If people like you and Helprin insist on full blown white papers from every presidential announcement, let alone revealing information that must certainly be classified, I can imagine that the lack of that gives you the feeling of picking apart semantics rather than reality. How's that project going for you with Trump?

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James Cricquette

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.