Mark Helprin Is A Hysteric

I enjoy author Mark Helprin (Dennis Prager’s radio producer Allen Estrin says Helprin is America’s greatest living novelist), but he keeps saying so many stupid things in such a histrionic manner that I regretfully conclude that while he should be appreciated, he can’t be trusted.

Mark Helprin is like flora and fauna. He deserves protection, nurturance and guidance.

Here he writes in the WSJ: “Prior to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israel was so intoxicated by its brilliant victories in 1967 that (substituting excessive confidence for military prudence) it was very nearly destroyed. After shattering Israel’s defenses, the Egyptian army halted only because of Israel’s nuclear deterrent, after which the tide of war turned only because of an extraordinary American resupply effort authorized by President Nixon, something that would hardly have been a certainty with a President Obama.”

The Egyptian Army in the Yom Kippur War halted in the Sinai for the first few days of the war so that it would not go beyond the range of its SAM (anti-aircraft) battery and be destroyed by the Israeli Air Force. Eventually, on day four of the war, the Egyptian army did advance beyond its anti-aircraft forces and got destroyed by the Israeli Air Force.

On what evidence does Helprin base his claim? I know of none. I think he just imagined it. He’s been told so much that he’s awesome that he probably believes it and he thinks that by purely deductive reason, he can understand how the world really works, even if there is no factual basis.

From Wikipedia: “Both Herzog and Shazly mentioned a failed Egyptian attack southward along the Gulf of Suez in the direction of Ras Sudar by the Egyptian 1st Mechanized Brigade. Leaving the safety of the SAM umbrella, the force was attacked by Israeli aircraft and suffered severe losses.”

Israel’s nuclear deterrent had nothing to do with it (unless I can see evidence to the contrary).

Israel is far more militarily integrated with the United States today than at any time in history, certainly far more so than during the Yom Kippur War. Israel is in a stronger position today than it has ever been in its history.

I don’t think Obama likes the Jews and Israel, but he understands what is in his self-interest. What do you get out of supporting the Islamic world over Israel? It does little for you and you’ll get destroyed by America’s intellectual class, which is in large part Jewish.

In an interview with Dennis Prager Oct. 31, 2013, Mark Helprin said he would no longer feel any loyalty to the United States if they drafted women to fight in the military. He would head into the hills.

I think drafting women into the military is a terrible idea but I wouldn’t abandon the US over it. That’s hysterical thinking that if this one thing doesn’t go my way, I’m out.

I’m going to keep reading Mark Helprin like I’ll keep reading Victor Davis Hansen, but I’m suspicious of both men (Hansen for faulting the US for playing a role in supporting Iraq against Iran in the 1980s when it was in the world’s interest for these two evil nations to destroy each other).


This column was published in the last month on Lew

This does mention that according to Russian intelligence the Syrians may have halted their attack for fear of a nuclear attack from Israel.

It also explains that the Israelis were able to successfully counterattack (and thus make Ariel Sharon’s reputation) by using U.S. aerial reconnaissance and intelligence to exploit a gap in the Egyptian lines.

Is Margolis right? Who knows? Maybe Helprin is correct. I do remember reading at the time of the 73 war in the B’nai Brith Messenger, then the leading Jewish newspaper in Los Angeles (although the liberals preferred Herb Brin’s Heritage) one of the columnists wrote that Israel had informed Egypt that if its army’s didn’t halt it would nuke the Aswan Dam. Who knows what his sources were? What you said, is certainly the conventional military understanding of what happened and it serves both Israeli and Egyptian purposes to stick to that story. If Margolis is correct that 20% of the Israeli air force was destroyed by Soviet surface to air missiles, it certainly would have made the Israelis wary of attacking from the air unless they were certain they were beyond the range of the missiles and they hadn’t been brought closer to the front.

Be that as it may be, Helprin, like so many others in the literary world, should stick to his knitting. Because his fiction is permeated with issues concerning morality, it is no surprise when he comments on society. However, he also views himself a strategist with some superior knowledge and understanding of real politik and real military concerns. He is deathly afraid that the U.S. can only remain the top dog as long as it is a military hegemon and fears that between budgetary cutbacks on new weapons, reducing forces on alert or deployed (especially Naval forces. He seems to be a strict disciple of Mahan) and a lack of will to field fighting forces but water them down in the name of social engineering, will lead to some sort of new Pearl Harbor from China which will either totally destroy (at worst) or subjugate us (at best)

Once you understand that that is his perspective, you can take his non fiction opinions on the world and the military with a grain of salt or cherry pick the parts you agree with.

I really do like Helprin but he is a unreconstructed romantic-his characters fall in love at first sight in many of his books and short stories. He also is fascinated by horses and is tremendously knowledgeable and opinionated about western art and architecture.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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