“We had an intellectually coherent thing. The American people knew what the rules were and then we did whatever.” The year was 1993, and a newly installed William Jefferson Clinton was unburdening himself to The Washington Post about the difficulties of fashioning a coherent foreign policy in a post-Berlin Wall world. Clinton joked that he “missed the Cold War” because of the easy distinction between good and evil that had made things easier for his predecessors.

The Norman Podhoretz Reader,[1] a generous selection of writings from the distinguished critic and editor of Commentary from 1960 to 1995, reminds us that the distinctions so wistfully longed for by Mr. Clinton were in their own day not made as easily as he remembers. Nor did it start with Vietnam. Podhoretz recounts the happiness Mary McCarthy said she felt when “she suddenly...

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