OxBlog

Monday, April 17, 2006

# Posted 9:30 PM by Patrick Porter  

WARS WITHIN THE WAR: The debate over the war in Iraq, and the war on terror generally, has taken place within both conservative and progressive ranks as well as between them.

As a spectator at the debate between British Parliamentarian George Galloway and pro-war pundit Christopher Hitchens in New York last September, I was watching an internal feud. Both sides called the other traitors. Not only was the other side wrong, it was guilty of political deviance, of betraying its leftist values.

Thus Hitchens was dismayed that the likes of Galloway had betrayed socialism by his support for the insurgency, his grovelling to 'fascism' and his perverse desire to support any enemy of America no matter how odious. Galloway accused Hitchens of being a turncoat, a Judas who had sold out to the neo-cons for money and fame. The watchword of Hitchens and his supporters was opposing 'fascism'; the watchword for Galloway's folk was opposing 'imperialism.'

That fracture continues. In a pub in Euston, a new manifesto has been created by British leftists who want to recommit progressive politics to democratic ideals. This is an effort to revive the anti-totalitarian traditions of democratic socialism and also to forge a broader front with liberal and conservative democrats.

Its principles are: democracy; no apology for tyranny; universal human rights before cultural relativism; equality (defined with the rights of labour as central); development for freedom (debt cancellation etc); opposing anti-Americanism; a two-state solution in the Middle East; anti-racism (including a resurgent anti-Semitism); internationalism and historical truth. Their explanations beneath each of these headings mean that the document is far from banal.

Its composed and signed mainly by the pro-war left, it seems, but many anti-war leftists could conceivably agree with its propositions. As well as being a document about policies, its also condemns a certain 'style' of apologetics for terrorism, and sniggering, crass anti-Americanism. Neither of which are necessary to adopt in order to oppose the war.

Money quote:

We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.
Amen. Needless to say, this has drawn just a tiny amount of debate on the left-leaning blogs in Britain.

As a reflection of the debate within conservative/right of centre ranks, I recommend highly the new collection of essays, The Right War?. It includes hard-nosed realists, isolationists, repentant neo-cons, and unrepentant ones. Except the piece by Pat Buchanan, (with its appeals to selfish isolationism and strange view of terrorist organisations as free-floating cells that exist independently of hostile states), its a high calibre cast.
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Comments:
The Euston piece is very thought proviking. I would love to get a set of manifestos from each side and line them up, under each category, to truly define the differences. I suspect that when it comes down to brass tacks, the delta is relatively small.
 
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