Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whose idealism?

Roger Simon charts his journey from the New Left in the Sixties to the neo-con camp in the late Nineties. An emblematic and interesting journey, and well written, too.

As is well known, by the end of the Vietnam War, many of us came to the conclusion there was something seriously wrong with America, largely ignoring the obvious that there will be something wrong with all societies since they are composed of fallible humans. We were the big guys and we were therefore at the greatest fault. And one of the clearest areas of our villainy was that we supported or tolerated right wing dictators like Pinochet, Somoza, the Arab potentates, etc.

Although I didn’t fully realize it then – I considered myself at that point aligned with the New Left – the neocons agreed with that position. They pointed out, however, that in addition, opposition to leftist dictators in China, the Soviet Union and Cuba was justified. Their position against totalitarianism was consistent. Mine, and my friends, was not. We gave a pass to Fidel and company.

It is this opposition to totalitarianism that will bring the neo-cons back into flavour some day. Just as it is the selectiveness of many on the Left with regard to totalitarianism that makes their high-moral-ground rhetoric so hollow. And not only that. As Simon points out, the neo-cons had taken up the banner of idealism at a moment when the Left had little left but resentment. So that today when they call for the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that there is nothing there of concern for 'the people' or of solidarity with those who might just be able to have some of what we do - no, it is the resentment of those whose day on the high ground is over, and who have nothing left but their antipathies.

The Americans have made many, many mistakes in Iraq and the cost in Iraqi lives of those mistakes has been heinous (even if they are not directly responsible for most of those deaths), but they have not yet committed the biggest mistake of all, which would be to leave the country in this mess.

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