What’s Left? Have the Liberals Gone Berserk?

David Aaronovitch reviews What’s Left? for the Times here. He likes it, thank God, because if he didn’t this book would be in a lot of trouble.
He deals in passing with a canting criticism from the liberal intelligentsia which is becoming all too common, as Chris Dillow notes here.

‘Naturally,’ writes Aaronvitch, ‘Cohen’s critics argue that he mistakes the excesses of the far Left for the attitudes of the mainstream, but if only that were true. Learned progressive journals will lend their letters sections to debate just how bad a liar Tony Blair actually is, while running articles seeking to absolve the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, from entirely justified accusations of antiSemitism.
And it has become a fairly widespread notion on the Left that what counts is “antiimperialism”, that America is the greatest threat to world peace and the real terrorist state, whereas Islamism is an understandable, if occasionally regret-table reaction to Western provocation – a reactive movement of the downtrodden.
Accordingly we are invited to disarm.’

No reasonable person can deny this. If an unreasonable person wishes to do so, let them go back through the Guardian, Independent, Today Programme and Channel 4 News archives and count the column inches and air minutes devoted to Guantanamo Bay where no one has been murdered and compare them to the space given to Darfur where a genocide is taking place. (This doesn’t make what is happening in Cuba right, of course.) Let them explain why the liberal press and media have barely mentioned the burgeoning alliance between the white far Left and brown far Right and ask them of their silence implies acceptance.

In this week’s Spectator Michael Gove backs up my point by saying of Sir Menzies Campbell:

‘…the Lib Dems have retreated to their comfort zone, attempting to recreate the warm glow they felt when they were marching arm-in-arm with the SWP against the Iraq war, by making their strongest pitch on foreign policy. In the recent debate on Iraq Ming spoke with a forceful eloquence which will have reminded fans of his golden era, but the content of what he said soon fell apart under scrutiny. His demand that British troops withdraw to meet an arbitrary timetable was widely recognised as militarily naive. But, worse than that, for the party of Gladstone, Ming’s insistence on rapid withdrawal would leave Iraq’s liberals and democrats to the wolves. How ethical is a foreign policy which, when it sees trade unionists and feminists fighting clerical fascists, decides that the best thing to do is to give the clerical fascists a freer hand? But then Ming’s whole approach to foreign policy is neither liberal nor particularly democratic. Discussing the wider Middle East, his only comment on Syria was a demand that the Golan Heights be returned to Syrian control, in order to satisfy the amour-propre of the ruling Assad dynasty. The part Syria has played in de-stabilising Lebanon’s nascent democracy, and its role in the murder of Rafiq Hariri, were ignored. On the Middle East peace process itself, Ming argued that the main obstacle to peace was the fact that ‘on both sides of the aisle in the US Congress, there is almost uncritical support for Israel’. There may well be a place in British politics for a party which argues for greater concessions to Baathist tyranny and believes there is a malign Zionist lobby controlling American foreign policy, but one had rather hoped George Galloway had cornered the market. That the leader of the Liberal Democrats should enjoy what most acknowledge to be his finest hour as leader, making these sort of arguments just shows how far gone things are.’

Gove’s analysis is also undeniable. The Lib Dems and the Labour and Tory supporters who go along with them aren’t obscure Trots flipping and flopping across the spectrum but a large part of the mainstream.

If you still doubt me, think back to the arguments you heard at every liberal dinner party you’ve been to in the past four years and ask yourself if concern for Iraqi democrats ever featured in the conversation.
Done it?
I’m right, aren’t I?

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