Sunday, January 21, 2007

Left out

From Norman Geras: Nick Cohen's What's Left? is published on 5 February. There's an extract in today's Observer. And Christopher Hitchens reviews the book in the Sunday Times:

Cohen has no problem with those who are upset about state-sponsored exaggerations of the causes of war, or furious about the bungled occupation of Iraq that has ensued. People who think this is the problem are not his problem.
Here's his problem: the people who would die before they would applaud the squaddies and grunts who removed hideous regimes from Afghanistan and Iraq, yet who happily describe Islamist video-butchers and suicide-murderers as a "resistance". Those who do this are not "anti-war" at all, but are shadily taking the other side in a conflict where the moral and civilisational stakes are extremely high.
There are two possible sorts of "left" reaction to a dilemma like this. One is to seek out the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world - the Kurdish revolutionaries in Iraq, say, or the Afghan women's movement - and to offer them your solidarity whether Bush or Blair will do so or not. (Some things, as Orwell wrote, are true even if The Daily Telegraph says they are true.) The other is to say that globalisation is the main enemy, and that, therefore, any enemy of that enemy is a friend. In this twisted mental universe, even a medievalist jihad is better than no struggle at all. Cohen has decided to adopt the first position, and to anatomise and ridicule the second one. The result is an exemplary piece of political satire, in which the generally amusing and ironic tone should not lull you into ignoring the deadly
seriousness of the argument.

(See also here.)

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