Monday, August 13, 2007

Left-Wing Politics

I have just finished What's left? : how Liberals lost their way by Nick Cohen and found it an interesting read. Cohen looks at the state of Left Wing politics around the issue of war in Iraq, especially in the UK. Cohen is a signatory of the Euston Manifesto, a document created last year by those on the Left disillusioned by its drift to support the far Right. It set out the principles which the Left should stand for - democracy, freedom, equality and internationalism, and those which it should condemn - tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Without going into too much detail Cohen's main point is that liberals and people on the left wing in general found themselves willing to support the continued rule of a fascist tyrant (Hussein) rather than his victims. The peace movement became a US hating movement and a propaganda tool for Saddam.

This is not to say that the book is without fault, Cohan turns a blind eye to the quagmire that Iraq has become and fails to see the need for criticism of the current events in Iraq.

But I do applaud the fact that he is willing to nail his colours to the mast. Yes, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, and lets face it, it was never going to happen any other way. It is a sad day when the left wing would rather support a tyrant rather than freeing the oppressed.

I have simplified the arguments of this book but I urge people to read it and think about where they stand in the political spectrum.


  1. No, no, no, no, no!

    The opposition to the war in Iraq was NOT about wanting Saddam Hussein to stay in power. (Although an Egyptian Christian I met at Bossey stunned me by saying that the Christian world should have supported Hussein because Christians were much less likely to be persecuted under him than under harder-line Islamist regimes.)

    It was about opposing the way America, the UK, Australia and other allies went about their intervention. There is absolutely no point in having international law if countries like the USA and the UK ride roughshod over it. There are laws that have attempted to determine when the use of force is justified in international affairs, and the war against Iraq didn't fulfil the necessary criteria.

    The opposition was also about opposing the lies that we were told (Weapons of Mass Destruction, anyone?). It was about opposing the sidelining of the UN.

    And it was not anti-American. The peace movement around the world was linked with peace activists in America who didn't want the USA to go to war anymore than most Australians wanted Australia to be there. Now those Americans who oppose the war are in the majority.

    As a proud member of the Christian Left (I'm going to get the bumper sticker anyday) horrified by human rights-abusing regimes in Burma and China and Zimbabwe and Israel-Palestine, and wanting to encourage my government and the UN to look for non-military responses, I don't think I in any way lost my way by opposing the war against Iraq.

    Does Cohen suggest that the intervention by the coalition of the willing made Iraq any better? I know of a whole lot of Christians who would argue that it made their lives a lot worse.

  2. Cohen's main focus is about opposing the war, he doesn't discuss the current state of Iraq, and this does weaken his whole point.
    Personally I'm glad Saddam is gone and I am of the opinion that Saddam's human rights abuses were enough of a reason for military intervention. There was no need for lies about WMDs, I think public support would have been greater if it was a human rights issue.
    Unfortunetly international law is a paper tiger, it has no real way of enforcing its punishments. Sanctions only hurt the people already being hurt by the regime, at no point was Saddam feeling the pinch of economic sanctions.
    I am losing faith in the ability of non-military solutions, removing the problem is more effective.

  3. But as the current situation in Iraq shows, military solutions seldom work either. And if "we", whoever "we" is, are going to use military intervention in situations of human rights' abuse, where do we stop? Should the rest of the world be invading Australia because of the treatment of the indigenous population?

    If we really care about human rights abuses there are lots of things we could be doing round the world first before invading. Like Western countries, especially the USA, ending military aid to Israel until Israel acts on the UN resolutions telling it to get out of the Occupied Territories, for example. Or Australia not training the Indonesian military at a time when the military were used to persecute the East Timorese. Or the world only saying that we will go to the Olympics in China if we see real, measurable improvement in human rights in that country.

    And how can anyone discuss whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq without looking at the situation now? Part of the criteria for "just war" is that you have a chance of actually doing some good, not making things worse. Well, we seem to have made things worse.

  4. While the war is still being waged it is easy to think that things are worse. It is way to soon to be making that call, however Saddam was removed from power, by military force or popular uprising or simply his death the country would be chaotic, and people's lives would seem worse off.
    The decision on whether people's lives a worse off in Iraq needs to made further down the track. It is too early to say that the intervention has failed.
    And yes maybe an invasion of Australia over our human rights abuses could be a good thing.

  5. Hmmm, I think we need to stop blogging about this and discuss it over coffee sometime.