Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another endorsement of the Euston Manifesto (Roger Cohen, IHT)

The Euston Manifesto, issued in April 2006, stands out as a valuable and important initiative in a mostly depressing landscape of public debate on both sides of the Atlantic. To restate what I said at the time (in The Euston Manifesto: For a Renewal of Progressive Politics):
I am proud to be a signer of The Euston Manifesto, a statement of principles for a genuinely democratic, egalitarian, humane, and libertarian progressive politics put together by a group of people belonging, in one way or another, to the British democratic left. This is in part a response to the moral, political, and intellectual derangement of much of the so-called "left" in recent years, but the drafters focused on trying to set forth a positive agenda. I myself would not have formulated every detail in precisely the same way, but I fully endorse its central thrust and animating spirit. [....]
Since April 2006 the Euston Manifesto has drawn supporters and stimulated discussion in a range of countries. (For some examples, see here & here & here & here.) But the Manifesto itself and the issues it raises still deserves more attention than they have received.

=> For those to whom the Euston Manifesto is still news, I recommend the piece endorsing it by Roger Cohen in today's International Herald Tribune, "A manifesto from the left too sensible to ignore" (see below).
This has been a bleak year for nuanced thinking. President George W. Bush likes to speak in certainties; contrition and compromise are not his thing. Among hyper-ventilating left-liberals, hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window. The result is a mindless cacophony. [....]

Fortunately, in the face of such hysteria, an expression of moderate sanity has emerged over the past year. Precisely because of its sanity, it has received too little attention.

I refer to the Euston Manifesto (www.eustonmanifesto.org), published last March by a group of mainly left-of-center thinkers, and the supporting statement called "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto," published by U.S. intellectuals in September. [....]
For those of you who are not yet acquainted with the Euston Manifesto itself, I strongly urge that you read it now and consider signing it.

I would also urge everyone, but especially Americans, to do the same for the companion statement cited by Cohen, "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto"

Yours for democracy,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. By the way, those of you who feel intensely angry (as I do) about some things going on in the world--for example, the works of the Bush/Cheney administration, genocidal mass murder in places like Darfur and international indifference to it, or whatever--should not be put off by Cohen's reference to the "moderate sanity" of the Euston Manifesto. I agree that it is sane and reasonable, but it is not bland, and it does not simply propose a wishy-washy 'middle-of-the-road' position. At the same time, while the Euston Manifesto makes a lot of substantive and controversial points, its tone and approach are deliberately non-sectarian.
====================
International Herald Tribune
December 30, 2006
A manifesto from the left too sensible to ignore
By Roger Cohen

NEW YORK. This has been a bleak year for nuanced thinking. President George W. Bush likes to speak in certainties; contrition and compromise are not his thing. Among hyper- ventilating left-liberals, hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window. The result is a mindless cacophony.

Bush, even after the thumping of the Republicans in November, equates criticism of the war in Iraq with defeatist weakness. Much of the left, in both Europe and the United States, is so convinced that the Iraq invasion was no more than an American grab for oil and military bases, it seems to have forgotten the myriad crimes of Saddam Hussein.

There appears to be little hope that Bush will ever abandon his with-us-or-against-us take on the post-9/11 world. Division is the president's adrenalin; he abhors shades of gray. Nor does it seem likely that the America-hating, over-the-top ranting of the left - the kind that equates Guantánamo with the Gulag and holds that the real threat to human rights comes from the White House rather than Al Qaeda - will abate during the Bush presidency.

This state of affairs is grave. The threat posed by Islamic fanaticism, inside and outside Iraq, requires the lucid analysis and informed disagreement of civilized minds. Bush's certainties are dangerous. But so is the moral equivalency of the left, the kind that during the Cold War could not see the crimes of communism, and now seems ready to equate the conservative leadership of a great democracy with dictatorship.

I am grateful to Niall Stanage, a Belfast-born, New-York based journalist, for pointing out to me in an e-mail that the leftist Respect coalition represented in the British Parliament by George Galloway had this to say about Iraq:

"The resistance in Iraq is engaged in a battle to liberate the country. The Iraqi resistance deserves the support of the international antiwar movement."

That's a call for the mass of European pacifists to back the beheading brigade, the child-bombers and other fundamentalist loonies who want to restore the Caliphate. A call made in the name of defeating what Galloway and his ilk see as the greater evil, the United States.

Fortunately, in the face of such hysteria, an expression of moderate sanity has emerged over the past year. Precisely because of its sanity, it has received too little attention.

I refer to the Euston Manifesto (www.eustonmanifesto.org), published last March by a group of mainly left-of-center thinkers, and the supporting statement called "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto," published by U.S. intellectuals in September.

These outlines of liberal principle - liberal in its best Enlightenment sense rather than in its debased Fox- News guise of insult - constitute a solid foundation for debate of Iraq and the struggle against terrorism that the White House now calls "The Long War."

The statements are signed by backers and opponents of the Iraq war who, despite their differences, are united by strong support for freedom of speech and ideas, democracy and pluralism, as well as by unqualified opposition to all forms of terrorism and totalitarianism.

The Euston Manifesto says: "We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking."

It also declares: "Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the antiwar movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there no opponents on the left."

It states: "We stand against all claims to a total - unquestionable or unquestioning - truth."

It supports a global "responsibility to protect" - the principle of armed intervention in a state where the slaughter and torture of citizens is rampant.

On Iraq, it has this to say: "We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change. We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Baathist regime in Iraq, and we recognize the overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people."

The proper concern of the left after Saddam's overthrow should have been "the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order" rather than "picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention."

The manifesto observes that: "The many left opponents of regime change in Iraq who have been unable to understand the considerations that led others on the left to support it, dishing out anathema and excommunication, more lately demanding apology or repentance, betray the democratic values they profess."

The American supporters of the manifesto, who include the historian Walter Laqueur, several journalists from The New Republic and Michael Ledeen of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, reject "the ossified and unproductive polarization of American politics."

They deplore the tendency on the left to substitute hatred of Bush for thought about fighting jihadism. Why, they ask, is the left more incensed by America's errors in Iraq than "terrorist outrages by Islamic extremists?"

They note: "In World War II and the Cold War, liberals, centrists and conservatives found moments of commonality. Indeed, if those efforts had been borne exclusively by the left or the right they very well might have failed."

Taken together, the two statements set out core principles of the Anglo-American liberal tradition, bringing Europe and the United States together at a time of apparent ideological divergence. As the U.S. signatories note, the Euston Manifesto hews to "the traditions of American liberal anti-fascism and anti-totalitarianism."

If you're tired of sterile screaming in the wilderness, tired of the comfortably ensconced "hindsighters" poring over every American error in Iraq, tired of facile anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti- Zionism, try the Euston road in 2007. It might actually lead somewhere.

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