Monday, June 12, 2006

Pro-War?

Anyone who continues to describe the Euston Manifesto as 'pro-war' is just a lying wanker. Norman Geras rebuts this one yet again. How many more times, I wonder....?

As one of the founding signatories of the Manifesto, I think that my blog demonstrates that I was not a supporter of the invasion.

Not sure I still agree with every word I've ever written here, but I was broadly opposed to the invasion of Iraq and sceptical about the likelihood of success. I still have my doubts. And I (perhaps mistakenly) thought that the idiotic response of large sections of the left were no real cause for concern either.

The one thing I did comment on a lot was why so many people regarded themselves as experts on the subject - and was that expertise borne out any real understanding of the facts or out of a need to make a different point altogether.

Re-reading these, it reminds me of Eric's post a while ago about how blogging can change your mind. Mine has changed on a few things in the last year or so.

But, if I had to sum up why I signed the Euston Manifesto in a few words, I'd urge people to read John Lloyds book and reflect on lousy way that things are discussed - and not just by journalists.

One thing I've learned about the ongoing situation in Iraq: That it's a complex issue, and large sections of the left shown themselves to be fossilised by their response to it.

If you think this is the case, then I'd urge you to sign it as well.

6 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

I found this blog at Shuggy's.

There was a time, I would have signed it. I realized my support of the war in Iraq, was in the abstract and hypothetical. Not how it was fought.

I support the position of my blog team member Maryam Namazie. To oppose the twin pillars of evil, Islamism and imperialism.

Regards.

Jherad said...

The problem for me is not so much what the manifesto says (though there are some areas that I do take issue with), but more how it is presented, and the weight that each point is accordingly given.

One section I have problems with is:

'We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse.'

No, I certainly do not reject this as double standards. I firmly believe that violations at home are much more deplorable than even obviously (physically/numerically/politically) worse abuses abroad. Why? For two reasons - Firstly, we have set ourselves up as the moral high ground, the keepers of justice and democracy. We cannot expect to win hearts and minds at home OR abroad when we ourselves embrace reprehensible policy. Secondly, such policy weakens us as a nation - if the very fabric that defines us as a democracy is threatened, we cannot hope to effectively lead world events. We must sort out our home affairs as a matter of gravest urgency, lest we rot from within, not merely judge priority on bodycount. If as leaders of world democracy, we find our own values drifting, who will be left? What bastardised child of democracy will we end up spreading then?

As mentioned, the 'tone' of the entire manifesto seems unbalanced. Rather than construct a balance of policy, it describes (some) leftist policy, then knocks it down. Rather than give sets of pro and anti war arguments, it acknowledges that some have been pro, some have been anti, then blows away a portion of the anti. The manifesto reads to me as a destruction of 'unwanted' thought, rather than a construction of views.

Anyway, just my opinion. There is plenty that I DO agree with.

Luis Enrique said...

Paulie I suspect I'm 90% in agreement with you over all this, however ... the is a sense in which the EM might be said to be 'pro-war' (I guess this is Dsquared's line) and that is that by talking up humanitarian intervention, then it puts forward the idea of "war" as a potentially good thing. I mean that it is possible to agree with the sentiment of the EM, particularly its critique of the puported anti-imperialist strain of the anti-war movement, and yet still think that interventions are very unlikely to produce 'good' outcomes and therefore be reluctant to sign up to the EM. I have not expressed this very well, but hopefully you can see what I'm getting at.

Paulie said...

Renegade Eye,

I'm not sure I understand your comment - like probably everyone, I'm happier with the invasion of Iraq in the abstract than in the flesh. Ideal scenarios are usually nicer than actual outcomes. I WASN'T in favour of it at the start anyway, so I think that you've misunderstood something I've said here.

Jherad,

There's a clue in the word 'flagrantly'. I agree that democracies undermine their case when they are imperfect, but I can't see why the values of liberal democracies can't be promoted until they have first been perfected here.

I've always argued that democracy can be a lot better in the UK than it is - probably the bulk of blog-posts here are about how democracy could / should be improved, but I'd still (to use a borrowed phrase) argue that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship.

There was a very good thread on Normblog / Redpepper on the subject of 'Singling out Israel' that covered this ground better than I can here, (though one of my long-list of things to do is to summarise the argument here at some stage).

Luis,

Will (gen theory of rubbish) has put this better (if in a more profane way) than I can:

"....military intervention is required to stop the killing in Sudan. It seems not to have occurred to the advocates of costless moral action (or costful inaction, e.g the negativist fuckwits with their absurd priorities and barely masked motivations and impulses) that in the case of Darfur and everywhere else, that genocide typically occurs in the context of war, and it takes a war-like application of force to end a war. Genocide is not a disagreement between competing factions - it cannot be mediated away - it is one-sided mass murder."

'War' in dsquared's definition is undoubtely a good thing. Surely a warlike response in Darfur now would be better than all of the hot air and handwringing that stands in its place?

Luis Enrique said...

Paulie, well that's what I meant (and if you are inclined to give Dsquared the credit of good intentions - and I can understand why you might not be - perhaps that's what he means too) ... the sense is which the EM is "pro-war" is in this sense:

"genocide typically occurs in the context of war, and it takes a war-like application of force to end a war"

It comes out in favour of "war-like application of force" for humanitarian ends, which is something that plenty of people might reasonably disagree with (those who think that despite its good intentions, the war like application of force tends just to make things worse).

For myself, I'm not sure it makes sense to be either for or against on this kind of question - it's a case by case thing. but whatever, I'm hairsplitting.

Paulie said...

I think that you'll find that blogging and hairsplitting are technically the same thing Luis.

I'm baffled by the view that armed intervention ALWAYS makes things worse. Or even the notion that it nearly always does. This is patently not the case (I'd suggest that Kosovo and Afghanistan are fairly clear-cut examples, as is Sierra Leone. And the tragedies of Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur show the human cost of 'national realism.'

There's a bloke I know who is a fireman in the RAF. He is physically at peak condition. His exercise regime and diet is expensive, he has combat skills, and he lives a well-paid life.

He's been doing it for 15 years and he's never squirted a hose in anger. Thousands of people are paid to be part of European armed forces. The capacity is ample. Yet they are rarely deployed in situtation where they could make a real difference.

Baffling.