“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, December 16, 2004

In the Times (London), today, one of the big name Conservative columnists, Anatole Kaletsky, laments the current runner up status of the Tories. He asks why, given Labor’s record current disorganization and the universal loathing that is justly heaped on Tony Blair’s head (he might be exaggerating a bit about that one), is the Conservative Party such a dog’s after-meal?

He gives two reasons. The first is the Tory expectation that the Labor party would create an economic crisis. This hasn’t happened. The second reason is more interesting:

“The tactical error on economics could at least be explained by the Tories' arrogant belief that they have a superior understanding of money. Their second tactical blunder was more surprising. Why on earth did the most oppositional Opposition in living memory support the Government on the one policy which was most obviously going wrong -Iraq? The Tories' initial backing for the invasion may have been justifiable on the standard ground of national security when Britain faced a military threat. But why did they not withdraw their support in the summer, once it became apparent that the Prime Minister had been misleading the nation and that the US was guilty of criminal negligence, or worse, in its occupation of Iraq?

It was only after the Hutton inquiry and Abu Ghraib that British public opinion turned decisively (and justifiably) against Mr Blair. This was the golden opportunity for Michael Howard to start demanding an orderly withdrawal from Iraq on the ground that the Prime Minister had deceived the nation into an unnecessary and mismanaged war. By failing to do this, the Tories ceded to the Liberal Democrats not only the huge anti-Blair protest vote, but also the principal constitutional role of the loyal Opposition in time of war.”

We think that Kaletsky is technically right about Iraq, and the position the Tories should have taken. But to take that position would mean to question the larger effect of the consistent Tory policy, since Churchill, to serve the U.S. as a perpetually faithful Gunga Din – a rather interesting inversion, considering the marmoreal Churchillian racism towards Indians that was evidenced, most brutally, in letting a million Bengalis starve to death in 1944. A party that was willing to break with the U.S. on Iraq would have to be a party that was willing to redo its genetic code, so to speak. D’israeli did just that for the tories in the 1860s; Blair did it to the Labor party in the 1990s. But there isn’t a Tory leader in sight that has the vision to do it now.

LI recommends looking at another op ed piece from another Brit pundit: Ash’s piece on supporting democracy in the Guardian. Ash concedes that the invasion of Iraq shows that this is not how democracy supporting is done, which implies that this the motivation for invading Iraq was to make it a democracy.

"War is not justified simply to promote democracy. So, the Iraq war was wrong. It would have been justified, in my view, if Saddam Hussein had been committing a genocide against his people at the time we went to war, or if he really was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, but he wasn't, so it wasn't. Using the promotion of democracy as the main justification for that war risks giving democracy a bad name."

We summarized our view of this in an exchange at the blog, Harry’s Bar, concerning Chavez in Venezuela. Quoting ourselves (hey, okay, stop with the rotten tomatoes! hey, that hurt!), this is what we think of that:

…. [this is] the real break between the anti-war left -- or anti-war period -- and the pro-war party. The pro-war party takes it as a given that U.S. foreign policy is to promote democracy. Hence, everything that happens in the occupation in Iraq is read through the prism that the U.S.'s chief pre-occupation is to crrate an Iraqi democracty.
The anti-war left does not share this presupposition. It isn't the case that the U.S. is always anti-democratic -- sometimes, the U.S. has acted for human rights and democracy. But the pattern of U.S. foreign policy has been determined globally by those factors that would advantage the American governing class.
How do you tell if, in one case or another, American foreign policy is promoting democracy? You don't take the words of the president of secretary of state as proof -- rather, you take the actions of the U.S. in a specific instance and ask what these actions are guided by.

That is why the occupation of Iraq appears to be one of those foreign policy actions that advance the American governing class agenda; or, I should say, started out pressing that agenda. Meeting resistance in Iraq, it modified itself drastically. Opposing elections at first, until a period of time had passed necessary for the occupiers to wipe out any resistance to the American agenda, the occupiers were forced to compromise and are now proclaim themselves the guardians of elections - to the extent that they will kill those who take the position, vis a vis elections, that Bremer took just a year ago. “

This is of course the whole problem with good natured liberals such as Ash. The first sentence of his piece speaks volumes for the lack of class analysis that vitiates it:

“Would you rather have democracies next door, or dictatorships? Democracies, right?”

Ignoring the folksiness of “next door” – remember that this is actually an asymmetric relationship. The U.S. may be next door to Nicarauga or Iran – but they are not next door to the U.S. That is, the U.S.(and the U.S. press, and probably Ash himself, along with the whole block of humanitarian interveners) would contemptuously ignore any opinions Nicarauga or Iran might take of U.S. governance, from the death penalty to the aggressive, and slightly insane, sums being spent by America on its war machine. Concentrate on the “you.” In that you is concentrated and dissolved the division between capital and labor that is the chief defining factor in the ways in which populations internationally exist. That you includes the maquilladora owner and worker, indistinguishably. Well, if the triumph of democracy is coincident with the triumph of capital over labor, the triumph will simply be… the triumph of capital over popular power -- in essence, democracy's triumph will mark another stage in the advance of oppression. This doesn't necessarily have to be so. But as long as the Ashes of the world refuse to recognize the contradictions and injustices in their position -- in the kind of power that has created a situation in which you can choose who your neighbor will be, without reciprocal choice from the other side -- they will not be promoting democracy, but a peculiar form of Victorian charity.

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