You might think that the Left could have a regime-change perspective of its own, based on solidarity with its comrades abroad. After all, Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party consolidated its power by first destroying the Iraqi communist and labor movements, and then turning on the Kurds (whose cause, historically, has been one of the main priorities of the Left in the Middle East). When I first became a socialist, the imperative of international solidarity was the essential if not the defining thing, whether the cause was popular or risky or not. I haven't seen an anti-war meeting all this year at which you could even guess at the existence of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition to Saddam, an opposition that was fighting for 'regime change' when both Republicans and Democrats were fawning over Baghdad as a profitable client and geopolitical ally. Not only does the 'peace' movement ignore the anti-Saddam civilian opposition, it sends missions to console the Ba'athists in their isolation, and speaks of the invader of Kuwait and Iran and the butcher of Kurdistan as if he were the victim and George W. Bush the aggressor.
There was a time in my life when I did a fair bit of work for the tempestuous Lucretia Stewart, then editor of the American Express travel magazine, Departures. Together, we evolved a harmless satire of the slightly driveling style employed by the journalists of tourism. 'Land of Contrasts' was our shorthand for it. ('Jerusalem: an enthralling blend of old and new.' 'South Africa: a harmony in black and white.' 'Belfast, where ancient meets modern.') It was as you can see, no difficult task. I began to notice a few weeks ago that my enemies in the 'peace' movement had decided to borrow from this tattered style book. The mantra, especially in the letters to this newspaper, was: 'Afghanistan, where the world's richest country rains bombs on the world's poorest country.'Poor fools. They should never have tried to beat me at this game. What about, 'Afghanistan, where the world's most open society confronts the world's most closed one'? 'Where American women pilots kill the men who enslave women.' 'Where the world's most indiscriminate bombers are bombed by the world's most accurate ones.' 'Where the largest number of poor people applaud the bombing of their own regime.' I could go on. (I think number four may need a little work.) But there are some suggested contrasts for the 'doves' to paste into their scrapbook. Incidentally, when they look at their scrapbooks they will be able to re-read themselves saying things like, 'The bombing of Kosovo is driving the Serbs into the arms of Milosevic.
The neo-cons, or some of them, decided that they would back Clinton when he belatedly decided for Bosnia and Kosovo against Milosevic, and this even though they loathed Clinton, because the battle against religious and ethnic dictatorship in the Balkans took precedence. This, by the way, was partly a battle to save Muslims from Catholic and Christian Orthodox killers. That impressed me. The neo-cons also took the view, quite early on, that coexistence with Saddam Hussein was impossible as well as undesirable. They were dead right about that. They had furthermore been thinking about the menace of jihadism when most people were half-asleep.And then I have to say that I was rather struck by the way that the Weekly Standard and its associated voices took the decision to get rid of Trent Lott earlier this year, thus removing an embarrassment as well as a disgrace from the political scene. And their arguments were on points of principle, not 'perception.' I liked their ruthlessness here, and their seriousness, at a time when much of the liberal Left is not even seriously wrong, but frivolously wrong, and babbles without any sense of responsibility. (I mean, have you read their sub-Brechtian stuff on Halliburton....?) And revolution from above, in some states and cases, is—as I wrote in my book A Long Short War—often preferable to the status quo, or to no revolution at all.
The last time that I consciously wrote anything to 'save the honor of the Left', as I rather pompously put it, was my little book on the crookedness and cowardice and corruption (to put it no higher) of Clinton. I used leftist categories to measure him, in other words, and to show how idiotic was the belief that he was a liberal's champion. Again, more leftists than you might think were on my side or in my corner, and the book was published by Verso, which is the publishing arm of the New Left Review. However, if a near-majority of leftists and liberals choose to think that Clinton was the target of a witch-hunt and the victim of 'sexual McCarthyism', an Arkansan Alger Hiss in other words, you become weary of debating on their terms and leave them to make the best of it.
As to the 'Left' I'll say briefly why this was the finish for me. Here is American society, attacked under open skies in broad daylight by the most reactionary and vicious force in the contemporary world, a force which treats Afghans and Algerians and Egyptians far worse than it has yet been able to treat us. The vaunted CIA and FBI are asleep, at best. The working-class heroes move, without orders and at risk to their lives, to fill the moral and political vacuum. The moral idiots, meanwhile, like Falwell and Robertson and Rabbi Lapin, announce that this clerical aggression is a punishment for our secularism. And the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, hitherto considered allies on our 'national security' calculus, prove to be the most friendly to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.Here was a time for the Left to demand a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the state and of our covert alliances, a full inquiry into the origins of the defeat, and a resolute declaration in favor of a fight to the end for secular and humanist values: a fight which would make friends of the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world. And instead, the near-majority of 'Left' intellectuals started sounding like Falwell, and bleating that the main problem was Bush's legitimacy. So I don't even muster a hollow laugh when this pathetic faction says that I, and not they, are in bed with the forces of reaction.