This blog began as a space to create a rebuttal to an article by Norman Geras accusing the "socialist left, some of it of Marxist persuasion" of reductionism in allowing "the category of imperialism to dominate and exhaust it's thinking and lock it into regrettable positions." The primary regrettable position he refers to is not supporting the invasion of Iraq. The primary failures of "thinking" are anti-Americanism and "lack of any genuine grasp of ,or feeling for, the meaning of extreme forms of evil." It's all laid out in the winter 2005 Dissent. This left "time after time...minimizes ,if it doesn't completely evacuate, all competing considerations..." As regards Iraq, and the War on Terror in general, the charge irritated me because it smacked of hypocricy and while I have formulated and posted two replies so far I continue on what I feel to be an important project.
In Stephan Holmes' insightful review of Paul Berman's newest book, Power and the Idealists (November 14 Nation), he ends with this crucial question. "How is the left to regain it's moral bearings in a world where the right has brazenly stolen progressive ideals ( human rights, liberation, democracy, relief of suffering) and marched the country into a bloody calamity under a false flag of liberty?" I would answer that they could not have achieved this end without the collusion and aid of pro-war leftists like Geras, Berman, Hitchens and others. Holmes states: "Their heady support for war... did diminish and isolate voices of dissent.." I will use some of Holmes' essay in refuting Bermans' theses as I believe they relate to my rebuttal of Geras. There are many similarities in their arguments and Geras quotes Berman to back his claim. They both claim to "intuitively grasp, the way Bush's critics do not,' the dangers posed by the extremist currents in the Arab world." Something had to be done and that something would be war,"a human rights intervention that was also going to be a national -security intervention." Notice the order in which these are placed, remember the order in which we heard them.
These liberal-hawks, for whom the "contours of the political landscape had been brutally illuminated" on 9/11, now percieved that "the spirit of absolute evil (apocaliptic totalitarianism) had survived the cold war and migrated to the Middle East and transmogrified into Arab and Muslim extremism." Remember these New Leftists "had shed their anti-militaristic, anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois and anti-colonialist stances and become, instead, fiercely anti-totalitarian." Now they imply that Bushs' anti-war critics are,in some unwitting fashion, both collaborators with violent extremism and opposed to any and all humanitarian intervention, in so many words, pro-totalitarianism. And their analysis," turning "totalitarian" into a catchall phrase covering OsamaBin Laden as well as Hitler, Saadam and Stalin also encourages Americans to cling unthinkingly to their cold- war habits of mind", totally accepting a war paradigm and rejecting any hint of a crime paradigm for the mass murder of 9/11. By convincing the public the dangers we face can be eliminated in a war, or Crusade, we do not have to face how deeply intertwined with American power and prosperity the real danger is. "By encouraging us to focus obsessively on Islamic extremism...we can ignore the extent to which our economically open and technically advanced way of life, and not a replaceable network of zealots intoxicated by an amalgam of religious and revolutionary slogans, is the frighteningly enduring problem with which we have to cope."
So yes, as a Marxist at whom his charge of having" minimized all competing considerations" was perhaps directed I reply: Did you consider the nature of the people whom you trusted to prosecute this war? Did you consider they were making the same absolute truth claims that the Islamic fundamentalists were making? Did you consider the effect that having the second largest proven reserves of oil might have on the motivation of those rushing to war? Did you consider the damage that might be done to the project of humanitarian intervention if the invasion was ill concieved, poorly executed, planned by people with no historical or cultural knowledge and resulted in chaos such as we now see?Did you consider the possibility,widely predicted and expressed by so many, that it could end so tragically?
Who minimized competing considerations? Who was guilty of reductionism? If it walks likes imperialism, quacks like imperialism, perhaps it is , Norm.