WHAT'S LEFT? HOW LIBERALS LOST THEIR WAY by Nick Cohen (Fourth Estate), 405 pages, $28.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Is the left morally bankrupt? is it an aimless movement that embraces fascistic dictators and bloodthirsty militias as long as they're revolutionary and anti-West?
The answer is yes, according to British columnist Nick Cohen in his controversial new book.
Cohen, who supports the war in Iraq, says he himself has moved on the political spectrum merely by standing still. Where once the left would have fought against fascist regimes like Baathist Iraq and reactionary jihadist insurgencies, it now embraces them as potential allies in an anti-Western, anti-Zionist alliance.
For Cohen, Republic Of Fear author Kanan Makiya is a classic case of leftist hypocrisy. Makiya was hailed as a brave anti-totalitarian intellectual for criticizing Saddam's regime at a time when official U.S. policy hailed Saddam as an ally against Iran.
However, once Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the U.S. spearheaded the war against Saddam's regime, Makiya found himself dismissed by his erstwhile comrades. To be vocally against Saddam was to be an enabler of Western imperialism.
Cohen argues that the left in the West abandoned the people of Iraq a second time when it failed to support them after Bush and Blair launched their war in 2003. Protests, he says, were not explicit enough in their support of the Iraqi people.
But Cohen, instead of assuming that war protestors supported Saddam, should recognize that many opposed the war in Iraq because they saw the phoniness of Washington's case for military intervention.
His book practically throbs with anger toward the left, but it's a highly readable and often funny rant. More importantly, it makes the reader contemplate morality in a complicated, violent world, and that can never be bad.