Monday, January 02, 2006

Acts of love and war

Although I opposed the war in Iraq, I couldn't help feeling uncomfortable about this both at the time and since. I think it's because of the rather strange company one finds oneself in as an opponent of the ward. Listening to the much hyped Christoper Hitchens vs George Galloway debate I found myself cheering on Hitchens. I have no sympathy with the strand of leftist thinking that simply opposes everything America does, even if this means lining up with religious fundamentalists. At the same time, I have some respect for those such as Hitchens who have been consistent in supporting the Iraqi secular left, even though I think the war was profoundly wrong.

In the book I have been reading over Christmas, 'The People's Act of Love' by James Meek I found a quote that perhaps sums up my view. It is a novel set in Siberia during the chaos of the Russian Civil War in 1919, in a town has been occupied by a Czech legion (this really did happen for reasons too complicated to explain here) and which is inhabited by a religious sect that believes in castration.

One of the characters comments:

'In London and Paris and New York they see the Reds as an anaarchic, destructive, turbulent menace which demanded to be controlled. Here in the dark forest, looking into the cirlce of lights, Mutz saw only a new order, a new empire, coming to take its place among the old, and how he wanted to be inside the circle, and not outside, with the maneaters, handmade angels, narcophilic visionaries and Bohemian warlords.'

This sort of sums up my view. Much as I would like to be with the Nick Cohens, Christopher Hitchens and Oliver Kamms setting the world to rights in the name of democracy and progressive politics, the reality is that their vision ends not in order but in anarchy. Like them I hold no truck with totalitarianism and dictatorship but with some reluctance accept that it is simply not in the power of the western democracies to create peace, order and harmony through military force.

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