Thursday, April 20, 2006

Terrorism and the chattering classes

There doesn’t seem to be much comment in Liberal Democrat blogging circles on the so-called Euston Manifesto (rotten title), which was the subject of an article by Nick Cohen in last week’s New Statesman and is described as ‘a new democratic progressive alliance’. I suppose this could be crudely described as a cri de coeur from the pro-war left, although signatories apparently include some supporters of the war. A formal launch is promised in May.

Perhaps more fairly, it might be described as an attempt to define a middle position between crude anti-Americanism and uncritical support for Bush and is aimed as a counterpoint to the John Pilgers and George Galloways, who appear to give succour to the Iraqi insurgents, rather than championing democracy in Iraq and the wider Middle East. The manifesto itself seems carefully worded that only the most extreme and impossible could oppose it.

Although it is supposedly a non-party affair, I don’t detect many Lib Dems among the list of signatories. I suppose some will dismiss it as just the agonising of London chattering classes. And it's hard not to chuckle at a document signed by Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Francis Wheen and John Lloyd, which complains at the lack of a public platform for the signatories' views. However, it raises issues that we need to engage with. We are happy for those who were against it to vote for us, and to repeat a set mantra about protecting civil liberties. But there also needs to be a wider discussion about terrorism, the nature of the threat it poses to the west and how we contain it without compromising our liberal democratic principles.

1 comment:

James said...

There most certainly is a challenge for us to spell out a liberal alternative to leftist neoconservativism, but it is being posed by people with real power and the prospect of real power - Labour, the Tories and their international allies - not this bunch of reactionary fellow travellers.

Apart from anything else, this is because we are entirely irrelevent to them: the term "liberalism" to them means nothing more than "wrong headed leftism" and is used to label everyone from George Galloway through to David Cameron.

It's also irrelevant from the global perspective as it is three years too late. General policy positions are all nice and dandy, but what matters is whether we take military action against Iran in a few months time, and that will be based largely on a whole range of factors, political philosophy being just one.

In the generality, I might find I have a lot in common with these people: after all, I supported us going into Afghanistan and has no problem with the Kosovo intervention. I'm not convinced there was a major point of principle dividing the Lib Dems and Labour over whether to go into Iraq, just a wide range of practical concerns. If anything, the problem was not our lack of an ideological response, but Blair's dogmatic stance that ignored the most basic political realities.