Sunday, January 30, 2005

Congratulations Iraq

Up to 8 million Iraqis turned out to vote today. I was very glad to hear this. At last, democracy is truly taking root in Iraq for the first time ever. Hopefully, the new government will be on good terms with the United States, thus becoming a Western ally, and more importantly a democracy, in the midst of the Middle East.

The elections should also make it more difficult for those reactionaries who call the terrorists "insurgents" or "the Iraqi resistance", when they see that ordinary Iraqis risked their lives going out to vote. However, I very much doubt that the Reactionary Left ever would admit this.

Iraq has still got a long way to go, but like ambassadeur Rolf Ekéus, former head of the UN weapons inspection, said -- this is a great democratic process which will take time. Ekéus also critized the EU for not helping to build democratic institutions and letting the United States pull all the weight. It is not only embarrassing that the EU is so invisible, it is also a proof of how far the Euro-chauvinistic attitude has gone.

I also feel that the role of the UN should be much more heavily debated. Kofi Annan should be removed from office. The lack of leadership, responsibility, the corruption within the UN and, most importantly, the shameful unwillingness to intervene in Rwanda, Iraq and the Sudan is appalling.

Let's hope that this great step forward will evolve into a stable Middle Eastern democracy in time. It would be an immense success for democracy not only in the Middle East, but for democracy worldwide.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

NO PLATFORM FOR TERRORISM

In a reply to my most recent post, David Schraub at The Debate Link has come up with some critique of what I said. Although we seem to agree in general, David criticized me for being hard on the Left, whilst being too soft on the Right.

David’s criticism mainly concentrates on how Bush and the neocon camp around him are too eager to promote “state-centrism”, and that the Bush administration’s mind set is stuck in a pre-9/11 Cold War-mode.

Now, with all due respect, I don’t really see the problem with President Bush’s so called state-centric approach. In my view, Bush has been going in the right direction since 9/11. After this day, he changed from being an isolationist and protectionist (e.g. skeptical towards human intervention in Kosovo) to promoting the (neocon) idea of democratization of the Middle East and a global war on terror. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer a US President with the current attitude to one who refused to acknowledge that international terrorism poses a real and very dangerous threat to us all. And I’m quite sure that David shares this general viewpont with me.

However, David seems to think that what he calls state-centrism is somehow opposed to, or at least an ineffective way, to combat terrorist networks – quite simply because they operate in networks. David writes:

“the policy of attacking states rather than attacking terrorists is counterproductive, as Al-Qaeda can just "stick and move," dodging recrimination as we get bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and whatever other states we decide to intervene in.”


But it is important to understand, as Marc at American Future has pointed out, that these terrorist networks don’t exist in a stateless vacuum. They need states sympathetic towards their cause in order for them to be able to operate and gain momentum. This seems to me to be a crucial fact: if we deny terrorist groups access to a platform, we will be able to strongly diminish or annihilate them. And that platform is often a rogue state such as Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

Another important objective is that by democratizing the Middle East (by military force if necessary), there is a great chance to also change the mindframe of the people living there. This can be made by focusing on the states -- their infrastructure and their culture. We need to hunt down the terrorist networks themselves, but also eradicate the very platform they’re standing on, i. e. rogue states sympathetic to their cause. This is something that the neocons have understood.

It is also important to understand that there is no clear-cut boundary between terrorist networks and states. The boundaries are blurred and often they interact. This is why you, in my opinion, cannot choose one strategy (going after terrorist networks) and discard the other (destroying the platform of terrorist networks, i.e. rogue states).

I also find that David contradicts himself. Whilst criticizing state-centrism, he at the same time says that:

“Conservative belief in free market principles and the inability of government to affect social change both hamper American efforts to defend our country and to defeat the root causes of terror, respectively.”

To criticize the Right for being too state-centric in one area (foreign policy/the war on terror), whilst at the same time criticizing them for their belief in free market principles (that is non-state intervention) and for the government to affect social change, seems rather inconsistent to me.

As for my being hard on the Left – they’ve earned that kind of criticism. It has been revolting to say the least to see people like George Galloway in Britain shaking hands with Saddam and co-operating with Islamofascist groups. Many within the Left have betrayed their own heritage of antifascism, feminism, human rights, liberty, equality and solidarity. Whilst showing solidarity to tyrants like Saddam and marching by the millions in protest of the war against his dictatorship, I have hardly heard one word of support for, say, the Iraqi Kurds struggling for independence and democracy. The revelation of the Taliban tyranny in 2001 didn’t provoke millions of Leftist activist out on the streets calling for the end of Taliban cruelty and the rights of Afghan women. Neither has the genocide in the Sudan generated any such reaction. Many within the Right did however react, and this should be duly noted, in my view.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

On being a Centrist -- a personal view

There have been debates lately concerning what it means to be centrist. I will try to give my highly personal view here.

Being centrist means to not want to buy the whole package of either Left or Right. It means being more concerned about issues than ideological consistency. A centrist position can hold strong principles, but it tries not to get tied down by stale ideologies. However, most centrists (at least in Sweden and the greater part of Europe) could be placed in or near the social-liberal camp: that is, they will tend to promote personal liberty coupled with social justice. They will champion individualism, but within a social framework.

Some people sneer at the centrist position. It is often said to be the viewpoint of the willy-nilly, wishy-washy and undecided. I strongly disagree with this view. I think that many people today don’t want to, like I said, buy a whole ready-made package deal of leftist or rightist ideas. Many people hold leftist views on some issues, and rightist views on others. There is nothing strange or weak about this position. On the contrary, it takes careful consideration on every separate issue. I, for my own part, am more to the left when it comes to social justice-issues, but more to the right when it comes to foreign policy and the war on terror.

Instead of going to the extremes of the political scale, I. e. to the left or to the right, I prefer to go deeper into the centre. To delve down to the roots of things. A radically democratic view, if you like. Most centrists also have an instinctive dislike of political extremes and the all-too political, which is why so many centrists also are antitotalitarian, i. e. they combat extremism whatever shape it takes, be it Fascism, Nazism, Communism or Islamofascism.

I’ve noticed that I hold views that could be considered conflicting by some, but which I consider complimentary. I am culturally conservative in many ways, but politically radical in others. This kind of “conservative radicalism” has been shared by many other people like George Orwell and Lewis Mumford (please note that I am in no way equivocating myself with these people!). Perhaps someone like Christopher Hitchens could be included here. He has often talked about “the radical conservative”. Some people would say that this is an oxymoron or a paradox. Perhaps it is a paradox, but therein lies its strength. The concepts, in my view, aren’t conflicting but, as I said, complementary. It’s a syncretistic position. It is possible to be traditionalist and progressive at the same time. These concepts aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive.

Many schools of thought within philosophy have recognised the importance of centering-down, finding the proper balance and creating a whole from complementary forces, such as Daoism, Buddhism and the ancient Greek concept of metron.

In my own country, Sweden, it is people within the centre of the political field that have most successfully combated totalitarian ideas such as Nazism and Communism. Often these were individuals more or less connected to the Swedish social-liberal party, The People’s Party. The Conservative Right and the Socialist Left have traditionally been more prone to support dictatorships, whereas people within the centre of the political scale have fought against oppression and tyranny.

Today we face a new totalitarian threat: Islamofascism. This has not yet dawned upon the Left. Or rather, there is the Reactionary Left to whom it will never dawn, as they do not wish to know. Instead, they will try to support totalitarianism in opposition to “Western” or perhaps more commonly “US imperialism”. Then there is the Liberal Left, who has turned out to be even more naïve than I expected it to be, indirectly supporting tyrants and dictators, believing that “violence will only make things worse”. The political quietism and pacifism of the Liberal Left, and the openly totalitarian and anti-democratic ideals of the Reactionary Left will risk undermining our Western democratic way of life if we don’t start acting against these forces as well as against Islamofascism itself. So far, a great part of the Right has seemed to understand the totalitarian threat we’re up against, except of course for the rabid, far-right “America first” isolationists who, like the Islamofascists, think that America is rotting from the inside because of the “decadence” going on there.

So today, I wish to pursue the middle path with guiding principles such as social individualism, the pursue of both personal liberty and social justice, a balanced relationship between the market and the state, the defence of our Western values and way of life whose very existence is now threatened by a religiously motivated Fascism. Further, promoting human rights and equality between men and women – to ensure, like Marcus Aurelius said, that we will be no one’s master, no one’s slave.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A blogger's return

So I’m back. For now anyway. New times, new blog-design. I have been away from blogging since November, as some of you may have noticed (I hope...).

The reason I stopped was partly because I was so fed up of politics and the useless idiocy of the War on Terror-debate. Hearing deafitist and so called pacifist arguments from the Left that missed the point completely.

This combined with a feeling of political homelessness and disillusionment followed by a move towards a more centrist position had the effect that I stopped posting in order to do some soulsearching.

I have also grown more and more disillusioned with the so-called liberal or moderate Left. Even within the ranks of these, there has been for the most part a total lack of understanding of what were up against here. The unwillingness to face the threat of global Islamistic Fascism and even the direct and voiced support for those terrorist groups carrying out attacks on civilians in Iraq is not only mindboggling. It is also deeply tragic and dangerous.

I can’t see a radically democratic and antitotalitarian stance being developed by the liberal left, let alone the Left as a whole. The fascistoid squabbling going on amongst leftist groups is not only annoying, but deeply disturbing. And I can’t see that that’s going to change in the foreseeable future. Neither can I see any evidence of a decent Left evolving, only decent Leftists. People posting on blogs like Harry's Place, Norman Geras and Socialism In An Age Of Waiting are still carrying the torch of a free and free-thinking Left. However, to me it seems these are only the exceptions confirming the rule. But I hope that they will continue to struggle against the perversions of the Left being perpetrated by so many on the Left and liberal Left as we speak.

For some time now I have felt that I might start blogging again, but from a slightly different, more centrist, angle than before. This is not a radical change in me (from centre-left to centrist), however I feel I have a clearer view of my on position now. Centrist, independent and antitotalitarian.

So stay tuned, sooner or later things will probably start moving again. Anyway, I'll let you know.