Friday, November 10, 2006

Lamentable Lamont

There is a Galloway-lite piece by Norman Lamont in the Telegraph. Though broadly unexceptional, there are some startling throwaway remarks.

This is one is particularly striking:

…while the invasion of Afghanistan was necessary, the bombing campaign was excessive. Mr Rumsfeld's remark - "There aren't enough targets in Afghanistan" - explains much of the motivation for the invasion of Iraq.

I had to read this several times to get over my incredulity. Is he really suggesting that the Iraq war was fought because the Americans didn't have enough to bomb in Afghanistan? "That wasn't much fun. Why don't we go somewhere else where we can blow a few more things up? So much more satisfying and we can use up our surplus ordinance." So, the dilemma of how to resolve the ongoing tragedy of Iraq, suffering from both sanctions and containment, living under the murderous tyranny of Saddam and locked into an unsustainable position by the failure to reach a resolution of the previous war - let alone broader regional, political and strategic concerns - counted for nothing. It was just a place to do a bit more bombing. I don't think that even a Pilger or Galloway could have dreamt that one up. At least they think that the USA had rational, if malign, self-interest as its motivation rather than a casual ennui.

This is too is typical of his style.

The failure of Messrs Bush and Blair and the neo-cons to understand Arab grievances has been translated into a "clash of civilisations" and a threat to Western values "by people determined to destroy our way of life", as the Prime Minister put it. We are not going to live under a universal caliphate. Osama bin Laden and his gangsters have not the faintest chance of destroying our way of life, unless we do so ourselves.

It is undoubtedly true that the Islamists will not create a global caliphate, but the real question is how many people are they going to kill in the attempt? It is not much consolation as your life ends prematurely in a spectacular act of arbitrary violence for your last thought to be, "I would have preferred to have died peacefully in my bed at a very old age but at least they won't destroy our way of life in the long term. What a shame Bush and Blair misinterpreted Arab grievances". Here he simply mixes up determination with the prospect of success. It is the determination that makes them dangerous. Just because they are unlikely to succeed does not make them any the less murderous and he cannot see that Islamism is an alarming utopian fantasy rather than a symptom of rational demands

The parallel with Suez is dragged up again. This suits his tendentious claims to a grasp of history, though he appears to come from the sweeping and unverifiable statement school rather than the empiricist one. Leaving aside my inherent dislike of the use of historical analogy as a form of explanation, this statement is revealing

Eden, like George W. Bush, mistook "the enemy" for a new form of fascism.

Lamont, a keen supporter of General Pinochet, is unlikely to win many awards as a fascist spotter. Actually, most on the anti-totalitarian left thought Ba'athism to be rather an old form of fascism. What Lamont means by fascism though is a movement that threatens us, not 'fascism in one country', which is an unfortunate but tolerable state of affairs that time will resolve - tolerable because it is happening to others. For me, one of the agonising political questions of the day is about how to confront tyranny, for Norman Lamont it seems to be how to find a rationale for not bothering.

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