Here's my review on the books 'Neo-Conservatism and Why We Need It' by Douglas Murray and 'Anti-Totalitarianism: the left-wing case for a Neo-Conservative foreign policy' by Oliver Kamm from today's Daily Telegraph.
IDEALISM LOSES ITS WAY IN DOUBLE STANDARDS AND DISHONESTY
31st December 2005
Did neo-conservatism meet its end in 2005? The collapse of the levees in New Orleans and its exposure of President Bush's policy of paying for wars of intervention abroad, by cutting back on public provision back home, led many thinkers to believe that it had. Douglas Murray and Oliver Kamm are not among them. For these two young British writers, neo-conservatism is not only still alive and kicking- its finest hour is yet to come. Murray, described by historian Andrew Roberts as 'the Right's answer to Michael Moore', believes that the creed of Leo Strauss, Paul Wolfowitz and Irving Kristol should not only be the ideology of a rejuvenated Conservative Party, but of 'any political party committed to the ideals of freedom at home and abroad'. For Murray, neo-conservatism can provide the 'moral and practical answers' to the political and societal malaise of our country. As to the extent of that malaise there can be no dispute: Britain has the highest level of violent crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and one parent families in Europe. But would the neo-con domestic agenda which Murray advocates make things any better? His attacks on welfare dependency, the glorification of misanthropic rap culture and other examples of multicultural idiocy are justified, and his call for 'broken windows' policing, an increase in church schools and for the state to withdraw from its life-long support of single mothers makes plenty of sense. Yet on what is arguably the main cause of 'societal defects' in Britain today- the pernicious effect of uncontrolled consumer capitalism, Murray is strangely silent. The problem for Murray is that economic liberalism -which he likes- fuels social liberalism which he doesn't. If we really want to see happy families promenading together again on Sunday afternoons, we need to erect “Keep Out” signs to stop the encroachment of market forces into areas they have no right to go. This is something which Murray, in his enthusiasm for a low-tax, deregulated economy, is unwilling to do. And when it comes to our political malaise- most visibly demonstrated by our leaders' failure to tell us the truth over Iraq- Murray once again falls short. Murray would have us believe that the government really did think Iraq possessed WMDs, and incredibly castigates Blair, Campbell and co for 'telling the public too much'. But if our leaders did think Iraq possessed the stockpile of chemical and biological weapons the various dossiers claimed- why on earth would they do the one thing which would provoke Saddam to use them? History tells us that countries attack others only when they are sure of their opponent's relative weakness- something one might have expected Murray to have learnt during his years at Oxford. In trying to put the case for “Left-wing” case for war against Iraq, Oliver Kamm is equally unconvincing. Having told us how the principle of deterrence worked so well during the Cold War, he fails to explain adequately why the deterrence of Saddam, which Secretary of State Powell had been lauding only months before 9/11, could not have continued. Kamm has fun baiting the woolly minded peace activists of the 1930s, and the supporters of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, but is on much shakier ground when trying to portray those who opposed the invasion of secular, Ba’athist Iraq as apologists for Islamo-fascism. In fact, it is the neo-cons themselves who have a track record of siding with Islamic extremists- either in Afghanistan in the 1980s or in the Balkans a decade later. Similarly, while lambasting the “amoral quietism” of the Major government for its non-intervention policy in Bosnia, Kamm fails to inform readers that the Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic- whose separatist cause neo-conservatives enthusiastically championed- not only wrote “the first and most important lesson from the Koran is the impossibility of any connection between Islamic and non-Islamic systems”, but also recruited for an SS division in the Second World War. It is difficult to think of a man for whom the term “Islamo-fascist” could be more appropriate - yet that didn't stop arch the neo-con Richard Perle acting as an adviser to Izetbegovic's delegation at the Dayton Peace Conference in 1995. On the issue of terrorism, there are double standards too. Terrorists, according to Murray and Kamm, should be always be condemned wherever they are found- but not it seems if they are the gun-runners, drug-smugglers and civilian-murderers of the Kosovan Liberation Army, on whose side NATO acted, with strong neo-cons approval- as an armed proxy in the war against Yugoslavia in 1999. And amid all their words of praise for Israel, there is nothing from either Murray or Kamm on the role that Zionist terrorism played in that state's foundation. If neo-cons really want us to take their ideas more seriously, a little more consistency- and honesty- is surely called for.
Daily Telegraph/ Neil Clark 2005