Lebanon and the death of the pro-war 'left'
I noted a few months back that the pro-war 'left' was being pulled apart by the disastrous consequences of Bush's military adventure in Iraq:
The pro-war left seems to be disintegrating as a coherent political tendency, as its former adherents choose between an uncomplicated neo-conservatism and a return to the ‘old’ anti-war left.
The choice between an uncomplicated neo-conservatism and some sort of shamefaced return to the left has been posed especially starkly by the crisis in Lebanon. In America, the rump of the neo-con movement has grasped at this new war like a drowning man grasping at a straw. Like the Iraq adventure before it, Israel's invasion of Lebanon is being hailed as a 'circuit-breaker' that will rout anti-American forces and see the birth of a 'new Middle East'.
It is rather difficult, though, to put any sort of humanitarian, 'left' gloss on the carnage in Lebanon. The US's claim to be liberating the Iraqi people always rang hollow to most of us, but not even the most shameless warmonger would try to argue that Israel's invasion is an attempt to liberate the Lebanese.
The brutally punitive nature of imperialism's new war does not trouble neo-cons ensconced snugly in the thinktanks of Washington. Irving Kristol and co have never disguised their lack of sympathy for the notion of humanitarian war. Equating progress and prosperity with American hyperpower, they see the naked display of military muscle by the US and its allies as wholly desirable.
Matters are somewhat more complicated for scions of the old pro-war 'left' like Norm Geras and Christopher Hitchens. Both Hitchens and Geras argued that the left should seek a temporary rapproachment with the neo-con right, in order to take advantage of a supposed sea change in US foreign policy. For these folk, the war in Iraq was a war for democracy, human rights, and the ending of the humanitarian disasters Saddam Hussein's rule had created. It must be clear even to Geras and Hitchens that the war in Lebanon is undermining a bourgeois democratic government and creating a humanitarian disaster of colossal proportions.
Hitchens' opposition to the new war, and Geras' typically mealy-mouthed criticisms the worst atrocities, have to be understood as attempts by the better-known members of the rump of the old pro-war 'left' to distance themselves from the latest disastrous consequences of US policies in the Middle East. Jay Sparrow suggested recently that the last vestiges of Hitchens' reputation are in danger of going up in the fire Bush and Blair have lit:
I reckon he's changed his tone now because he recognises that he's starting to lose his influence in liberal circles -- and once that happens, what's he left with? He doesn't want to end up with the Bible-thumping Right and, more to the point, they have no use for a cosmopolitan literary egghead, anyway.
If the invasion of Lebanon is forcing Hitchens to distance himself from the neo-cons, and return shamefacedly to an anti-war stance, then it is prompting other members of the old anti-war 'left' to nail their colours to the neo-con mast by adopting an almost hysterically pro-Israel position. The refusal of Harry's Place and The Popinjays, the two largest pro-war 'left' blogsites, to so much as condemn the massacre at Qana, and the way that their comment boxes have become choked with the foulest anti-Arab propaganda, suggest that a Rubicon has been crossed.