Thursday, December 04, 2008

In The Latest Democratiya ( Winter, 2008): "Afghanistan: A Choice of Comrades"

Here's an excerpt from my most recent contribution to the conversation about the struggle in Afghanistan and its implications for those of us still impudent enough to imagine that we're "progressives" of some sort:

Into the vacuum left by the absence of any robust left-wing analysis on the Afghanistan question came Canada's 'anti-war' movement, which rapidly emerged as the primary organisational forum for collaboration between Third Worldists and far-right Islamists. This was a bizarre phenomenon, but Canada's news media, in its efforts to offer an uncomplicated and 'balanced' view of the Afghanistan story, conveniently overlooked it. Ignoring the appeals of Canada's progressive Muslims, Canada's left-wing press simply looked the other way.

The result was a troops-out campaign that was allowed to pose as 'anti-war' without being called to account for the deadly consequences of its fundamental demands. For one, a withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan would plunge the country back into the bloodshed that had left hundreds of thousands dead and made refugees out of a quarter of Afghanistan's people during the 1990s. For another, a troop withdrawal would threaten to trigger countless more wars by emboldening the most bloodthirsty jihadists from the Pillars of Hercules to the Banda Sea.

But across the liberal-left, these implications remained unexamined. What mattered more was the protection of Canada's virtue as a refuge from the bad neoconservative vibes emanating from the Bush White House. In these ways, the Canadian debates about Afghanistan became thoroughly infantilised, and by 2006, during the Israel-Hezbollah war, public opinion was turning sharply against Canada's engagement in Afghanistan.

In Ottawa, an unpopular Conservative minority government was at best lukewarm about the engagement. The Liberal Party that first sent battle troops to Kandahar when it was in power had lost all interest in championing the Afghan cause. The only momentum on the Afghanistan question was for withdrawal, and it was gathering steam. Worse still, for those of us who considered ourselves socialists or social democrats, the troops-out momentum was being driven by the central institutions of Canada's mainstream left. . .

Anyway, that's a piece of it, but as is the case with every issue of Democratiya (see the praise I heaped upon the journal here last year), there's a wealth of essays worth reading. Irfan Khawaja's got a review of Sarah Chayes' splendid The Punishment of Virtue, and then there's Fred Seigel's take on Bernard Henri-Levy's Left In Dark Times: A Stand Against The New Barbarism. David Sidorsky looks back on Sidney Hook's Heresy, Yes - Conspiracy, No. Will Marshall considers Barack Obama and the New Internationalism, and Eric Lee of Labourstart ponders Obama and the Unions. It just keeps on going like that.

Democratiya is an excellent journal, from front to back.


Post a Comment

<< Home