Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Fork In The Road For Liberalism: Colin Kenny Or Bob Rae.

To start with, this should tell you the Liberals are in some internal anguish about all this, as well they should be, as further evidenced by Rae's choice of framing his points about overheated rhetoric as though it were a direct response to the flabby Vietnam comparison regurgitated last year not by some dimwitted New Democrat or far-right Conservative, but by Kenny, a fellow Liberal. It isn't for nothing that the headline on Rae's op-ed is 'Why Afghanistan Is Not Vietnam.'

This isn't just about distinctly Canadian arguments, you should notice, the rote references to Vietnam notwithstanding. How these arguments play out in the developed democracies of the world will determine the course of "liberal values" in the coming decades. It is a tribute to the toxicity of the side Colin Kenny favours that it played no small role in producing a shabby and small-minded right-wing coalition at the last British elections. The greatest victory the European "anti-war" crowd can claim for itself - the Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan - was handed to them by the right-wing populist Geert Wilders. In America, the argument descended into a baying of hounds driven mad by the scent of all that Iraqi blood and the election of what crazy Americans regard as their first socialist president, whom almost everyone else is pleased to regard as uber-liberal, at least compared to the last guy. Maybe so, but on matters of women's rights and liberal internationalism, Barack Obama may well be the most reactionary American president since Richard Nixon.

A quick digression: If there is an equivalent debate taking place within Canada's Conservative Party, I am unaware of it. To the shame, consternation and embarrassment of many decent Conservatives in the rank and file, in the federal cabinet, and in the Senate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Afghan policy is, quite simply: dissemble and otherwise keep shtum. As for the New Democrats, disenchanted by their own great helmsman as many of them are, their party abdicated any right to be taken seriously about what Canada should be doing in Afghanistan after the NDP's 2006 "Support the Troops, Bring "Em Home" resolution.

On to Bob Rae. . .

That's from my essay in today's Propagandist Magazine: Liberalism's Long Walk.

Not unrelated, and noticed via Jim Denham at Shiraz Socialist, is attention to an important wellspring of a schism that continues to enfeeble the Left (Comrade Lauryn Oates considers examples here and here) more than three decades on: Anti-Orientalist Meets Western Feminist. The post recounts a critical turning point in the Khomeinist counter-revolution - or at least a critical moment in the Euro-American Left's disorientation - March 8, International Women's Day, 1979.

On that day, Iranian women activists and their male supporters demonstrated against an order for women to re-veil themselves in the chador worn in more traditional sectors of society. The demonstrations continued for five days. At their height, they grew to fifty thousand in Tehran, women as well as men. Some leftist men formed a cordon around the women, fighting off armed attackers from a newly formed group, the Hezbollah or “Party of God.” The demonstrators chanted “No to the Chador,” “Down with the Dictatorship,” and even the occasional “Down with Khomeini.” One banner read, “We made the Revolution for Freedom, But Got Unfreedom,” while others proclaimed “At the Dawn of Freedom, There Is No Freedom.” For their part, the Hezbollah chanted “You will cover yourselves or be beaten,” but their response was mainly nonverbal: stones, knives, and even bullets.

Edward Said described protests in solidarity with Iranian women back then as "silly."

His foul legacy persists.


Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I'm wondering if it's not time to revive and update the Euston Manifesto.

8:07 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

According to Naomi Wolf:

"When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair colour to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves."

Please note the ease of her dismissal of Taliban crimes against women as "demonization".

Please note that not once does she mention the "burqa" which is what Afghan women are forced to wear when they go out: not veils and not chadors, but burqas. That should arouse some scepticism in the reader about the authoritative credibility of her account, or how much she was paying attention. After all, she does claim that she had acquired her more intimate knowledge during her "[travels] in Muslim countries" where she was privy to "a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes".

She further teaches us that she:

"... learned that Muslim attitudes toward women's appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling - toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home."


I can't find a term for this kind of apologetics. Some version of a Stockholm Syndrome? An unacknowledged longing for a by-gone era when women treated as feeble, stupid, and in need to be protected against themselves?

8:22 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

". . .a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband. . . .it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling - toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home."

What crap. Sounds like Anita Bryant talking, circa 1977.

In Afghanistan, the burqa became increasingly ubiquitous during the 1980s, but so did "western" fashion. During the Taliban, when women were slaves, it was a requirement of law. Over the past ten years, the burqa can be found almost anywhere in Afghanistan where women are especially marginalized, but fewer and fewer city women will be found in burqas - I've noticed the decline in my visits to Af'stan over the past three years.

On the rise, however, is the chador. This is becoming even more noticeable and more worrisome to Afghan democrats and feminists, because the rising ubiquity of the chador in Herat, Kabul, etc., signals the growing Khomeinist influence, a far more grisly spectre than any threat from the spread of Taliban ideology. Taliban-thought has never been widespread, and is largely a contained toxin, culturally and socially. Khomeinist shiaism, not so much, and I really the "western media" would pay more attention.

The immediate consequence of a NATO retreat in Afghanistan would be a Khomeinist cloud over two-thirds of the country, its shadow destined to reverse the democratic gains won by the people.

8:37 AM  
Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

The only true liberals are American Conservatives.

2:42 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

RE: The only true liberals are American Conservatives.

Perhaps EV could use his moniker to "slip the surly bonds of earth" and go back to whatever planet he came from where his statement might actually be valid.

6:41 PM  

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