The War Party’s curious affinity for the War Party


Morticia: What’s closer in this world than a boy and his mother?

Pugsley: A boy and his octopus?

Nick Cohen these days has a barn door quality about him, which is sad for those of us who remember when he was one of the sharpest critics of the pretentions of Blairism. Even so, I continue to be astonished by his heroic ability to miss the point.

Or, in this case, to meander away from the point. Nick is dealing with the American election, and specifically the appeal of Irish-American candidate Barack O’Bama. Barack leaves the Brits cold, so Nick tells us. At least those Brits Nick has been talking to. Or possibly just Nick. Now, Nick has a potentially good point in dealing with O’Bama’s media coverage and what that says about race and class, but then he meanders away off into a parallel universe.

This has already been done by Chris Bertram over at Crooked Timber, and followed up at Aaro Watch, but an article that crams so many non sequiturs into such a short space is worth a look. Nick has a go at “conservative anti-Americanism”, but thankfully doesn’t expand on that. His thoughts on the subject will be familiar to those of us who have read the chapter of What’s Left? where Nick demonstrates that, er, Douglas Hurd and Noam Chomsky are co-thinkers.

Anyway, Nick tells us that support for Hillary Clinton among some British politicians is an index of anti-Americanism. He also reckons that enthusiasm for O’Bama in Europe is an index of anti-Americanism. Maybe it’s just me, but I get the sense that Nick is suggesting the only way to avoid the trap of anti-Americanism is to support McCain’s Chips. If so, why doesn’t he say so?

Actually, there seems to be some coalescing of the Decent Left around McCain. I expect that to continue as the election approaches. I confidently predict that Oliver Kampf will come out for McCain if he hasn’t already, thus maintaining his unbroken record of supporting the most rightwing candidate in every foreign election he’s blogged about. Another man to watch is our friend Marko, who may find he has an affinity for McCain’s tough stance against the threat to the Free World posed by, er, South Ossetia. And Alan (Not The Minister) Johnson, as a devoted aficionado of the late Max Shachtman, might fancy a go at recreating one of Max’s more arresting initiatives, Socialists For Nixon.

But really, if you’re a pro-war liberal, the US election should provide an embarrassment of riches. Okay, O’Bama may have blotted his copybook over Iraq, but he does have some other points going for him. He’s very keen indeed on the war in Afghanistan. And, when it came to appointing his foreign policy gurus, the first people he turned to were the professional Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski and the (now sadly departed) professional Serbophobe Samantha Power, both of whom should have reassured muscular liberals.

As for Hillary, she has Mr Bill’s record of humanitarian bombing in the Balkans to fall back on, and she’s been flagging up her support for “free Kosova”. She has a record of extreme bellicosity on the Middle East. She’s been very close indeed to the Israel lobby. But for some reason, the Decents seem not to like her very much. Maybe they’re taking their lead from the Dude, or maybe it’s just all those Republican blogs they read.

So, there you have it. If you’re not anti-American, the only option is to row in behind the most bellicose presidential candidate in recent memory. Hmm. Really, why don’t the Decent Left stop pretending to be the authentic representatives of progressive thought, and just admit they’ve moved to the right?

As for Nick, who I like a good deal and whose incisive writing I miss, maybe he should ponder whether he really wants to be the second coming of Norman Podhoretz.

Rud eile: This excellent discussion on Cedar Lounge may be of interest.


  1. WorldbyStorm said,

    March 11, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Sometimes it feels like a Bring back the original Nick Cohen campaign wouldn’t be amiss. What, do you think, was the reason for his shift? I mean, I can understand his qualms about Iraq, but that alone doesn’t seem to explain it because what was a specific complaint suddenly morphed into a general discontent which overwhelmed all else. As for them supporting McCain. Dear God no!

  2. WorldbyStorm said,

    March 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I should add that their logic reminds me of the interesting Mark Humphrys logic by which as a ‘rationalist’ and supporter of ‘liberal democracy’ he wound up firmly supporting that longtime friend of the evangelical right George Bush…

  3. Cian said,

    March 11, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I wonder if its connected to him “seeing the light” about schools, the poverty of the middle classes (anyone on 100K+), shockingly high house prices. Which I guess means he couldn’t afford a bigger house in a kid friendly neighbourhood, where the schools were half decent.
    Given that quite a lot of champagne liberals can afford these things, it might explain his loathing.

  4. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 12, 2008 at 8:35 am

    I think it illustrates how a journalist relies on his sources. A lot of Nick’s best work came from leftie sources – like taking material on education from SWP teachers. And it was known on the left that Nick was the first journo you would go to.

    But if you’re relying for material on Butterflies and Wheels or Oliver Kamm, well, that’s a whole different ball game…

  5. jamie said,

    March 12, 2008 at 11:47 am

    It’s probably best looked at in a religous context, ironically enough. I believe he read Paul Berman and underwent a sudden conversion experience, which according to the article has led him to cosy confabs with senior AEI people.

  6. Doug said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    You may find that the common denominator that links Cohen, the ‘Decent Left’ et al is a staunch pro-Israeli mindset and/or Zionisim. Plenty about Darfur deaths, nothing on Iraq – that sort of ‘humanitarian’.

  7. commentyperson said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t think zionism/pro-isreali mindset explains Nick’s lurch to the right at all – if you look through his 1997-2001 columns you won’t find any “pro-Isreali mindset” , it just wasn’t an issue for him. Hitchens, his hero, and a whole Tories-appeasing-bosniofascists, its like the second world war etc. view of the balkans were the roots of Nick’s nasty turn. And then being Bermanised

  8. Cian said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Cohen seems pretty uninterested in Israel.

  9. Doug said,

    March 13, 2008 at 11:50 am

    You don’t have to make explicit statements about Israel just be on board with their interests – ‘dealing’ with Iraq and Iran, for instance. I haven’t read anything from Cohen that suggests the remotest sympathy for the Palestinian cause either.

  10. commentyperson said,

    March 16, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    “You don’t have to make explicit statements about Israel just be on board with their interests ” – maybe not (altho’ does this involve some kind of detecting device ?), but that’s not how Nick got to where he is politically – it really is much more to do with Bosnia and Berman

  11. Starkadder said,

    March 18, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Was it the drink? Hitchens admitted to drinking heavily
    around the time of his shift (first going after Sidney Blumenthal,& then
    being pro-Iraq War). Maybe Cohen drunk too much as well.

    I don’t think it was the Balkans that did it-Ziauddin Sardar was
    strongly anti-Milosevic and also an opponent of the Iraq War
    and Palestinian oppression.

  12. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 19, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    In a good Dude article, you can almost trace the alcohol rising…

    Yeah, there were lots of people that were pro-intervention on Bosnia and didn’t go on to be Decent. But for some it was a big deal, and it’s become one of their big retrospective “tests”.

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