Physician, heal thyself

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Sometimes you do get presented with an open goal. Last night on Nolan Live, Angry Steve was discussing the credit crunch and made some remark about us all tightening our belts. The texters were mighty tickled at the image of the portly host tightening his belt.

And here’s Norman Geras:

What I think it’s at least partly about is having a ‘costless’ conscience. Over Afghanistan – as, for many of them, over Iraq – they do not count the costs of the policies they favour, only of the policies they oppose. The former costs have nothing at all to do with them. If what they recommend goes badly in some way, it’s just the way of the world; but if what they oppose goes badly then it has everything to do with those who supported it. It’s a fool’s method of political calculation: recognizing no hard choices, everything obvious and easy.

This is Norm’s response to peaceniks calling for the withdrawal of Nato troops from Afghanistan, whom Norm taxes with failure to take moral responsibility for the possible humanitarian disaster that might ensue.

One might ask whether this means the Decent Left are going to take moral responsibility for the actually existing humanitarian disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq, which do have an immediate connection with the wars that Norm has supported. But one would be mistaken. A basic tenet of Normism is that, if you’re Decent, the purity of your motives effaces the consequences of things you support. Which is nice. On the other hand, Indecent leftists like your humble host can quite easily be berated for things they didn’t support. Which is often quite aggravating if you’re on the receiving end.

It’s like judo. If you’ve ever thought that Norm’s strictures on international relations could be used to criticise Israeli actions, you very quickly learn that such an argument can be blown out of the water by accusing the UCU of being awash with anti-Semitism, or insinuating that present-day Venezuela is comparable to Stalin’s Russia, or some similar dodge.

Isn’t it cheering to see that Norm’s grasp of the dialectic remains as sound as ever?

10 Comments

  1. Snowball said,

    November 25, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Good point, well made. As an apologist for tyranny, Norman Geras increasingly resembles Squealer from George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

    ‘Surely everyone understands that Comrade Bush has only the best interests of the Afghan people at heart comrades?’ ‘And surely no one wants the Taliban back?’

  2. organic cheeseboard said,

    November 26, 2008 at 9:39 am

    If what they recommend goes badly in some way, it’s just the way of the world; but if what they oppose goes badly then it has everything to do with those who supported it. It’s a fool’s method of political calculation: recognizing no hard choices, everything obvious and easy.

    It’s pretty sad that Geras seems unable – or more likely, unwilling – to identify the flipside of this apparently sage observation, isn’t it? What was that in the Euston Manifesto about ‘picking over the rubble’? etc etc. Decency’s approach to Iraq was and is probably the easiest choice possible to make – you can style yourself as a heroic democrat by opposing Saddam, and supporting democracy, and at the same time absolve yourself of any responsibility fort the negative consequences of an utterly disastrous war you so enthusiastically supported for these ostensible reasons.

  3. Doug said,

    November 26, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Geras, Cohen etc have crossed the line years ago and are a bunch of irrelevant imperialist apologists. A handful of ex-Leftist drink-fuelled Zionists are really not that important in the scheme of things.

  4. ejh said,

    November 26, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Compared to who?

  5. organic cheeseboard said,

    November 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    compared to me.

  6. Googlebot said,

    November 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    As others have clearly stated, Geras has become a disgusting imperialist apologist.

    His intellectual evolution is freaking tragic. At one point many years back he wrote some superb stuff on the classical marxist tradition. Now he is pimping for imperialism and zionism.

    What a waste.

  7. JM said,

    November 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    All rather harsh, I think. After all, Norm is the Decent most likely to offer you a Werther’s Original.

  8. Guano said,

    November 27, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    So what would have been the cost of not invading Iraq?

  9. ejh said,

    November 27, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I think Norm might argue that the disaster in Iraq was the making of Islamists who chose to oppose the democratic forces with violence, which would nopt have occurred otherwise. Though not one I agree with, it’s an argument, albeit essentially a similar argument to the one that says the October Revoilution wouldn’t have become a disaster if the Whites hadn’t launched a counter-revolution. However, he’s quite entitled to put that case if he wants: what he’s not entitled to do is to launch the “costs of inaction” argument against his adversaries while not accepting that the “costs of action” argument be launched against himself.

    I do think a lot of Norm’s problems derive from engaging on special pleading on his own behalf on the grounds that he’s one of the good guys.

  10. Guano said,

    November 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Those who still stay that the invasion of Iraq was right are, in my humble opinion, unable to state clearly why they think that. So, as they are unable to say what would have happened if the invasion had not taken place, they have difficulty in saying what the costs of inaction would have been. On the other hand we know that wars are risky and often have unintended consequences (as has proved to be the case).


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