[A-List] ‘theoretical’ aspects to the cruise missile left’s programme.
james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Thu Jan 12 05:06:27 MST 2006
----- Original Message ----- From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu> Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
7:25 PM Subject: [Marxism] Crooked Timber on Kenan Makiya
.... "Brendan" writes (slightly edited, J.D.):
There are two main ‘theoretical’ aspects to the cruise missile left’s
1: First, they view the history of post-war American geopolitics as
follows. After WW2, the US did not become an Empire (as some
historians have argued). Instead, American foreign policy was seized
by a group of people called ‘Realists’. These people were moral
relativists and objectivists at the same time. They were relativists
in that they believed that there was ‘no such thing’ as morality, but
objectivists in that they believed that all issues of foreign policy
should be considered by asking: ‘does this benefit the United States?’.
It was these ‘realists’ (so the story goes) who ran all American
foreign policy until George Bush Junior, who began as a realist but
then (after September 11) became a ‘neo-conservative’.
Neo-conservatives are, we are told, the complete opposite of ‘realists’
(of whom the prime example, apparently, is Henry Kissinger). They are
moralists, they are idealists, they believe in the spread of
democracy, and they want to ‘remake’ the Middle East by bringing
democracy to it. Only by doing exactly what the neo-conservatives say
can a genuinely left wing foreign policy be created.
So that’s it. Note: the Keyboard Kommandos rarely state this
explicitly but this is one of the key animating aspects of their
....... what’s wrong with this theory?
For a start it omits the strain of idealism that has always animated
American foreign policy, and omits the fact that the more ‘idealist’
the President, the worst tend to be the crimes. Many of the worst
atrocities of the post-war era occurred under Kennedy who was no
Realist and no cynic. Or what about Carter? He was a ‘left wing’
Christian, who believed in universal values, democracy and civil
rights, all of which were strangely forgotten when the issue of East
The human rights records of the neo-conservatives itself hardly gives
cause for faith in this belief: Paul Wolfowitz (as should be well
known) did his best to suppress democracy in Indonesia in an earlier
part of his career. And other neo-conservative ‘fellow travellers’
(like Rumsfeld and Cheney) are simply extremist paleo-conservatives:
hard to explain if neo-conservatism is radically opposed to old style
That’s why the canard that Kissinger opposed the war is such an item
of faith for the KKers. They simply cannot accept that one of the key
architects of ‘realism’ supported their neo-conservative viewpoint,
because they know that would question (to put it mildly) they theory
on which they have staked their political careers.
2: The second part of their worldview is even more ambitious, and
amounts to a rewriting of intellectual history. In the 18th century,
we are told, there was something called ‘The Enlightenment Project’.
Karl Marx, and socialism, it is claimed, were part of this project.
Then in the early 20th century, certain philosophers like Martin
Heidegger revolted against this ‘project’. This ‘revolt’ however was
quickly put down until it reappeared in the 70s as ‘postmodernism’.
These ‘anti-enlightenment figures’ (such as Derrida, Foucault and
others) are (as the Marxists used to say) ‘objectively’ right wing,
even though they might ‘think’ they are not. Moreover they are
‘relativists’ whereas the Enlightenment Project (allegedly) was
According to this view, it is the neoconservatives who stand behind
the Enlightenment Project and the Islamists and postmodernists who
Again the KKers seem to be unaware that they have not produced a
serious intellectual argument in sketching this history of our times,
but a cartoon. For a start there WAS no ‘Enlightenment Project’ and
neither did Socialism descend (directly from it). Socialism (in its
modern form, i.e. Marxism) as a quick look at your history books will
show, was a product of the Romantic age: the great ‘enemy’ of the
Enlightenment. Moreover many of these Romantics (Shelley, Blake, the
early Wordsworth) were extremely left wing, and supported the French
Revolution. Ipso facto (assuming these terms have any meaning in this
context) many of the ‘enlightenment figures’ were ‘reactionary’
Nor is the issue of ‘objectivism’ versus ‘relativism’ as clear as you
might think. Of course, as Chris points out, Marx was often accused of
being a relativist, and Marxism was often attacked because it was
perceived as being an attack on the Enlightenment Project (so was
Freud, for the same reason). On the other hand, some enlightenment or
proto-enlightenment figures like Montaigne really were cultural
relativists but drew anti-imperialist conclusions from this (i.e. that
the British and French had no right to impose our socio-cultural
system on others, because it was meaningless to say one system was
‘better’ than any other). Equally, in the 20th century, some thinkers
were objectivist and aggressively in favour of the Enlightenment
Project, but decided that they therefore ought to support Fascism (as
this supported ‘western values’ as against the relativism of
communism): Wyndham Lewis was one of these.
In short the pro-invasion left’s worldview is based on theories about
intellectual history that are simply wrong, and very easily
demonstrable as wrong too.
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