The Spine

Two Manifestos

By and

Sorry to bring you this article by Roger Cohen five days after it appeared in The International Herald Tribune, of which he is editor. Before moving to Paris, Cohen was foreign editor of The New York Times. And, although we don't now see his wisdom and skills in the Times regularly, people around the world read it in the Trib. This article is about "A manifesto from the left too sensible to ignore." It is called the Euston Manifesto, written by Brits and put out last March. It has been simmering in Britain ever since. Cohen talks to its high points:

We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. ... Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the antiwar movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there no opponents on the left. ... The many left opponents of regime change in Iraq who have been unable to understand the considerations that led others on the left to support it, dishing out anathema and excommunication, more lately demanding apology or repentance, betray the democratic values they profess.

Then, there was another public document crafted and signed by, among others, staffers and contributors at The New Republic. Those who were especially active in this venture were Jeffrey Herf and Richard Just. Here is an excerpt:

Our views in foreign policy are rooted in the traditions of Franklin Roosevelt as well as Harry Truman, who battled dictatorships of the right as well as the left respectively. For their generation, the key questions of international politics concerned totalitarianism in Europe and Asia. They led the country in war to defeat fascism, Nazism, and Imperial Japan and then founded the institutions that led to the peaceful victory in the Cold War over Communism. The key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs in our time stems from radical Islamism and the jihadist terrorism it has unleashed. We favor a liberalism that is as passionate about the struggle against Islamic extremism as it has been about its political, social, economic and cultural agenda at home. ... We stress that the efforts of liberal and free societies to defeat the radical Islamists is not a clash of civilizations, just as the war against Nazism, Italian Fascism and Imperial Japan was not a war against the totality of the cultures and history of Germany, Italy and Japan. Each of these societies had multiple traditions other than those of dictatorship and aggression. Fundamentalist Islamists do not speak for Muslims as a whole. Yet we soberly observe that, as Arab liberals and Muslim moderates have pointed out, democratic values and critical reflection on religious belief that have long been part of Western modernity remain comparatively weak in the Arab and Muslim world. Moreover, some Arab states have used wealth from petrodollars to finance religious fundamentalism, rather than to fully enter into the modern world. We agree with and lend our support to those Arab and Muslim liberals and modernists who argue that the internal modernization and liberalization of the Arab and Islamic societies are essential. But we do them no favor by moderating our criticism of the extremists in their midst who threaten and attack them.

Leon Wieseltier and I also signed the letter, as did past and current TNR contributors Daniel Bell, David Bell, and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. The complete list of signatories can be found here. And you can read the whole statement here.

Cohen is on to something when he writes: "If you're tired of sterile screaming in the wilderness, tired of the comfortably ensconced 'hindsighters' poring over every American error in Iraq, tired of facile anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism, try the Euston road in 2007. It might actually lead somewhere."

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