Saturday, February 03, 2007

Alliances of Convenience

In comments at Harry's Place (you'll have to scroll down sorry, they don't seem to have a comment permalink facility set up) David T, who is generally regarded as the sanest Harryhead, writes:

There is a trot, stopper and "Islamofascist" alliance of convenience, but I think it only really has hold in parts of the New Statesman, parts of the Independent, parts of the Guardian (but less, post Maddy Bunting/Seaumus Milne) and lots in the London Review of Books.

By which he's arguing, I think, that the reason why the left doesn't see radical Islam for the threat it is, is because the left (and it's not just the Trots: he's including Madeline Bunting who is surely a liberal not a socialist) has made a conscious decision to ignore the uglier aspects of Islam in the search for allies against the hated USA and Israel.

And you know what?

I really don't think this is the case at all.

For what it's worth, I think that the alliance of convenience stretches about three quarters the way from Socialist Workers Party to Respect (and trust me, if you life outside the UK, you realise that distance is even less significant than that between the Euston Manifesto and the Henry Jackson Society).

Once you get beyond this, you find plenty of people on the left, who see Islamic fundamentalism as a threat, but less of a threat than that posed by the leaders of the world's sole superpower actively campaigning against multilateral institutions, efforts to stop global warming, and attempts to curtail nuclear weapons proliferation.

I don't like fundamentalist Islam but a multi-polar future (hello China and India), with more nukes, and droughts and unraveling ecosystems, and no credible international institutions strikes me as a somewhat larger threat. Which is why I expend more time opposing Bush et al than the local Imam.

On top of this though, I think that the alliance of convenience that Mr T (hey!) sees has more to do with progressives struggling to negotiate the phenomenon I described a few posts ago as 'the liberal dilemma'. For progressives the 'clash of civilisations' isn't the simplistic narrative of secular democracy and its brave leaders against evil fundamentalism. It's more like a genuine threat of fundamentalism on one side; overly militaristic (for all the wrong reasons) leaders along with demagogues and racists on the other; while in between there is us (and I include David T in the us here), most Muslims, and - for the time being - most other English/French/Kiwis etc.

Now navigating this isn't simple. You are going to find yourself dealing with issues like how do you defend people from racism who are racists themselves? do you reach out to popular moderates who still hold repugnant views (but at least are adamantly opposed to suicide bombing)? etc.

And I honestly think that the worst that can be said about progressives is that they sometimes trip up on these issues (just like - I might add - the Harryheads have tripped up spectacularly in their support for neo-conservative foreign policy).

But making mistakes in the tricky reality of modern politics is hardly he same as forming an alliance of convenience.

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