Friday, January 25, 2008

The moral high ground

Marko's peroration from his most recent anathema suggests to us that we apparently need to choose between our alleged policy of "no enemies to the left" and our claim on the moral high ground. I think that there is a common Decent misunderstanding which needs to be brought out into the open here.

We at Aaronovitch Watch don't really make much of a claim to the moral high ground. We don't live there. We may have visited it once or twice, but found it basically a rather uncongenial place, populated mainly by loudmouthed Decent twats. Let's get this straight - mail addressed to:

"BB, RK, CC, CC and the gang
c/o Aaronovitch Watch
The Moral High Ground
W1 8QT"


will not arrive.

The claim of superiority we make over Decent politics is a claim to the practical high ground. In other words, while we're in general content to believe that our political values are of a kind with other people's, that we can recognise differences without declaring takfir (and indeed we've been criticised a fair few times for being insufficiently condemnatory of various political undesirables), we do have to insist on one important point on which there can be no compromise with our political enemies:

Unlike the politics of either the Decent Left or the Islamists, the political views of Aaronovitch Watch and its mates do not, in operation, tend to cause hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths

This is a pretty important advantage for us, but it's not a matter of politics, it's a matter of empirical fact.

I think that this distinction is vitally important, and it's an aspect of Decency that we've covered in the past. The fact that non-interventionist, non-imperial politics doesn't involve as much violence and that's a good thing, just never seems to compute (recall the hilarious bit in Alan NTM Johnson's interview with Mary Kaldor, where she keeps having to remind him that simply being in a state of peace rather than war is an important political goal to set against all the imaginary benefits of whatever Decent war he is banging on about). And the reason is that Decent politics is fundamentally unserious in a much more important way than merely blogging about tits 'n' pubes - it's concerned with the big game of grouplet politics; the taking of the right line on everything, having solidarity with the right bunch in Lower Bogovia and condemning the deviations of the mob in Upper Fuckoffistan. The idea that there might be any real world consequences of this sort of thing is utterly alien to the beautiful souls of the Decent Left, which is why they make such fuck-awful diplomats and why it was such a disaster when they got the ear of the Prime Minister.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

; the taking of the right line on everything, having solidarity with the right bunch in Lower Bogovia and condemning the deviations of the mob in Upper Fuckoffistan

You could argue that there was something un-serious about Splinty's post on precisely those grounds, i.e. that he was bigging up the Serbian Radicals because of who they're not & who they're against. The difference is that it wasn't a post proclaiming its seriousness - rather the reverse (as in, why do I find myself warming slightly to these fuckers?).

1/25/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that non-interventionist, non-imperial politics doesn't involve as much violence and that's a good thing, just never seems to compute

1) The "pro-Intervention Left" are anti-Imperialist. As you well know.

2) Non-interventionist politics have left millions of corpses from the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda - and currently in Darfur.


It kinda makes sense that you could avoid any concession to that fact - it defines your antipathy to "Decents".

You feel guilty because you know non-interventionism means less violence for "us", not for Bosnians or Rwandan Tutsis or the Iraqis pre-liberation.

So when someone asks "Isn't there a moral issue here?" - you feel affronted. So you attack. You stop listening to that part of you which recognises a legitimate question.

And, eventually, you convince yourself that the 90's never happened and its only Iraq that's been violent.

Oh well..

1/25/2008 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Non-interventionist politics have left millions of corpses from the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda - and currently in Darfur.

Interesting that you cite Cambodia as an example where more intervention was needed. Intervention by whom? Are you applauding Vietnam's invasion? Or just wishing the US had done more bombing? Who exactly should practise these "interventionist politics"?

You feel guilty because you know non-interventionism means less violence for "us", not for Bosnians or Rwandan Tutsis or the Iraqis pre-liberation.

Are you seriously suggesting violence in Iraq decreased following the invasion?

1/25/2008 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Harry said...

Are you seriously suggesting violence in Iraq decreased following the invasion?

I think the 'decent' take on that is that the violence in Iraq is intrinsic to muslims and has nothing to do with the invasion. Indeed, it proves what scummy primitives Iraqis are and why they needed to be 'shocked and awed' into submission. Whatever violence that followed the inasion is wholly the fault of the Iraqis or the Iranians or the Syrians or indeed anyone but the cunts who supported the war in the first place.

1/25/2008 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you cite Cambodia as an example where more intervention was needed.

Interesting you don't address Rwanda or Bosnia...

Intervention by whom? Are you applauding Vietnam's invasion?

Yes.

(it put an end to a genocide as brutal in its savagery as the nazi's were clinical)

Or just wishing the US had done more bombing?

No.

Who exactly should practise these "interventionist politics"?

Every member of the G8; every permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Failing that - all liberal democratic nations.

Are you seriously suggesting violence in Iraq decreased following the invasion?

No, I'm not.

Go back and read Bruschetta's post then my reply.

The entire point is that BB doesn' even bother to acknowledge that "non-interventionist politics" costs lives.

Which is why you guys never discuss how, despite the death toll, Kurd and Shia Iraqis overwhelmingly support the US/UK enforced regime change.

1/26/2008 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Malky Muscular said...

Since Marko (affectionately, I think) cites me as one of those who "stereotypes" the Eustonauts for calling everyone they don't like "fascists" in that post, I thought I'd respond. Sadly, I can't see any mechanism for doing so on his page, so I'll crave your indulgence - I suspect he drops in here from time to time.

Put it this way - I'll stop taking the piss out of you and your pals when you stop manufacturing an imaginary Ba'ath-sucking Left out of two bloggers, a few silly pundits and some assorted twats you met on the internet.*

Deal?

*Incidentally, this gives me an idea for a great money making opportunity - Politically Irrelevant Internet Dating.

Decents! Anti-Imperialists! Looking for that special someone to share the rest of your belligerent, incoherent lives? Sick and tired of those fake Mister Rights who go floppy after only three or four comments?

Why not apply to Malky The Matchmaker, and find everlasting happiness bickering with somebody you truly hate?

Your money back is guaranteed if you aren't engaged in a nasty, intractable flame war about Israel/Palestine by this time next week!

1/26/2008 12:19:00 AM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

Rwanda had a humanitarian intervention. It was called "Operation Turquoise", carried out by the French government. It was a politically motivated, badly organised operation which ended up protecting the wrong side and causing more fatalities than it prevented. In other words, the normal kind of humanitarian intervention.

In other posts, I have noted that all of the successes of intervention and all the failures of nonintervention seem to inhabit a special copunterfactual realm only accessible via Decent TARDIS.

1/26/2008 12:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the 'decent' take on that is that the violence in Iraq is intrinsic to muslims and has nothing to do with the invasion

Is "Harry" considered a "representative voice" amongst this site?

I'm just trying to gauge how widespread his ignorance and/or denial is.

The whole point of "Decentism" is the belief that all people share fundamental basic rights - first and foremost being the right to participate in how you are governed.

It was a section of the "anti-war" movement which argued that democracy would never work in Iraq because they're Arabs

1/26/2008 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Malky Muscular said...

The whole point of "Decentism" is the belief that all people share fundamental basic rights - first and foremost being the right to participate in how you are governed.

Pardon me if I've got this wrong, but hasn't the Iraq/Afghanistan example suggested that how you are governed after Decentism equals by theocrats and at gunpoint?

Let me know if I've made a mistake.

1/26/2008 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

([Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia] put an end to a genocide as brutal in its savagery as the nazi's were clinical)

But your list of accredited interveners doesn't include Vietnam, so I am at a loss to understand why you felt Cambodia helped make your point, quite apart from the fact that the earlier US "intervention" killed hundreds of thousands of people there.

You say that the G8, permanent Security Council members and "liberal democracies" should be allowed to intervene. Are you keen on Russia's Chechnyan intervention? How about China's attack on Vietnam in response to their invasion of Cambodia?

"Are you seriously suggesting violence in Iraq decreased following the invasion?"

No, I'm not.


You are attacking "non-interventionism" because it "means less violence for 'us', not for... Iraqis pre-liberation". The only remaining possibility is that the amount of violence remained the same — another factually absurd claim, quite apart from its implications for your argument.

You persist in implying that Iraq somehow bolsters the case for interventionism. It doesn't if the body count has any bearing on the matter. That stands regardless of Iraqi support for the occupation (which is hardly as clear-cut as you suggest).

1/26/2008 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

by the way, by the standards used to judge the "surge" in Iraq, Rwanda can only be counted as an extraordinary success story for Operation Turquoise - it is a far more functional democracy today than Iraq, at significantly smaller cost in lost lives.

1/26/2008 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Is there a connection between the poverty of an argument and the inability to attach a name to it?

1/26/2008 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Put it this way - I'll stop taking the piss out of you and your pals when you stop manufacturing an imaginary Ba'ath-sucking Left out of two bloggers, a few silly pundits and some assorted twats you met on the internet.*

Deal?'

No deal, comrade; barring one or two unkind comments about individuals, Decentpedia is a lot of fun, and I wouldn't want to see it stop. You might correct the misspelling of my name, though. Unless it's a deliberate piss-take, in which case, carry on...

1/26/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Harry said...

I'm just trying to gauge how widespread his ignorance and/or denial is

In what way was I wrong to characterise a section of decent rationalisation of the post-war violence as "the fault of the Iraqis or the Iranians or the Syrians or indeed anyone but the cunts who supported the war in the first place"?

1/26/2008 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

I am not 100% happy with the concept of our comments section being used as a proxy to get round Marko's refusal to have one, and might start expressing that unhappiness through the medium of either interpretative dance or the delete button

1/27/2008 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

No deal, comrade

To be honest, I'd far rather that the Decent Left slunk back into the fringe parties that spawned them, rather than continue to exercise their disproportionate influence on British politics.

I far prefer mocking mad reactionaries, who at least say what they mean, to playing whack-a-mole with the mad contortions of modern English employed by middle-aged former radicals extroverting their midlife crises.

I may be a sarcastic bastard, but I really do yearn for a less offensive political atmosphere, in which my intelligence isn't constantly insulted. In my perfect, idealised world, it would be possible for reasonable people to object to American foreign policy, for instance, without being attacked for fellating Saddam Hussein - essentially, a world where blogs like Aaronovitch Watch are redundant.

BB - apologies, it is a bit off to take up a beef with other people in your space. This is the last time.

1/27/2008 12:49:00 AM  
Anonymous bb said...

that's a pity, as I was just really beginning to get happy with the choreography. by the way, don't take any comments policy round here seriously - I use the comments section for big unrelated flamewars like that Butterflies & Wheels one so I am hardly well placed to criticise others.

I do think it is really lame of Marko to not have a comments section on his own blog but then to be giving it all that in ours (and would be very interested to know if he is the "anonymous" Decent bloke who keeps showing up and shares his writing style, as that would be lame beyond lame).

1/27/2008 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

Since the lengthy exchange we had here in November, I've only actually posted one comment here at AW (not counting this one), which is the one above. I've never posted here anonymously.

I entirely agree - it would be very lame of me not to have comments on my blog, and then to come over here to reply at length when you criticise me. That's partly why, since November, I haven't responded here to any of the posts about me. In principle, I think you should be able to criticise someone without them turning up to fill up your comments box every time...

1/27/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr Paul said...

What puzzles me about the Decents is that they tend only to support a war once it's nearly here or underway. This is surely betraying a rather cautious approach in the face of important global matters.

If it requires Western military intervention to get rid of such nasty characters as Miloshevich or Saddam Hussein -- that seems to be the Decent approach -- then that is likely to be the case with other nasty politicians. So during the Burmese events last year the Decents should logically been calling for a Nato or UN, or just plain USA/UK, force to invade Burma and replace the junta with some more amenable type of regime.

They should also be arguing for an attack on nasty Iran (perhaps some already are), nasty Saudi Arabia, and -- logically speaking, seeing what a very nasty regime it is -- China.

1/27/2008 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I really do yearn for a less offensive political atmosphere, in which my intelligence isn't constantly insulted.

I think it's about war, real and metaphorical. It's about not using war as a standard instrument of foreign policy, but it's also about not making ideological war on people who disagree with you.

It's about not conducting yourself in an atmosphere of high-pitched enemy-seeking. Not seeking to discredit everybody you can on the basis of whom they have to lunch. Not slinging round terms like "fascism" and "terrorism" in order make intelligent discussion impossible. Not dealing in what people supposedly "imply" rather than what they actually say. Not conducting political discussion as if it were an interrogation or a court-martial or a purge. Not insisting that people disassociate themselves from people with whom they actually do not agree. Not trying to limit legitimate political discourse to that section of opinion which shares your basic outlook. Not failing to understand the difference between lending somebody limited support in closely defined circumstances and being a fully-fledged supporter of same. Not obsessing over minutae, long-forgotten documents and long-abandoned political allegiances in order to demonstrate connections or hidden opinions which if properly understood would reveal one's adversaries as the handmaidens of evil. Not going out of one's way to give other people a chasing. In short, it is about not conducting oneself in the manner of Engage or Bernardo Gui's Place.

To me, fanaticism isn't about a particular point on the political compass or distance from the political mainstream. It's about method, about one's approach to one's own opinions and the opinions of others.

The thing that, to me, was truly frightening about the war in Spain was not such violence as I witnessed, nor even the party feuds behind the lines, but the immediate reappearance in left-wing circles of the mental atmosphere of the Great War. The very people who for twenty years had sniggered over their own superiority to war hysteria were the ones who rushed straight back into the mental slum of 1915. All the familiar wartime idiocies, spy-hunting, orthodoxy-sniffing (Sniff, sniff. Are you a good anti-Fascist?), the retailing of atrocity stories, came back into vogue as though the intervening years had never happened.

1/28/2008 08:18:00 AM  
Anonymous johnf said...

i They should also be arguing for an attack on nasty Iran (perhaps some already are), nasty Saudi Arabia, and -- logically speaking, seeing what a very nasty regime it is -- China.

Shouldn't Israel be mentioned in this list? I'll bring it up with Melanie Phillips next time I see her.

1/28/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It's about method, about one's approach to one's own opinions and the opinions of others.

Yes, absolutely. It's about (among other things) celebrating intolerance without actually giving it that name. It reminds me of the Italian Communist Party's foray into respectability in the late 70s. They used to proclaim their commitment to freedom, democracy and open debate immediately before denouncing anyone who was foolish or wicked enough to attack the Italian Communist Party, thereby threatening the very bastion of freedom, democracy and open debate. It got to the point where they would openly call for intolerance to be swept away, or for hostility not to be permitted. All the while, of course, they'd proclaim their willingness to debate with anyone any time - subject only to the precondition of a clear and open dissociation from... you know the kind of thing.

1/28/2008 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

You know how you go to the supermarket for some milk, and you buy loads of stuff while you're there and when you get home and you've forgotten to buy the milk you actually went for?

Anyway, that whole long posting and I forgot the word denunciation, which was the one I wanted in the first place. That's what I'm against. Not only that, obviously, but that's basically what I'd like to see a lot less of. Denunciation and the politics of denunciation. It's horrid and it's poisonous.

1/28/2008 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

"Not trying to limit legitimate political discourse to that section of opinion which shares your basic outlook."

Oh yes indeed. Kamm is particularly keen on this, hence his frequent invocation of Sidney Hook, who was both a soi-disant Marxist and a cold war liberal. You can also see it in his discussions of the bombing of Hiroshima, his assertion that support for Israel should be a liberal axiom, and indeed his absurd self-description as a 'left-winger'. In each case, he is seeking to characterise his opponents not just as incorrect, but as beyond the pale of civilised discussion. And in his case the parameters of civilised discussion are skewed so far to the right that he can indeed self-describe as a 'left-winger' without seeing any humour in so doing.

1/28/2008 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Guys, not being funny but this wonderful site could be so much improved with a decent comment system (rather than blogger and having to type 15 random letters)

Haloscan?

1/29/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Now don't be too hasty chaps... Surely Marko's Moral Ostracism:

Is it really defensible to publicise fascist or racist websites, simply because one finds them interesting or informative ?

has unlimited application to, oh I dunno, Norman Geras? Will Marko condemn Norm?

[Not an original observation, but one worth repeating ad nauseam, I think.]

1/29/2008 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Do you actually think Kamm believes himself to be left-wing? I'd always assumed that claim was just a dishonest tactic. But I guess that supposes a level of self-awareness at odds with his eye-watering prose style.

1/29/2008 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Ann On said...

Tremendous examples of Nick cohen mentalism (1) at New Statesman letters page

http://www.newstatesman.com/letters

(I think he must have been sacked from the Statesman as a columnist, as the "Nick goes out and about" trick failed to stop him being potty, so now he needs to write letters)

and (2) in the current Arena, a fantastic interview with Amis - compare and contrast with J Hari's interview

1/31/2008 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Malky Muscular said...

While we're all a-linkin', this 'un might be of interest to some folks...

http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2004/08/and_an_excision.html

Virtue and omniscience... I imagine the response writes itself.

1/31/2008 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

"While adding some links this week, I have also removed the link to the Crooked Timber weblog of assorted academics. This will be a matter of indifference to its authors, who have never linked to this site, so I'm at liberty to explain the excision with no risk of causing the distress that my strictures ought properly to elicit."

Dear old Oliver Kamm! When only a few words will do, Oliver adds dozens in that strangely fusty tone of his.

2/01/2008 04:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Niko said...

Have you seen Nick's interview with Martin Amis? It's a new low I think.

2/01/2008 10:43:00 AM  

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