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December 19, 2005

Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - How followers of the counter-culture have ended up both as pillars of the establishment and as opponents of freedom

Posted by Douglas Murray

The Social Affairs Unit has recently published Neoconservatism: Why We Need It by Douglas Murray. What follows is an excerpt from chapter 3 of Neoconservatism, 'Relativism and the Iraq war'. This chapter explains how followers of the counter-culture - by now pillars of the establishment - have ended up as opponents of freedom. In this excerpt Murray highlights the dubious moral judgements made by the Guardian, Terry Eagleton, Richard Gott, Arundhati Roy, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, John Pilger and Amnesty International.

We have in position today an entrenched status quo which is rooted in the counter-cultural. This is a modern problem, which has grown up because those who absorbed the counter-culture did not. An anti-conservative status quo is in power in swathes of the media and political governance. It revels in a mode of consensus which behaves as though it is brave and outspoken, but is truly not just powerful, but all-pervasive. Privileged insiders behave as though they are fascinating and dangerous outsiders. This is a status quo that is lazy and immoral, for it is a status quo that permits people to think they are brave for walking down a London street with two million other people, or dissident because they attack the President of the United States. It is a status quo rife, from the top down, with what Oriana Fallaci rightly terms 'phony revolutionaries' the sort of people who seriously believe that they are outside the establishment (and pathetically try to demonstrate as much) even when they are the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Prime Minister in waiting.

These are deep and complex social problems that need addressing. But what is neither deep nor complex, and can be addressed easily, are those people who have surfaced, thanks to the Iraq war, not as critics, but as opponents of British and western society. These people are people whom we should now discount. All societies have their enemies, but the pervasive methods of political correctness, equivalence and relativism have allowed these opponents of our society to become absorbed into the status quo and cosseted within our midst. Whether it is in the House of Commons, the BBC and British press, or in society at large, neoconservatives should lead the way in pointing the finger and isolating those who have, for too long, been allowed to get away with being traitors and opponents of the very country which gives them sanctuary.

Writing of an anti-British critique by an especially unpleasant Scots socialist, Roger Scruton once noted that the deliberate faults and excessive bitternesses in the man's work brought home a clear if uncomfortable fact that the writer in question was 'writing as an enemy'. Moral and practical problems emerge from this, but Scruton has hit on the only possible explanation and way of dealing with the extremes of violent hatred now routinely expressed in our newspapers, on our televisions and on our streets against the country itself.

Many of the people who equivalence and fudge their way through second-hand expressions of rage against Britain and America do so from an elementary attempt at moral seriousness, or as a first confused step through the mire of a moral landscape in which relativism seems the only creed. But many others, and those that lead such people, are simply haters of our society. They are haters for one of two reasons, neither of which is often expressed, but both of which are often thought. Firstly, there are those who attack the British way of life, and who desire the deaths and destruction of British people and the abnegation of Britain's responsibilities in the world because their ideology is socialist or some other variation of the communist idol they do not believe yet to be totally dead. Secondly, there are those who attack us because they feel no loyalty to the country: they are not a part of it, and do not truly desire to be so. The most interesting and revealing aspect of the Iraq war is that it has flushed out certain publications, which if they are to continue being tolerated must be read in the full knowledge that they harbour and publish Britain's enemies.

Of all the guilty mainstream organs, the Guardian is the one that most regularly publishes pieces which spiral ever lower into the moral cesspit. Its pages repeatedly host writers like the socialist Terry Eagleton, who (in an article entitled 'A Different Way of Death') has tried to absolve Palestinian suicide bombers of moral culpability for their murders by equating the manner of their deaths with that of the victims who leapt from the World Trade Center on 9/11, claiming that both killed themselves only because they have no other option. Though Eagleton is only a socialist, fellow Guardian contributors have even plainer loyalties to justify their equivalences. Richard Gott was brought in by the Guardian on the eve of the British general election to proclaim Tony Blair a 'war criminal' and to denounce the United States as a country 'that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s'.

What the Guardian did not, and would not, reveal, is that its columnist Gott is not simply a fellow-travelling socialist and Stalinist. When Gott is permitted the pages of the Guardian to lambaste Blair for allying with 'the evil empire' of America, it is not only equivalencing - it is active propaganda. For Richard Gott was outed by Oleg Gordievsky as a Soviet agent in the pay of the KGB. The Guardian did not, and would not, reveal such information when it published his anti-Bush and Blair piece. But it is worth reflecting that a major British newspaper has thus covered for a KGB spy, allowing him to accuse Britain and America of being an 'evil empire', even though it was aware that same writer had spent his life extolling the virtues of his paymaster, the real 'evil empire'. Since the Guardian would not have Nazi agents on its pay-lists, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the newspaper approves of people such as Gott, and of the genocidal regime they propped up. This is significant, because it allows us to reflect that this is not a paper that engages in legitimate criticism, but rather one that is bent on propaganda, on the dissemination of attacks on our country and our country's allies, and on the financing of those who have acted on behalf of one of the twin evils of the twentieth century. Through such acts as allowing communist stooges to libel elected democrats, the end point of relativism can be seen, and the need to uproot illegitimate sources of moral preaching becomes ever more urgent.

Among those who have been consistently hostile over the war in Iraq are people whose criticisms of British interests are not only ideological, but racial. When Arundhati Roy criticises Britain and America, we should note her descriptions of what Britain has done to 'us natives'. She is showing us that she is an opponent of us, because we are people she regards as colonialists and different to her. Likewise, the Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. When the handover of Iraqi sovereignty took place in June 2004, Alibhai-Brown confessed that 'there have been times when I wanted more chaos, more shocks, more disorder to teach our side a lesson. On Monday I found myself again hoping that this handover proves a failure because it has been orchestrated by the Americans.'

Alibhai-Brown is at least being honest in admitting that she wants more British and American troops and Iraqi civilians to die, and that the vindication of her own opinion is of more importance to her than the lives of these people. But her dishonesty in the passage comes in referring to 'our' side. It is clear from this passage, and many others throughout her career, that Alibhai-Brown is someone who dislikes Britain, and who is antagonistic to Britain. She believes us to be a country of racists and xenophobes, and remains discontent with her adopted country when it is not going in the awful direction in which she wants it to go. But in her desire for more of our soldiers to die, she demonstrates that, even though she lives in this country, she is not a part of it but, rather, an opponent of it.

This monumental modern confusion of morality, pseudery and lies is not helping Britain to get onto the right track. I said at the beginning of this chapter that the problem the very starting point for this confusion lies in the 'tyranny of relativism'. This tyranny, which mocks those who speak in absolutes, has demonstrated through the period of the years since 9/11 that relativism is not simply a game to sound clever, as some would have it, but the road to nihilism. It is the road along which the confused, the lost and the wicked have travelled for a generation. And it is a road that today has led many people to absolute hatred of the West, inversion of morality, and comprehensive nihilism.

The Mirror writer John Pilger was asked, in February 2004, which side those who opposed the war should be on, now that the Iraqi regime had been defeated. As someone who had built his career on moral judgements consisting of equivalences against the West, Pilger was faced with a simple choice the armed forces of Britain and America, or the so-called 'insurgents', a collection of gangs of remnant Ba'athist thugs, al-Qaeda terrorists, bandits, head-hackers, assassins of men, women and children. His answer could not have been clearer. 'Do you think the anti-war movement should be supporting Iraq's anti-occupation resistance?' he was asked. 'Yes, I do', Pilger answered. 'We cannot afford to be choosy.'

In May 2005 Amnesty International, an organisation that has morphed since its founding from a human rights organisation into a politically slanted campaigning group, described Guantanamo Bay as 'the gulag of our times'. Nothing could be done to persuade the organisation that equating Guantanamo, where nobody had been killed, with the Soviet gulag, in which 1530 million people were killed, was wrong or offensive. They did not mind that the claim was offensive to the families of the millions of innocent Russians murdered, and they certainly did not mind that they were telling a flagrant lie about America.

And in the same month the British press became aware of government plans to update Britain's Trident nuclear devices. The 10 billion bill was widely criticised, with many decrying such lavish outlay on modernising Britain's defence capability. But others went further. The Mirror published an article in which it was claimed that 're-arming on a grand scale after attacking Saddam Hussein over mythical weapons of mass destruction will reek of hypocrisy'. This is where relativism has led. It starts by encouraging the perception that Britain and her allies have no moral authority over terrorists, tyrants and genocidal dictatorships. It continues by excusing and then supporting the terrorists and tyrants. It finishes by saying why the terrorists and tyrants must win over us, and finally why we, as a nation, do not have the right to conquer evil or even defend ourselves. That is, it culminates with the desire that the terrorists should win and that evil should triumph.

Douglas Murray is a bestselling author and freelance journalist. The book from which the above has been excerpted - Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - has recently been published by the Social Affairs Unit.


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This argument is an over-long ad-hominem and will not cut any ice with those of us who are used to dealing with hard evidence. But that's the problem, isn't it? There isn't any.

The war was a bloody awful mistake and it was made primarily by neocons. Get over it, learn the lesson, and stop having these silly tantrums.

Posted by: 16words at December 19, 2005 07:22 PM
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This is a remarkably honest and hence admirable excerpt highlighting the strongest possible argument for the NeoCon position.

Initially it was going to get us Osama but it didn't; then wipe out the Taliban who remain fairly vigorous; then save us from weapons of mass destruction that never existed; then protect us from Saddam's regime in league with Al Qaeda except that they never had any likely contact; then regime change to one that promises to be a carbon copy of the old gang apart from being Shia rather than Sunni; then victory in Iraq while the casualties keep mounting and so forth. For awhile, drunk on hubris, they were going to keep invading and installing plug-n-play 'instant democracy' until either they reached the Pacific or else America and Britain ran out of live soldiers, whichever came first.

The only remaining argument in favour of the poor Neos is that they are (marginally) less hypocritical, incompetent and obnoxious than the worst losers that the Left has managed to produce in the West. Not too convincing, lads. Maybe back to Leo Strauss for a top-up?

Posted by: s masty at December 20, 2005 04:56 AM
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(1) Do we need Neo-Conservatism? Like a hole in the head! But then - Douglas Murray has identified a pretty serious brain tumour. But if one must operate, let us have real surgeons, not charlatans who got their M.D. out of a cereal packet (thank you, Oscar the Grouch, for that one!) and travel the world trepanning patients with diseases elsewhere in their anatomy.

(2) As for ad-hominem, those particular homines by their very participation actually detracted from arguments against the war in Iraq put forward by serious and sensible people who are on our side. Tony Benn's interview only served to convince us that Saddam did have WMD. Either Martin Bashir or Michael Jackson would have done a better job.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at December 20, 2005 09:00 PM
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An excellent posting. Britain lacks, most strikingly, a serious weekly or monthly magazine devoted to expounding the neo-conservative position in a British/European context. The Spectator certainly does not fill this role. The Daily Telegraph, as a daily newspaper, perhaps came closest when Lord Black was in charge of it. Maybe the Daily Mail today, in an in-your-face way. It is difficult to believe that a weekly or biweekly reflecting this position could not make a go of it, and would have ample targets.

Posted by: Prof. Bill Rubinstein at December 21, 2005 09:18 AM
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You know, it is really not worth responding to this neocon article because it doesn't really say anything substantive. It leaves one indifferent.

I like one comment that suggested "Maybe back to Leo Strauss for a top-up?"

Posted by: David Airth at January 17, 2006 04:24 PM
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It is duplicitous and pathetic of any British citizen to espose a neo-conservative position. Mr Murray may preach secularization and democratization of theocratic societies in the Middle East yet he himself is the torch bearer of one. Is Britain not itself a theocracy? Is it not a state entwined with religion? Mr Murray is a "practising Anglican", he tells the New York Sun. To align himself with the neoconservative movement - one driven by iconoclasm - when he himself is practitioner of a state religion is both sanctimonious and rather silly. We need democracy to usurp theocracy in the Middle East, but it can only be real democracies - United States, France - that can legitimately lead this charge. Mr Murray, I suggest you drop your adolescent aping of Mr Hitchens - the real deal as it were - and come back when you have a leg to stand on.

Posted by: Charles Sinclair at April 28, 2007 01:42 AM
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