The Right Coast

February 06, 2004
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Mark Steyn has it right on Iraq in the (London) Daily Telegraph today. (I won't seriously apologise for my frequent Steyn-endorsements, not that he exactly needs my endorsements. Read the whole thing, as we say.)

What Steyn alludes to in the piece is that Tony Blair has in fact had a very bad couple of weeks in Britain, despite, or rather because of, Blair's complete vindication in the Hutton report. (Hutton is a Law Lord -- roughly a Supreme Court Justice -- who chaired an investigation of BBC "reporting" against Blair on Iraq, and on the suicide of a Defence Department scientist who was publicised, and as it turns out misrepresented, by the BBC.)

Predictably perhaps, the British Left is expressing more, not less, loathing for Blair having been disappointed that Hutton did not plump for the Left's view of things. (For one small example of the climate on today's British left, have a look at any recent print edition of the London Review of Books, if you have the stomach for it, which carries a regular full-colour ad for "BLIAR" tee-shirts.)

But it's not just the enraged Left in Britain. There also seem to be a lot of Conservatives (and conservatives) who loathe Blair enough -- he heads a Labour government after all, however mutinous his troops -- to attack him to the Leftist lyrics of "lying" about Iraq and being a stooge for that warmongering moron in the White House. Have a look (more stomach will be required) at last week's edition of the Spectator (click "Back Issues": 31 January 04). The Spectator is generally said to be one of the best-written weeklies in Britain. It is High Tory, always deeply suspicious of European federalism. It often has an old-Tory condescension towards America, and its articles sometimes veer towards anti-semitism: attitudes common to parts of the Right and the Left in Britain. This issue of the Spectator is thick with articles denouncing Blair, America, and the Iraq war. It may be a kind of English parochialism at work: Blair is close at hand and we know we despise him; and we have always sneered at America. Why think too hard about whether Iraq has been rescued from a grotesque tyranny, and whether Saddam Hussein's fall might not be draining at least some lunacy from the Arab and Moslem worlds, for example in Libya? These are countries and quarrels far away, of whom we know nothing.

Such parochialism, paradoxically, links up with a spreading climate in Britain that may now be more European (in the Chirac-Schroeder anti-American sense) than many Americans realise.

Meanwhile, there is a broader question of whether being proved wrong in politics makes people less, or rather more, uncritically devoted to their cause. The Hutton vindication is just one example: it didn't diminsh, it increased, the baying for Tony Blair's head. Far less parochially: there is a serious case that the fall of Soviet Communism has led to a bigger, shriller, more uncritical, cruder, and more know-nothing Left in Europe, in the United States, and around the world.

This is where the village atheist might point out that Christianity did not collapse -- on the contrary, it found new strength -- when the prompt Second Coming, which had been imminently expected by the first Christians, failed to take place.

Then again, the early Church Fathers had something a bit more sophisticated to offer than "BLIAR".