Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Three Weddings and a Funeral

Four apparently disconnected events in the past few days have served as the bellweather in the crisis called the Global War on Terror, a name now too narrow to be apt, because it has entailed a confrontation not only between terror and civilization but also Muslims and Christians, Left and Right, Democracy and Facism, the Old World and the New and much else. The four events are the George Galloway testimony before the US Senate; the survival through questionable constitutional tactics of the Liberal Government in Canada; the retraction by Newsweek of its Koran-flushing story and finally, the events in Uzbekistan.

The thread common to Galloway, the manuevers of the Canadian Paul Martin administration and Newsweek article is the extent to which the once-magisterial Left is now resorting to the shrillest and cheapest tactics as defensive maneuvers. Take George Galloway. His grandstand performance before the Coleman committee was brilliant employment of a weak hand. Galloway understood his weakness on substantive issues and turned his testimony into a screed, attempting to change the ground of the debate. It was wonderful theater, but still a weak hand. The Coleman hearings are about Oil For Food; lost in the noise is the essential fact that Galloway was a loose cannon under oath. In his blather he has connected some dots which are going to stay connected, long after Galloway's fifteen minutes of media fame have faded. I think George Galloway will see his theatrical performance replayed more often than he would like.

The survival of Paul Martin's government, shaken by scandal after scandal,  has been bought at the price of violating the spirit of the Westminister system by ignoring after what was effectively a vote of no-confidence until they could bribe someone to cross the aisle to square the count. Martin survived but only by bending the rulebook. A Canadian conservative victory without Martin's shennanigans would have been an unremarkable and narrow electoral triumph. But the Liberal Party of Canada's actions now mean that the issues dividing political factions in the Great White North are fundamental. By demonstrating a determination to hold on to power at all costs Martin is increasing the likelihood of a radical, rather than an incremental solution to the Canadian crisis.

The Newsweek affair was, in its way, a demonstration of how the mighty have fallen. The Koran-flushing story can only be understood in the context of the media's unexpected failure to play is accustomed role in the shaping the agenda on the War on Terror, the debate over the United Nations and above all, the 2004 elections. Watching Newsweek build a vaporous story and getting caught out is like seeing a once great prize-fighter resorting to eye-gouging, headbutting and ear-biting on his inevitable slide down into the undercard. Like Galloway and Martin, the Newsweek performance is one of ferocity, but ferocity in decline. There was a time when the Left was represented by the Jaures and the Jean Paul Sartres. Franco Molina once wrote a line for a Para general in the Battle of Algiers: 'Why is it that the Sartres are all born on the other side?" The Left could afford to speak down to its critics. But if Solina had waited a few decades more he would have seen them replaced by George Galloway, Michael Moore, Robert Fisk and Ward Churchill, who now await only the arrival of Bozo the Clown to become the Five Amigos.

The bad news comes not from the headlines but the backpages, in Uzbekistan where it is possible that the United States, in throwing in with President Karimov, has entered into a tactical alliance with a tyrant against radical Islamism: making him an ally -- yes -- but a tyrant just the same. Dan Darling at Winds of Change lays the case out dispassionately for his quondam utility and possible future liability.

Karimov runs an exceedingly tight and draconian ship, but until quite recently ... the majority of the population was hesitant about standing up to him either because they thought that he may be a tyrant and a strongman, but that in so doing he held the country together and prevented it from descending into chaos. ... This is one of the reasons why this protest/rebellion, regardless of the cause, is such a significant development: it means that for a growing number of Uzbeks, the view of Karimov as being a necessary evil has now weakened to the point where large numbers of them are able to protest or even take up arms against his government, with the latter in particular being a pretty big indication that somebody in Uzbekistan thinks they have a chance of bringing down his regime. ... The willingness to stand up to Karimov (the fact that these protests are even occurring is a sign of the impotency of his fearsome police state) is probably a good thing in the long run in the sense of eventually producing a stable democracy in the country. On the flip side, it also provides some definite windows of opportunity for Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the IMU to exploit if they can move quickly, since both groups have been at the forefront of visible opposition to the regime.

This survey of events suggests (and it just my opinion) that the real strategic danger to the cause of freedom and democracy isn't from the noisemakers of the Left but from the temptation to betray principles for tactical gain. It lies on the very same path that Galloway, Martin and Newsweek, in their cunning, have taken. The Left hitched its wagon to the worst men of the 20th and 21st century and it is dragging them into the dustbin of history. Let's go the other way.