Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Aghast at the Left. (Politics & Government)

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Aghast at the Left. (Politics & Government)

Article excerpt

"Can There Be a Decent Left?" by Michael Walzer, in Dissent (Spring 2002), 310 Riverside Dr., No. 1201, New York, N.Y. 10025.

Was 9/11 "blowback" for American misdeeds abroad? Obviously, shouted Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, and many likeminded others. The U.S. war in Afghanistan? An imperialist adventure, most declared. Such responses have led Walzer, coeditor of the socialist journal Dissent and an eminence grise of the American Left, to an anguished inquiry into the current "indecency" on that side of the spectrum.

"Maybe the guilt produced by living in [the sole superpower] and enjoying its privileges makes it impossible to sustain a decent (intelligent, responsible, morally nuanced) politics," he writes. "Maybe festering resentment, ingrown anger, and self-hate are the inevitable result of the long years spent in fruitless opposition to the global reach of American power. Certainly, all those emotions were plain to see in the Left's reaction to September 11, in the failure to register the horror of the attack or to acknowledge the human pain it caused, in the...barely concealed glee that the imperial state had finally gotten what it deserved." Although many leftists subsequently "recovered their moral balance," Walzer says, "many more" did not.

The Left long ago "lost its bearings," Walzer says. Its critique of U.S. foreign policy--"most clearly, I think, from the Vietnam years forward (from the time of 'Amerika,' Viet Cong flags, and breathless trips to North Vietnam)--has been stupid, overwrought, grossly inaccurate. …

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