Magazine article The Spectator

Power for Good

Magazine article The Spectator

Power for Good

Article excerpt

Radio

There's more than a whiff of anti-- Americanism in the air at the moment. You've only got to have a Republican president and out it all comes. The Left were becalmed when the old knee-trembler Clinton was groping his way across the Oval Office carpet but mention of the name George W. Bush and suddenly America is the evil empire.

The usual suspects were out in force in Straw Poll on Radio Four last week (Friday) which debated the motion: America's power is a power for good. It was held in the theatre of the American International University in London before an audience. I fully expected that the motion would be lost among the audience and it was, in the vote held at the end, by 70 per cent to 30. Never mind, I thought, listeners could vote by telephone and the result on Saturday's phone-in sequel would indicate that common sense had prevailed. Depressingly, for me, 61 per cent of Radio Four listeners who voted rejected the motion, 39 per cent supported it. Perhaps pro-Americans had better things to do on a Friday night and Saturday afternoon than to listen to Straw Poll; either that or anti-Americanism is more widespread than I had thought.

Defending the motion were Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King's College London, and Tom Reid, the London bureau chief of the Washington Post. Against were Professor Mary Kaldor of something called the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the LSE, and the anti-Israel and rather muddled George Joffe from the Centre for International Studies, Cambridge. Kaldor thought America had too much power which was incompatible with democracy and could not, for that reason, be a power for good. American power, she said, affects us all but we don't have any say in how it's used. She objected to the `language of the war against terror'. It had not tackled `the conditions that breed terror' and she didn't like the way America went about dealing with its enemies.

Listening to this breathtaking nonsense a delicious and subversive thought swam into view in my mind's eye. Supposing Kaldor had been sent to Afghanistan to, using her phrase, tackle the conditions that breed terror and talk Osama out of his declared intention of killing all Americans. Wearing her compulsory burqa it might have worked. She might just have beaten the Taleban into submission with her suffocating windbaggery and there might have been no 11 September. Why didn't we think of that before? …

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