Here is a new Update from ZNet with some news and an essay by Edward Herman.
(1) The first DVD in the series culled from the Z SESSIONS ON VISION & STRATEGY is now available from Z Video Productions. “Participatory Economics in Practice & Theory” features two talks, each just under an hour in length. In “Worker Occupied Factories in
(2) We are currently working on a massive makeover of the ZNet site. This will not only update the look and greatly improve the navigation, but will also add many new features and facilities. It should go online in January, or perhaps early February. At that time we will do a correspondingly massive appeal for new sustainers. Perhaps you would like to sign up early - we could certainly use the help now and we promise, when you see the new system you will be happy to be sustaining it! For information about our susxtainer program please see: http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm
And here is a typical ZNet Sustainer commentary of the sort we mail out nightly...
The Liberals Answer Tony Judt’s “Useful Idiots” Charge
Edward S. Herman
Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin (A-G) have replied to Tony Judt’s “Bush’s Useful Idiots...The Strange Death of Liberal America” (London Review of Books, September 21, 2006) (1), in a piece entitled “We Answer to the Name of Liberals” (American Prospect, Web Exclusive, October 18, 2006) (2). Many liberal signatories have added their names to this reply (3).
What in particular elicited this reply was Judt’s statement that liberals have “acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy,” which A-G say is as nonsensical as the rightwing claim that liberals are “stooges for Osama bin Laden.” Contrary to Judt, claim A-G, “most” liberals have “stayed the course...[and] consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration,” adhering firmly to the “liberal principles” Bush has repudiated. This short comment examines that claim.
First, A-G say that “We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise and destructive of America’s moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to horrific, unjustifiable violence was amply demonstrated by the September 11 attacks…” It should be noted that the “all” who have signed on here (through October 23rd) as opposing the war does not include a large number of prominent liberals, including Paul Berman, David Corn, George Packer, Jean Beth Elshtain, Michael Walzer, Marc Cooper, Peter Beinart, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick, Jacob Weisberg., and Michael Berube, among others.
There is also the question of the form and intensity of opposition to the war. Quite a few liberals, including Todd Gitlin, distanced themselves from the antiwar protests that took place before the war on the grounds of their improper leadership (ANSWER), and spent a great deal of time on, and got excellent mainstream media coverage of, their criticisms of the protests. In an article on “The Liberal Quandry Over Iraq,” in the New York Times Magazine of December 8, 2002, George Packer stressed the “serious liability” of the ongoing antiwar protest “that will just about guarantee its impotence.” It is controlled by “the farthest reaches of the American Left,” people who don’t feel it necessary to explain how “to keep this mass murderer [Packer means Saddam, not Bush] and his weapons in check..” Packer concludes that “This is not a constructive liberal antiwar movement.” His liberal interviewees were also in a quandary and agreed with Packer on the sorry state of the organized war opposition. Their opposition to the war, in short, was compromised at best.
Note also that A-G don’t assert that the
Second, as regards the Middle East, A-G state that “We believe that the state of Israel has the fundamental right to exist, free of military assault, within secure borders close to those of 1967,” and that the U.S. government has a special responsibility to achieve peace. “Fundamental right to exist” as a Jewish state with racist laws, or to be free from aggression? Tony Judt has been accused of supporting opponents of
Note also that A-G criticize only the Bush policies toward Israel and Palestine, not that of the Clinton and earlier U.S. administrations, which have all been supportive of Israeli ethnic cleansing and racism, and via their unstinting military and diplomatic support of Israel have been co-responsible for the many-decades-long failure to implement an international consensus on the solution. Despite this collusion, A-G say that the
Third, the “liberal answer” stresses that although “war must be a last resort,” the use of force is sometimes justified, as in
The A-G notion that in
The “liberal answer” claims next that Bush’s “emphatic reliance on military intervention is illegitimate and counterproductive,” it “degrades the national defense,” and ignores the “imperative necessity of building an international order that peacefully addresses the aspirations of rising power in Asia and
One of the signers of the A-G statement, Michael Tomasky, executive editor of The American Prospect, has explained that the Democrats need to prove themselves on national security by vigorously supporting “democracy promotion” as a national objective (in his chapter in George Packer, The Fight Is For Democracy [Harper Perennial: 2003]). Presumably in the hands of the Democrats there will be no “misapplications” in the use of force, and the Albright statement suggestive of a ready willingness to use force can be ignored. This will help justify the built-in vast military budget, and will provide a cover for an imperial projection of power under proper auspices (Bush is keen on democracy promotion also, but tends to misapplications). So the power structure dictates an interventionary foreign policy and the problem for the liberals is to construct their own distinctive rationale for interventionism that is presumably compatible with liberal values and will not be “a prescription for empire.” (See my “George Packer and the Struggle to Support Imperialism,” Z Magazine, Jan. 28, 2005)(6)
A-G say that “The misapplication of military power also imperils American freedom at home.” Presumably its approved application--approved by A-G--poses no threat to American freedom. But the “good guys” (the Democrats) are not always in power, and they are always under pressure to show that they are not weak on “security,” so that, contrary to A-G and Tomasky, they can “misapply” military power as often as the Republicans (a Democrat escalated the Vietnam War in 1962 and a successor Democrat got us into that war on a full scale in 1965).
In short, an imperial and militarized state will use its military power relentlessly, and the feedback effects of this chronic warfare are inevitably going to entail encroachments on domestic freedom. But A-G can’t confront this deeper relationship and challenge militarism and the imperial state. They adapt to it, and in the process “liberal principles” are compromised and thrust aside, and the liberals do in fact serve as the imperial state’s “useful idiots.”