“What’s Left?” is the title of a forthcoming book by Nick Cohen. It’s not available yet in the U.S., but an article adapted from a speech by Michael Gove presents a fascinating argument based on the book. According to Gove, Cohen and a small group of like-minded authors and intellectuals who have roots in the English left have turned against trendy anti-Americanism and are instead willing to criticize Islamic fanaticism. (Washington’s own favorite import from Merrie Old England, Christopher Hitchens, described as “everyone’s favourite drink-soaked Trotskyist popinjay,” is cited as being among them.)
“A distinguished array of thinkers and writers who have grown up attached to left-wing principles of equality, secularism, respect for universal human rights, opposition to religious obscurantism and support for liberal democracy have been finding their voices in the last five years. Since the atrocities of 9/11 have focused the world’s attention on the murderous tactics and mediaeval ideology of Islamist terrorists, a number of figures on the left have felt moved to denounce what they see as the, at best, equivocal and, at worst, morally complicit treatment of extremism by many of their former comrades.
“This week sees the publication of one of the most powerful denunciations of the manner in which the Left has lost its way. Nick Cohen’s “What’s Left?” scrupulously anatomises the way in which anti-Americanism, and the doctrine that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, has driven people whose political inspiration was a belief in progress to make excuses for forces that are trying to use murder to propel us back into the Dark Ages. As he argues,
‘Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal Left is against come from the liberal Left? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-Right?'”