Friday, September 15, 2006


I'm not going to track it down, but I think I owe another hat tip to Matt Yglesias. (Fanboy? Me?) Tony Judt in the London Review of Books. He's writing to a European audience about the poor state of liberalism in the U.S. He has some pretty sharp things to say about "liberal hawks" and strong-but-wrong moderates who prefer a tough stance to a thoughtful argument.

I have written a couple of approving words here and there about human rights as an organizing principle for foreign policy. So this quote caught my eye:

In the European case this trend is an unfortunate by-product of the intellectual revolution of the 1980s, especially in the former Communist East, when ‘human rights’ displaced conventional political allegiances as the basis for collective action. The gains wrought by this transformation in the rhetoric of oppositional politics were considerable. But a price was paid all the same. A commitment to the abstract universalism of ‘rights’ – and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name – can lead all too readily to the habit of casting every political choice in binary moral terms. In this light Bush’s War against Terror, Evil and Islamo-fascism appears seductive and even familiar: self-deluding foreigners readily mistake the US president’s myopic rigidity for their own moral rectitude.

(I didn't realize Vaclav Havel had endorsed the invasion of Iraq. Another hero bites the dust.)

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