Tuesday, October 10, 2006

American signers of Euston Manifesto launch New American Liberalism website

Last March a group of mostly British leftist and liberal writers, bloggers, intellectuals, and activists drafted and circulated for signature the Euston Manifesto, a statement in defense of liberal democracy and human rights while taking a firm stance against terrorism and rejecting anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism among other things. (“Euston” is the subway stop near the pub where the original group met to debate politics over beer.)

This summer, a number of the American signers drafted an American version of the statement that can be found here. The website, New American Liberalism, was launched today.

Cathy Young in yesterday’s Boston Globe:
TODAY'S POLITICAL scene is not a friendly place for people who don't see
the world in stark black-and-white categories -- people who, for instance,
strongly condemn human rights abuses toward detained terror suspects in United
States custody, but just as strongly reject the mentality that views the United
States as the chief perpetrator of human rights abuses in the world today. Now,
some of the politically homeless are building a home of their own, known as the
Euston Manifesto.

The manifesto, which can be found at eustonmanifesto.org, was authored
last March by a group of British academics, journalists, and activists headed by
Norman Geras, emeritus professor of politics at Manchester University. In
September, a group of American supporters of the manifesto issued their own
statement, ``American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto."

The signatories of the Euston Manifesto, American and international,
stress that there is no consensus among them on some key policy issues,
including the military intervention in Iraq. What brings them together is a
commitment to liberal values in the broadest sense of the word -- and an
understanding that these values must be defended from the grave threat of
radical Islamist terrorism.

The American statement explicitly compares today's situation to the
Cold War. Then, as today, many on the left regarded the use of US power as
immoral and the two sides in the global conflict as morally equivalent, shying
away from the notion that Western democracies were engaged in a struggle against evil.

Cold War liberals such as Harry Truman, the statement notes,
successfully battled totalitarianism of the left as well as the right,
ultimately resulting in the defeat of both Nazism and communism: ``The key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs in our time stems from radical
Islamism and the jihadist terrorism it has unleashed."

The American signatories are harshly critical of the Bush administration, noting that ``President Bush did not seize the moment after 9/11 to bridge the political divide. Rather than govern from the center, he has governed from the right in the realms of taxation, energy policy, global warming, Social Security, the role of religion, and culture war issues."

They also deplore the conduct of the war on terror: ``We recognize that
in the management of the war, the Bush administration has erred egregiously in
ways -- at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere -- that undermine the very
values for which this war must be fought and won. Tolerance for torture or
ambiguity about the application of the Geneva conventions is both wrong and

However, the statement also has some harsh words for liberals who
``remain more focused on the misdeeds and errors of our own government in Iraq
than on the terrorist outrages by Islamic extremists." It makes the eminently
sensible point that ``anger at the Bush administration, however justified,
should not trump opposition to all aspects of jihadism." The original manifesto,
while critical of US abuses, also condemns ``the anti-Americanism now infecting
so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking." The American statement
follows suit, deploring anti-Americanism as ``a low and debased

Will a statement by a group of academics and journalists have much of a
political impact?

Only time will tell. Many influential movements have started small. A
liberalism that upholds the basic values of Western civilization, and recognizes
them as worth defending, is sorely needed in today's political

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