Something tragic and horrifying has happened to the Left—something that was visible long before September 11, 2001, though the events of that dreadful day served only to confirm it. It strengthened with the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam. Now, with conservative parties confirmed as the people’s government of choice in both Australia and the USA, it’s broken out all over. For years the Left has merely been irrational; now it has finally gone insane.
The Left’s future looks even blacker, Foot observes, for:
Sometime in the course of the twenty-first century, and probably sooner rather than later, the Left will have to confront the fact that it made the wrong call on almost every geo-political event of global significance during the previous hundred years. Coming to terms with this reality is going to be extremely painful for such rational members of the Left as still remain on deck. Knowing in its heart that the revolution would never come to its own neighbourhood, and never really wanting it to, the Left derived a heady, vicarious satisfaction from watching it blossom in suitably distant rice paddies, jungles, steppes, urban hellholes and deserts. Every time, regular as clockwork, the revolution turned up the newest thing in killing fields…
from the perspective of the generation that radicalised in the 1960s and 1970s, the most mortifying realisation, still looming, is that it was also wrong about Vietnam. Vietnam was our defining experience; it made us what we became, and usually what we remained. Vietnam was our seven years in the college of the Jesuits, even if it was not the first seven but the third that encompassed our incarceration—we were aged fourteen to twenty-one, give or take a few years either way. Vietnam shaped our attitudes to politics, authority, tradition, religion, the values of our parents, even our taste in music and art. It’s inconceivable that we could have got it wrong.
Sadly for us, and infinitely more tragically for the Vietnamese, it seems we did. Looking back on it, it’s difficult to see why it should have been so hugely, awesomely wrong for the United States to send troops to South Vietnam to protect its ally—indeed, its client—from invasion by the nightmarish Stalinist regime to the north, and from destabilisation, or worse, by its insurgent surrogates in the south. True to its founding principles (then, as now), the USA put up tens of thousands of its best and bravest, and lost them.
At the same time, it had to endure a media barrage unknown by any nation previously at war, where every fault on its part was endlessly magnified, and every atrocity by the enemy largely ignored. No wonder it eventually withdrew. Such was the fragility of “US imperialism”—the all-powerful behemoth imagined into existence by the Left all those years ago, and which has remained the central plank of its radical platform ever since.
Not long after North Vietnam’s victory in 1976, when reports of the re-education camps, torture of American POWs and forced trans-migration from the cities began to surface, some at least on the Left found reserves of decency enough to protest, including some veteran anti-war activists. This isn’t what we were fighting for, they said, helpless, angry and ashamed. Maybe not: but that was what the North had been fighting for…
..the reality of catastrophic error, repeated through three full generations, is simply unbearable. Endlessly self-righteous, unwaveringly convinced of their own rectitude, their folly is best summed up in the famous words of one who, from the very first, knew them better than they were ever to know themselves: “Useful idiots”, said Lenin, flicking them off with curt contempt. The Left must have thought he was talking about somebody else.
A must read.