Nick Cohen has written a new book. It's called What's Left? How the Liberals Lost their Way. It will be published in February. I have read it; it's excellent, and you should pre-order it now. The book dissects the oddity - and the scandal - of how segments of the Left, in their willingness to discern progressive qualities in the most reactionary causes, went over to the other side of the political divide. The subject is serious, but the personalities and opinions are often laughable, and there is much wit as well as eloquence in Nick's account.
I've thought a lot about this subject too. One of the reasons I started this blog was to document the convergence of a type of left-wing thinking with traditional conservative isolationism and reaction. Having read a lot of this type of material, I draw two main conclusions: the phenomenon is not confined to the political fringes; and it refutes the charge made by Noam Chomsky (in Class Warfare, 1996, p. 30, among other places) that to charge someone with being anti-American "exhibits a totalitarian streak that's pretty dramatic".
In fact, "anti-Americanism" is a reasonable and accurate term for a reflexive hostility to the United States on both wings of the supposed political spectrum. If you doubt this, look at two examples from across the Atlantic, which I deliberately select because they are anti-American beyond reasonable argument. Saddam Hussein's lawyer, Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General, believes - as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out - that his client ordered a massacre in 1982 in the town of Dujail and was justified in doing so. Clark's record of defending war criminals - defending them politically, and not in the standard legal sense in which everyone has the right to fair trial and the best available representation - exemplifies the type of sentiment I mean. Among many reasons for admiring the resolution of Iraq's legal system in convicting Saddam Hussein is the judge's ejection of Clark from the court for his insults against the workings of justice in a sovereign and independent nation.
Take, as a second example, a loud and ludicrous figure called Justin Raimondo, a leading figure in the Anti-War. com web site and contributor to Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine. Christopher Hitchens - again - has the measure of this man in describing him as "a preening figure ... given to paeans in favor of [Charles] Lindbergh’s charismatic manliness and authority". Raimondo's supporters indignantly point out that this is not the same as explicitly endorsing Lindbergh's notorious Des Moines speech of September 1941, in which the aviator charged that America was being drawn into war by Great Britain, the Roosevelt administration and the Jews. But Raimondo does, in fact, go far beyond mere isolationism when considering America's fight against the Axis powers. In an article condeming the bombing of Hiroshima (his historical account is illiterate and should be ignored), Raimondo concluded: "It's at times like these that I tend to believe the wrong side won the war in the Pacific." (Raimondo takes as his justification the great science fiction novel The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. He misspells the author's name and certainly doesn't understand the book.)
These notions are bizarre, extreme and repugnant, but they are worth citing because they exemplify a genuine position in current political debate. We can call it, without exaggeration or rhetorical extravagance, anti-Americanism and sympathy for tyranny. There is much in British political debate, and left-wing debate at that, that differs in degree but not in substance from this position. With style, and great political and cultural knowledge, Nick's book explains why.