The Volokh
Andrew Sullivan
Ann Althouse
Jeff Jarvis
Neal Boortz
James Lileks
Virginia Postrel
Inside Higher Ed
Kevin Drum
Vodka Pundit
Daniel Drezner
One Hand Clapping
Transterrestrial Musings
Borowitz Report
The Cato Institute
Independent Women's Forum
The American Enterprise Institute
Alas, a Blog
The Cobra's Nose
ENC Press
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education


> Columns > Boston Globe > A manifesto for those who reject the extremes

A manifesto for those who reject the extremes

By Cathy Young  |  October 9, 2006

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, 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 are truly a varied group. A few, such as American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Ledeen, could be described as conservative. Some, notably Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, are noted ``liberal hawks" with the reputation of right-wing Democrats. Many others are liberals: emeritus Harvard professor sociologist Daniel Bell; Progressive Policy Institute president Will Marshall, the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council; noted psychiatrist Walter Reich; feminist legal scholar and City University of New York professor Cynthia Fuchs Epstein.

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 self-defeating."

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 prejudice."

Both conservatives and liberals will undoubtedly find much to disagree with in the manifesto and in the American statement. As a libertarian-conservative, I am closer to the Bush administration than to Euston signatories on such issues as taxation and Social Security, and I do not endorse the American statement's proposal for a national gasoline tax. But those are issues on which honorable and intelligent people can disagree.

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 discourse. It would be good to see a similar movement from the right: for a conservatism that defends the free market, the separation of church and state, and a limited government that is strong both on national defense and on civil rights.



| Home | About | Blog | Columns | Feature Articles | Books | Contact | Search | Muse's Corner |