There are many things about the modern day Left that irritate me. But one of the biggest ones concerns imperialism. You can boil it down to a simple equation: British and American imperialism is one of the worst sins imaginable; anyone else outside of the West engaging in the same practice is at best not at all on the same level of badness, at worse, fighting against British and American imperialism and therefore actively a positive as far as most of the modern Left goes.
This manifests itself most obviously in the Left’s approach to Russia. A blind eye is turned to the kleptocracy, the anti-gay rights legislation and propaganda, the handling of minority rights, in favour of the fact that Putin’s Russia represents a foe for America and its Western European allies.
Syria is the saddest place where these ideas collide. Russia’s motives are always seen through positive, rose tinted glasses, while America’s motives are seen as inherently and obviously negative. Seeing anything in those sorts of perverse black and white terms is a sad turn for the western Left to take, but pushing that aside, even if America and Russia were simply treated like equals by the Left – so, two competing world powers with their own, selfish interests – they would at least be able to see Russia’s aims more clearly. But no – when America gets militarily involved in a country it is imperialism; when Russia does so – I don’t even know what language he Left would use to defend this, since they only do so by reference to American deeds. Everything is simply deflected: whatever the Russians are doing in the Middle East, the Americans have done so much worse, as if the answer to imperialism in the world is simply supposedly less belligerent imperialism. Or everything Russia does has somehow been provoked by the actions of the West and is thus by definition justified.
Why can’t the Left just denounce Russian imperialism while shouting down imperialism in general? In other words, I’m not asking them to support American foreign policy, or even not hate it and form marches against it. I’m simply asking them not to support autocratic scumbags just because they happen to offer a counter force to American hegemony.
The Left have a long and proud tradition of being anti-imperialist – at least, sections of the Left do. If American world power fades under Trump, I wonder if they will have the courage to denounce the new powers taking America’s place. Or even – God forbid – at least in private bemoaning the end of American soft power as much as the rest of us.