Crossing over

Readers of a certain age may recall the stir created in the late 1970s by William Shawcross’ book Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia. When Sideshow appeared, I was no longer a leftist and not yet a conservative. Unassisted by ideology, it was difficult for me to figure out what to make of the book. On the one hand, it seemed rigorous on its face, and Showcross came across as smart, serious, and honest. On the other hand, some very smart, serious, and honest people (notably George Will) strongly attacked the integrity of the book. And with all that had happened by the late 1970s, it struck me as odd to blame Kissinger and Nixon for the destruction of Cambodia. A few years later, when Shawcross produced an homage to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong, it no longer seemed possible to take him seriously.
Today, however, Shawcross is staunch supporter of U.S. foreign policy, and especially the war to overthrow Saddam, which he defends in his latest book Allies: The U.S., Britain, and Europe, and the War in Iraq. John Miller of National Review calls this work, “an exemplary piece of moral clarity and fine writing.” Miller finds it “downright refreshing to read the words of a European who says things like this: ‘As in the twentieth century, so in the twenty-first, only America has both the power and the optimism to defend the international community against what really are the forces of darkness.'” The British left, however, is neither refreshed nor amused. For example, The New Statesman complains that “once a model progressive, Shawcross is today a fellow-traveler of U.S. imperialism, a committed Euroskeptic, a powerful advocate of pre-emptive war, and an apologist for monarchy and inherited privilege.” And the New York Times reviewer wonders “what’s going on here.”
At one level, what’s going on is something not that unfamiliar. Shawcross has followed the path not only of Paul Johnson and Christopher Hitchens (not to mention the three Power Line crew members), but also that of his father, Lord Hartley Shawcross, a member of the House of Commons, who became known as Lord Shortly Floorcross after he defected from the Labour to the Conservative party. At another level, as Shawcross notes, “it’s not illiberal to support getting rid of one of the nastiest regimes in the world.” In any event, what Miller calls “the Shawcross Redemption” is a welcome development.
HINDROCKET adds: “an apologist for monarchy and inherited privilege”? Not having read Shawcross’s book, I can only assume that he is not, in fact, a monarchist, and that this is another example of the fantasy-land inhabited by the European left, which can most charitably be described as lost in a time warp.


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