Tuesday, 18 March 2003

The transatlantic disconnect

Bjørn Stærk today traces overwhelming opposition to war in Norway back to the lack of genuine debate:

[M]uch of the underlying American reasoning behind this war has not actually been presented to the Norwegian people, and when it is, only by those who oppose it. Many remain ignorant about the nature of the fundamental change of perspective that September 11 inflicted on American opinion, believing that the Americans are simply angry and vengeful, that they are gut-level patriots in need of an enemy image. That there might actually be some amount of intellectual activity going on behind the scenes of the Bush administration, activity that is motivated by any higher principles than winning the next election and gaining control of Iraq's oil, would be an utter surprise to many Norwegians - for the simple reason that we haven't been told that any such intellectual activity exists.

Every possible reason for being against this war has, on the other hand, been explored thoroughly and with eagerness. The result has been a debate without meaning, between an articulate anti-war movement and flagwaving strawmen. The peace movement has lost on this, intellectually, as has the war movement. It's an axiom of political debate that there are always intelligent, well-informed people who disagree with you. It's another axiom that the intellectual level of a debate sinks to the level of its dumbest participant, and there are few things dumber than opponents made out of straw.

I suspect that much is the same in most other non-English-speaking countries.