January 6, 2011


Beware those who sneer at 'human rights imperialism': If universal rights are dismissed as 'western', where does that leave Iranians, Tunisians and Sudanese battling for them? (Sohrab Ahmari, 1/06/11, guardian.co.uk)

At the height of the crackdown against the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Albert Camus warned French leftists not to allow political "expediency any precedence over regard for truth". The western left that ignored or, worse, justified the suffocation of Budapest, Camus thundered, "is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable of merely stereotyped replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws".

Today – with a century of catastrophic lapses in judgment in hindsight – too many western progressives are still trapped by the same "systematic relativism" that, in Camus's time as in ours, threatens no less than the "death of intelligence".

Take historian and journalist Stephen Kinzer's recent intervention against what he calls "human rights imperialism". Restaging one of the illiberal left's favourite shibboleths, he argues that the modern human rights movement has become "the vanguard of a new form of imperialism". Human rights groups, Kinzer sneers, are "spear-carrier[s] for the 'exceptionalist' belief that the west has a providential right to intervene wherever in the world it wishes".

Welcome to the End of History, Mr. Kinzer. But Evangelizing is hardly a new form of imperialism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 6, 2011 6:55 AM
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