Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Litmus Test

The following commendation appears, with that of others, on the back cover of Kishore Mahbubani's 2004 book, Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East & West:

"Kishore Mahbubani's essays have always been among the most thoughtful and provocative distillations. They are invaluable in considering foreign policy, relations among civilizations and the panoply of issues called Asian values. In prose both sinewy and attractive, he has the great facility of making ideas come to life and setting them against each other as actors in an intellectual drama. Simply essential reading." - Greg Sheridan, foreign editor, The Australian

High praise indeed from the most vocal defender of Israel in the Australian corporate media! And here's a rare thing - I happen to agree with him.

So what, I'm wondering, would he make of the following standout insight of Mahbubani's?

"The liberal internationalists were at the forefront of calls to hold Sudan and China accountable for the misery in Darfur under the concept of 'responsibility to protect'. Yet, many of these same voices did not bring up the concept of responsibility to protect when collective punishment was imposed on the people of Gaza. There is one point that needs to be emphasized here: there is always a litmus test to assess a person's intellectual and moral courage. In the West, especially in America, this litmus test is provided by the Middle East issue. The intellectual and moral cowardice of Western intellectuals on this issue is stunning. Paradoxically, by censoring their views on Israel, they have done great damage to Israel by failing to point out to it the sheer folly of remaining in perpetual conflict with its neighbors. The next time any Western intellectual calls upon the rest of the world to show courage by speaking 'truth to power' he or she should lead the charge by speaking 'truth to power' on the Israel-Palestine dispute." (Mahbubani responds: Western intellectual & moral cowardice on Israel/Palestine,, 29/5/08)


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