Corbyn’s foreign policy views are regressive – and the Left need to wake up to it

The Labour leader's views centre around dogmatic anti-imperialism, blinding him again and again to the crimes of regimes opposed to America.

Corbyn was “terrifyingly right” right on Iraq, Syria and Libya, the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry wrote last week. This is a far cry from the truth and the Labour Party and the left generally need to recognise it.

Thornberry’s article prompted scorn from the Syria Solidarity group, particularly as her criticisms of the events in Syria have rarely, if ever, included an analysis of Bashar Assad’s brutality.

And that reflects the nature of the Corbyn leadership – utterly silent on the barbarism and heinous crimes of one of the most despicable regimes on earth.

You couldn’t call it an isolated incident either – you can match up Corbyn’s silence over Syria to his contemptible fence-sitting remarks regarding Venezuela, and then the party’s silence regarding the recent Iranian protests – broken only by Thornberry’s claims they didn’t know who the good guys were.

Corbyn’s foreign policy is rarely scrutinised from a left-wing position, or even from a position of sensible analysis. With his strong domestic policies, it’s perhaps more easy to miss his frankly regressive foreign policy views.

For Corbyn, we live in a binary postcolonial anti-imperialist world – where the bad guys are always the US and their cronies; the world is a struggle between American imperialist aggression and those fighting back against it.

That is why Corbyn is silent on Syria because America aren’t the main imperialist actors, but Russia. The US play a minor role in the conflict, supporting and funding rebel causes that either collapse against the weight of Assad’s indiscriminate airstrikes and usage of chemical weapons, or the Islamist element grows.

Corbyn has only ever spoken passionately on Syria when it has been to condemn air strikes against Assad, which he believes will only further fuel the conflict.

Yet he cannot envisage any plausible, realistic solutions himself. He stops at peace talks, ignoring the years of failed negotiations because Assad will not surrender power and you cannot expect the Syrian people to abide this butcher any longer.

Whether it’s on Syria or Venezuela, he resorts to the line of “I condemn all violence on both sides” which disingenuously creates a false equivalence, ignoring the power imbalances that separate a state force and people on the street.

It’s in effect the “all lives matter” trope, solidarity shown with police states rather than the protesters. This is what modern, western leftism has mutated into on the international scene.

That is why on Iran, we cannot separate Labour’s silence – exemplified by Thornberry’s awful speech about “white hats” – and Corbyn deciding to appear on Press TV and acting as their mouthpiece.

They are linked. Corbyn’s sympathy with the Iranian regime for its hostility to the Americans has meant he hasn’t supported a working-class and feminist internal uprising within Iran.

On the point of Thornberry, there is a tendency for many in Labour to shower her with praises because she’s really very good at destroying Tories on domestic policy – but as a Foreign Secretary in waiting, she’s terrible.

Whether her views are her own or Seamus Milne’s can be disputed, but on foreign policy, Labour have moved from misguided heavy-handed interventionism under Blair to now cowardly isolationism.

Rabbil Sikdar writes freelance for Huffington Post, the New Statesman, the Independent and others. He tweets here.

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

8 Responses to “Corbyn’s foreign policy views are regressive – and the Left need to wake up to it”

  1. Jason

    As a non-labour party member all I can say is that the days are numbered for Left Foot Forward. Corbynistas and and their band of bullies will see you out.

  2. Grikho parafyso

    Great article. Ambigous rhetoric on brexit and even more shamefully on foreign policy – especially on Syria . Labour are useless

  3. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    Being a Labour Party and Momentum member I will never bully anyone, but I so think that Left Foot Forward is not a particularly successful website that may have seen better days. The above article is not really backed up by the facts – just read Off-Guardian if you want some of the truth about Syria and how we have had to suffer from an onslaught of Western Propaganda. Same with Venezuela. US does its best to misrepresent BOTH countries, which are actually democracies and try and dominate them in a very Imperialist way as a previous Middle-East ambassador has openly said – https://off-guardian.org/category/video/

  4. Gillian Maher

    Rabbil Sikkdar is ignoring the causes of Middle East chaos.
    Wherever there is an anti-US demonstration in Libya, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen or Syria there are placards and banners saying, “Americans get out of Muslim lands.”
    Not Russians, Chinese, or even Europeans – just Americans.
    The people of the Middle East and much further afield, especially closer to the US, blame Americans – and they know what they are talking about.
    So does Jeremy Corbyn.
    He has had the advantage of watching it all unfold over nearly two generations.
    In Iraq, it was the US that installed it’s puppet Gaddafi, to ensure that the reserves of oil were always available to US multi-national oil/gas interests – and when he reneged, preferring to offer the extraction rights to France and Russia, conspired to remove him – with a local “rebel” army, to give the opening for the bombing of Baghdad and devastation of all Iraq.
    More recently, Bashar al Assad, son of another US puppet , refused to allow a pipe-line to be built across Syria to further US oil/gas transportation from sites the US had “acquired”; so the same strategy followed.
    An “uprising” promoted and supported by the US has spread a “rebel army” throughout the country, giving the Americans cover to bomb whole regions of the country – and then blame Assad for responding to protect the country of which he is a democratically elected leader.
    The Americans have never concealed their intention to achieve “regime change” by force.
    Before Iraq and Syria, it was Libya – and it goes on and on… always with the US leading the aggression and misinformation.
    There is nothing “isolationist” about actively pursuing peace; quite the reverse.
    But of course, it would not chime with the American business model and “America First”, or the unsavoury version of capitalism promoted by so-called New Labour.

  5. Glen Hague

    Why is it that left wing leaders feel the need to support neo fascists like the Iranian regime and Syria?. Why won’t they speak up when left wing regimes like that in Venezuela start being repressive?. The right does not hold the monopoly on repression. Consider Mao, Pol Pot, the USSR, The German Democratic Republic, Castro among others. How can we respect Corbin, McDonald and others when they support or refuse to condemn tyranny?

  6. Jimmy glesga

    Glen Hague, you forgot to mention the German National SOCIALIST PARTY. The facts are clear and socialism has a historical monopoly on mass murder and torture. The right have had local dictatorships but not on the massive scale the left have had.

  7. Will

    No matter how good Labours domestic policy’s are I would find it difficult to vote for a party which finds it so difficult to criticise regimes whose record on human rights is so appalling.

  8. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    Western Propaganda alert!

Leave a Reply