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Oslo Journal: Liberation Day

9:26 AM, May 9, 2011 • By SOHRAB AHMARI
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Meanwhile, more and more members of the Socialist Left (SV) showed up with their party banners. Here’s the awkward thing: the SV is actually part of Norway’s governing coalition, which means it has supported—or, at the very least, acquiesced—to Norway’s involvement in the Afghan and Libyan campaigns.

So did this mean, I wondered, that the SV rank and file would take a more nuanced approach to Norway’s role in NATO than the two grizzly looking, bald fellows representing the last remnants of the Communist Party? The answer is no. “We don’t think military intervention helps,” Per Øswald, a trade unionist and member of the SV, told me. “There will never be peace in Afghanistan as long as NATO is bombing civil society. We don’t believe in war.” His goateed younger comrade was even more blunt, taking up the fashionable NATO-Nazi formulation. “The people in Afghanistan, they’re also opposing an occupying force, that was the Germans,” he said. “They have the right to fight for their freedom.”

This is obviously a difficult situation for the party leadership, who, by comparison, are far more sensible. One such leader is Marianne Borgen, who is running on the SV ticket for mayor of Oslo later this fall. (Aurora thinks she actually stands a good chance of leading the world’s most expensive city.) The chief focus of Borgen’s speech at the rally was a blander message about the suffering of Afghan women and children. Representing a party with actual ministers in government, Borgen had to walk a more careful line.

“This is, of course, very complicated for our party,” she told me later. “A fundamental part of our party is the peace organizations.” The pacifist far-left, in other words, represents the SV’s base. Hence the muddled message. “All participation in war should be difficult,” she said earnestly. “I speak with our party’s ministers and they assure me that they are very active in trying to be more critical. I know that they are trying.” It’s an impossible position. Concern for Afghan women and children is commendable, but it means nothing if the West doesn’t confront the extremists who daily threaten their welfare. The SV’s anti-NATO policy framework—Borgen would prefer a Nordic security umbrella—supports the alliance when it acts in the name of liberal values but avoids the heavy lifting and electoral costs.

It was here in Oslo that the European intelligentsia awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize (“I was there!” Borgen proudly boasts). Alas, Obama did not turn out to be the American president the Euro-left was hoping for. “Barack Obama is better for the U.S. than the person who was previously in that office,” Borgen said. But “a lot of things that he promised have not come so far.”

That may be. But then again, in the aftermath of the horrors of WWII, Norway also made certain promises about shared strategic interests and, more importantly, shared values. Sixty-six years later, too many Norwegians are ready to break those bonds.

Sohrab Ahmari’s writing has previously appeared in the Boston Globe and Commentary, among other publications.

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