Posted by: Anonymous Coward
on July 14, 2004 06:07 AM
Orwell wasn't a pacifist, no, and he was strongly anti-totalitarian. He was, however, a committed socialist. 1984 was a broadside against his fellow British socialists who were reluctant to criticize the Soviet Union, because they didn't want to criticize "fellow socialists" despite the clear (and mounting) evidence that Stalin was a murderous despot who'd simply clothed himself in Marxist rhetoric, without having any interest in following it. (If you actually look at what Marx wrote, he was just as strongly anti-totalitarian, and considered socialism a step toward putting both economic and political power were in the hands of the people, not a small number of elites -- which relied, of course, on the absurdly idealistic notion that once a small number of elites had taken over all power in the name of the people, they'd voluntarily cede it.)
One of the points of 1984, though, is the danger of "perpetual war for perpetual peace" -- essentially, Oceania and Eurasia in the novel were in a state of war that had no obvious ending condition, a Cold War with actual battles. By maintaining a "war footing" in perpetuity, Big Brother had the pretext for reducing civil liberties, encouraging nationalism (as distinct from patriotism), concentrating power, stifling dissent -- the dystopia in the book is taking all these things, none of which are intrinsically unthinkable in times of war, and taking them to their extreme. In some ways, he was predicting the Cold War; in others, the "War on Terror" is an even better match. And even if you're politically conservative, this should be worrisome.
You're making the mistake of implicitly assuming that because Orwell would have hated the openly totalitarian governments of the Middle East (including a few we're allied with!), he would approve of the way the Bush administration has conducted the war and, particularly, the way they've dealt with the "home front" during this war. There's nothing in his writings to suggest this.