Is Prof. Gray correct? Suppose the population of Mosul decide to put their underwear on their heads and their shoes on their hands. This would not be a rational thing to do. The productivity of Mosul's economy is likely to fall and its people are likely to suffer various inconveniences more or less grave.
Would Liberalism anathematize Mosul? Would their people be demonized? Would our leaders, or leader-writers, demand that we bomb Mosul till the 'rational course of Human Development' is once more seen to prevail in that ancient City?
What then is Gray's point?
He says- 'When Barack Obama vows to destroy Islamic State's "brand of evil" and David Cameron declares that Islamic State (ISIS) is an "evil organisation" that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair's judgment of Saddam Hussein: "But the man's uniquely evil, isn't he?"
Gray isn't a scholar of Iranian Religion. What he says is simply false- the product of a stupid textual availability cascade. Does Gray really believe that for Bush and Blair ' there could never be any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of good?' Surely they believed they themselves were good? Why didn't Blair stand as an Independent for P.M? Ultimately, if Gray is right, he'd have expected to triumph. Why didn't Bush invade Iran and North Korea and so on?
Politicians don't say things like 'I'm stupid' or 'I'm ignorant' or 'I'm sure we're gonna lose this Election' or 'As a country, we're fucked.' Salesmen don't say 'This car is shit'. Lawyers don't say 'this scumbag, my client, is as guilty as hell.' However, these beliefs can be inferred from their actions.
Contra Gray, Britain and America didn't chose to ally with Stalin against Hitler because the latter was more evil. Hitler declared war of Stalin and then on America. What of Britain? Did it choose to go to war for some purely moral reason or did it do so because it believed its Security was based on fulfilling Treaty obligations entered into on the basis of a utilitarian calculus?
In Gray's Universe, our foreign policy is decided solely by moral considerations. He doesn't understand that it makes sense to legitimate foreign policy by speaking of either morality or some even more visceral drive- so as to convince others that one is sincere rather than strategic in one's policy choice (i.e. you have 'bourgeois strategy' in the hawk/chicken game)- and also to pretend that the policy is bound to be successful because expectations can create reality. Gray mentions Freud, that old fraud, and also speaks briefly of evolutionary psychology. The latter has developed notions like 'costly signals' and Zahavi handicap which, unlike, Gray's own theory, have a lot of predictive power in International Politics. Questions of Mechanism Design remain, but the wrong way to tackle them is by uttering the following lament-
'Faith based Liberalism' isn't weak, it's unviable. It never existed. Gulf War One made a profit. Gulf War Two didn't. That's the bad outcome which underlies pi-jaw driven policy drift, within a context of disengagement and defeat.
Gray panders to a masochism of the Liberal Conscience which, alas!, has already been mugged and which thus has no money to pay for the service in question. Apocalyptic talk of galloping meliorism but flogs a dead horse.