Oliver Kamm

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"Iraq was the most far-sighted and noble act of British foreign policy since the founding of Nato." - Oliver Kamm [1]

Oliver Kamm is a columnist for the Times (London). He is member of the Henry Jackson Society and is affiliated to Democratiya. According to a biographical note on his own blog:

I am an author, columnist and banker. I write regularly for The Times, and have written also for The Guardian, Prospect, The New Republic, Index on Censorship and The Jewish Chronicle. I am an advisory editor of Democratiya. My book Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy was published in 2005. I was a contributor to Britain's Bomb: What Next?, edited by Brian Wicker and General Sir Hugh Beach, in 2006. [2]


Kamm was born in 1963 and studied at Oxford and London universities.[3] He is the nephew of journalist Martin Bell.[4]

Banking Career

Kamm has worked at the Bank of England, HSBC Securities and Commerzbank Securities. In 1997, he became one of the founders of London-based asset management and advisory firm, WMG Advisors LLP.[5][6]


At the 1979 election, Kamm canvassed for Labour in his hometown constituency of Leicester South.[7] He also voted Labour in the 1983 election.[8]

Kamm is a former chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club.[9]

In 1997, Kamm worked on Martin Bell's independent campaign to unseat Conservative MP Neil Hamilton:

I take some pride in having drafted an election manifesto so right-wing that Hamilton was incapable of outflanking it.[10]

In December 2003, Kamm quoted an 1976 address to the Social Democrats USA from Sidney Hook, who he described as one of "my principal intellectual influences".[11]

In 2004, Kamm supported the re-election of George W. Bush.[12]

In 2005, Kamm contemplated rejoining the Labour Party, but ultimately voted Conservative, because the local Conservative candidate, Nicholas Boles, was more supportive of Labour Government foreign policy than the Labour one.[13][14]

In November 2005, Kamm supported New Republic editor Peter Beinart in calling for the left to update the tradition of Cold War anti-communism for the war on terror:

Beinart recalled the fractious debates over foreign policy in the late 1940s, when American liberals were divided over whether to define themselves principally as anti-conservative or to put anti-communism at the heart of their programme. He identified a similar cleavage within liberalism now in confronting Islamist terrorism, and concluded: “The fundamental question is again whether the proper prism through which to view this new world is anti-totalitarianism based on the idea that we face another totalitarian foe.”[15]

In April 2006, Peter Wilby claimed Kamm was "one of those mysterious commentators" who "claim to be left-wing but hold no discernible left-wing views."[16]

Kamm responded that: "[I] do claim to be left-wing, for the straightforward reason that it's true."

My views will be of largely autobiographical interest to me and scant interest to anyone else, but here they are. I support economic redistribution (though on grounds of autonomy, not equality), progressive taxation and a welfare state of very roughly its current scope and size.[17]

In January 2007, Kamm supported the thesis of Nick Cohen's What's Left, arguing that there had been "an extraordinary process in which part of the left has ended up arguing for what by any objective standards are reactionary positions".[18]

Chomsky controversy

After Prospect Magazine readers voted Noam Chomsky the world's leading public intellectual, Kamm wrote in the magazine that Chomsky "deploys dubious arguments leavened with extravagant rhetoric."[19]

In response, Chomsky accused Kamm of "failing with impressive consistency, to find something to criticise in the efforts to terminate state crimes for which he and I share responsibility".

To demonstrate "a particularly dishonest handling of source material," Kamm alleges that, "Chomsky manipulates a self-mocking reference in the memoirs of the then US ambassador to the UN... to yield the conclusion that Moynihan took pride in Nazi-like policies." The topic is Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, condemned by the security council, which ordered Indonesia to withdraw, to no effect. Moynihan explains why: "The US wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The department of state desired that the UN prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success." He then refers to reports that within two months 60,000 people had been killed, "10 per cent of the population, almost the proportion of casualties experienced by the Soviet Union during the second world war"-at the hands of Nazi Germany. His comparison, not mine, as Kamm pretends.[20]

In a subsequent letter to the magazine, Kamm accused Chomsky of reprising his "polemical distortions":

Chomsky's account of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's comments on East Timor excises relevant context, presents unrelated passages as sequential, and interpolates remarks that Moynihan did not make. Even where Chomsky was right to attack western policy, he is analytically unscrupulous.[21]

Kamm had earlier given a fuller account of his argument on this point in a blog post at FrontPage Magazine.[22] This appeared to show that Moynihan had been misquoted, while conceding the point that he had blocked opposition to the invasion of East Timor at the UN.


On Iraq

In May 2005 Kamm wrote of the 2003 invasion:

Contrary to the Liberal Democrats’ depiction of it as the biggest foreign policy error since Suez, Iraq was the most far-sighted and noble act of British foreign policy since the founding of Nato. Mr Blair’s record exemplifies foreign policy 'with an ethical dimension'. [23]

In the run-up to the third anniversary of the Iraq War, Kamm defended the invasion:

It is a fine judgment whether a rogue state or a failed state, prey to the barbarities that jihadists are trying to inflict on Iraq now but without hindrance, would have been the worse prospect. The notion that terrorism has been brought to Iraq uniquely by the west's overthrow of Saddam, who bankrolled it and was the most likely conduit for Islamist groups to obtain WMD, is astonishingly ahistorical.[24]

On the 2006 Lebanon War

In August 2006 Kamm wrote that "the principal ethical question concerning Israel's military campaign is whether it has been curtailed too soon."

There is a substantial risk, on historical precedent, that not all necessary action will be taken. Continued failure will be damaging - for Israel, for the government of Lebanon, and for the prospects of a Palestinian state. This was why Tony Blair was right to resist calls at the start of the conflict for an immediate ceasefire, on the grounds that: "If [the violence] is to stop, it has to stop by undoing how it started. And it started with the kidnap of Israeli soldiers and the bombardment of northern Israel. If we want this to stop, that has to stop."[25]




The following links appeared on Kamm's blog as of October 2008:

Adam LeBor Agnès Poirier Andrew Sullivan
Anne Applebaum Ben Goldacre Caroline Fourest
Christopher Hitchens Coffee House Counterknowledge.com
Daniel Finkelstein David Aaronovitch Democratiya
Harry's Place Intelligence Squared Johann Hari
John Lloyd Jonathan Rauch Linda Grant
Marko Attila Hoare Martin Bell Martin Bright
Martin Peretz Nick Cohen Norman Geras
Oona King Open House Paul Anderson
Philippe Legrain PoliticsHome Prospect Magazine
Ruth Gledhill Standpoint.Online Stephen Pollard
The New Republic Walter Laqueur William Shawcross

Contact, References and Resources


Blog: oliverkamm.typepad.com
Times article list
Email: mailto:oliver.kamm@tiscali.co.uk



  • Oliver Kamm, Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy, Social Affairs Unit, ISBN:190486306X, October 2005.

Third Party references

  • David Paterson, "David Peterson Responds to Oliver Kamm", Media Lens, 26 June 2008


  1. Oliver Kamm, 'Help, I'm a pro-war leftie', The Times, 2 May 2005
  2. Oliver Kamm's blog About, accessed 9 September 2007
  3. Norman Geras, The normblog profile 9: Oliver Kamm, normblog, 21 November 2003.
  4. Oliver Kamm, Rural Writing, Oliver Kamm's blog, 3 September 2005.
  5. Oliver Kamm's blog About, accessed 9 September 2007
  6. Norman Geras, The normblog profile 9: Oliver Kamm, normblog, 21 November 2003.
  7. Oliver Kamm, The liberal prospect now, Oliver Kamm's blog, 6 May 2005.
  8. Oliver Kamm, Foot Again, Oliver Kamm's blog, 5 April 2004.
  9. Jamie Glazov, The Left-wing case for liberating Iraq, frontpagemag.com, 7 February 2006.
  10. Oliver Kamm, 'Living Marxism' and 'Tory sleaze', Oliver Kamm's blog, 13 December 2003.
  11. Oliver Kamm, Norman Geras and Marxism, Times Online, 14 December 2003.
  12. Oliver Kamm, The liberal case for returning Bush to the White House, Oliver Kamm's blog, 9 July 2004.
  13. Oliver Kamm, The liberal prospect now, Oliver Kamm's blog, 6 May 2005.
  14. Oliver Kamm, Help, I'm a pro-war leftie, The Times, 2 May 2005.
  15. Oliver Kamm, Time for the Left to be brave again, The Times, 7 November 2005.
  16. Peter Wilby, The Media Column, New Statesman, 24 April 2006.
  17. Oliver Kamm, Staggering, Oliver Kamm's blog, 20 April 2006.
  18. Oliver Kamm, What's Left is right, Comment is Free, guardian.co.uk, 30 January 2007.
  19. Oliver Kamm, Against Chomsky, Prospect, November 2005.
  20. Noam Chomsky, We are all complicit, Prospect, January 2006.
  21. Oliver Kamm, Kamm replies to Chomsky, Prospect, 29 December 2005.
  22. Oliver Kamm, Anti-Chomsky Blog, Part II, frontpagemag.com, 9 September 2004.
  23. Oliver Kamm, 'Help, I'm a pro-war leftie', The Times, 2 May 2005
  24. Oliver Kamm, ' We were right ot invade Iraq', The Guardian, 14 March 2006.
  25. Oliver Kamm, Diplomacy has a limit, Comment is Free, guardian.co.uk, 18 August 2006.
  26. Oliver Kamm, home page Accessed 7 October 2008