Thursday, December 21, 2006


Victor Davis Hanson ponders the question: Why radical Islam, and why now?

The ascent of radical Islam is, perhaps, the natural culmination of a century's worth of failed political systems in Muslim countries that were driven by morally bankrupt ideologies, led by cruel dictators, or both.

In the 1930s, German-style fascism appealed to Arabs in Palestine and Egypt. Soviet-style communism had sympathetic governments in Afghanistan, Algeria and Yemen. Baathism took hold in Syria and Iraq. The secular Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser promised a new pan-Arabism that would do away with colonial borders that divided the "the Arab nation." Then there is the more pragmatic authoritarianism that survives in Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya or in the petrol-monarchies in the Gulf.

Radical Islam may be as totalitarian and as morally bankrupt as any of these past or mostly defunct "isms," but its current appeal isn't hard to figure out. Unlike fascism or communism, radical Islam is locally grown, and not plagued by charges of foreign contamination. Indeed, Islamists claim to wage jihad against the modernism and globlization of the outside, mostly Westernized world. Such a message resonates in stagnant, impoverished Muslim countries.

Of course, while the people of the region may be poor, the Islamist movement isn't. Huge oil profits filter throughout the Muslim world, allowing Islamists to act on their rhetoric. In today's world, militias can easily acquire everything from shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to rocket-propelled grenades. With such weapons, and on their own turf, Islamists can nullify billion-dollar Western jets and tanks.

There is still another reason for the rise of Islamists: They sense a new hesitation in the West. We appear to them paralyzed over oil prices and supplies and fears of terrorism. And so they have also waged a brilliant propaganda war, adopting the role of victims of Western colonialism, imperialism and racism. In turn, much of the world seems to tolerate their ruthlessness in stifling freedom, oppressing women and killing nonbelievers.

Hanson goes on to propose several ways the West can defend itself against the threat, but he does not directly address the one reason why I think radical Islam has taken hold in the world today. If I may offer a medical analogy, there are many diseases that do not manifest themselves unless one or more prerequisite conditions are also present in the individual. For example, Karposi's sarcoma is a deadly malignancy that is extremely rare, but which occurs much more frequently and spreads more rapidly in those individuals who are taking certain drugs to treat AIDS. The drugs suppress the immune system, thus giving a biological carte blanche to the development of the sarcoma.

Radical Islam, like Karposi's sarcoma, has manifested itself today and is spreading rapidly for pretty much the same reason; only in its case, it has been given an ideological carte blanche by the international political left--who represent the remnants of the failed ideologies of the 20th century--communism and socialism.

In the decades since those ideologies have been exposed for the deadly, anti-human pathologies they are, both communism and socialism have recruited a potent new drug dogma that has become an ally in their attempts to control the minds of men.

To steal a phrase from Marx, this new dogma has become every despot's "opium of the people".

No cult of tyranny--including radical Islam-- can hope to remain viable in a world where human thought is free; therefore, the goal of the left's new dogma is nothing less than to undermine mankind's perception of reality itself.

If you can convince people that objective reality is an illusion; that A does not equal A; that black is white; and that good is bad; if you can make them accept that everything is subjective and relative; then you can breath new life into doctrines that by all objective measures and standards have led to the death and misery of millions of people. Through the manipulation of language, everything can be distorted, without the messy need to resort to facts, logic, or reason.
We see the results of this new alliance in postmodern philosophical rhetoric and behavior which assaults the Western world on a daily basis from their media and intellectual elites.

What matters most in this new dogma is not truth or falsity--only the effectiveness of the language used. Lies, distortions, ad hominem attacks; attempts to silence opposing views--all are strategies that are perfectly satisfactory if they achieve the desired effect. Ideas and reason must make way for reification of feelings; and freedom is replaced by thought control.

The postmodern assault as it is used by the new totalitarians of the 21st century is a four-pronged attack to undermine
- Objective reality
- Reason and the rational debate of ideas
- Individual freedom and freedom of thought and speech
- Progress and capitalism

The strategies used are:
- The distortion of language and meaning to undermine the individual's perception of reality;
- The use of direct or threatened physical violence to suppress speech and individual freedom;
- Politically "correct" thought control and cultural relativism to undermine reason and rational debate;
- The promotion of environmental hysteria to undermine progress, industrialization and capitalism

These activities represent the most serious assault on reality, reason, and individual freedom since the twin beasts of communism and socialism rose up early in the 20th century. And, though seriously wounded, they are rising again in a new and more virulent form.

The natural heirs of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot -- all the 20th century totalitarians-- have found a new home in the rigid and oppressive medieval religion that is today's Islam.

Radical Islamic ideology is itself an unexpected combination of several toxic memes that have merged in the last 50 years. One thread of this meme is Islam itself--a purportedly "peaceful" religion that is actually historically based on military conquest and coercion of belief through jihad-- entwined with the remnants of the totalitarian ideologies of the last century.

This is why there is an alliance between the totalitarians of the left-- who are the remaining outposts of communism and socialism that thrive in academic and "intellectual" circles in the West; and the Islamic fanatics of the world. Whether this alliance is a conscious or unconscious one (i.e., whether the specific component of the left actively and deliberately supports Islamic terrorism versus enabling and appeasing it) depends on the level of insight and personal depravity achieved by the true believer of today's political left.

There are far too many women who see nothing wrong with Islam's suppression and infantilization of women and life under the burqa; but who scream in outrage if a scientific study suggests that there are real physiological differences between men and women. There are far too many Jews who overlook the pervasive anti-semitism of the groups they march in solidarity with. Much of this is a self-hatred that manifests itself in the suicidal and homicidal impulses that logically flow from the perverted postmodern view of the world; and part of it is the descent into emotionalism and hysteria that is encouraged by the rhetoric.

On that fateful day 50 years ago when Khrushchev actually admitted that the communist revolution was a lie, the goal of eliminating tyranny from the world became a real possibility. Francis Fukayama even transiently believed that the "end of history" had been reached, but almost immediately, he was shown by world events to be rather too optimistic. But his euphoria was picked up by the people of Western Civilizaiton--the keepers of reality; reason and freedom--and they too tended to see the fall of the monolithic Soviet Union and the collapse of communism as some sort of final victory of freedom over tyranny.

By this first decade of the 21st century, we know for certain that tyranny was not vanquished. Indeed, it has seen a revival despite its ongoing economic failures and despite its legacy of blood, misery and oppression that led to the death of millions in the last century.

Though severely wounded, the beast survived and its offspring have now matured sufficiently to threaten us again. Fukayama and the West had been celebrating prematurely. Jews around the world, Ilan Halimi, Theo van Gogh and all the other canaries in the coal mine lie murdered all around us. Human life and liberty are once again gravely threatened.

Those who refuse to close their eyes to the threat; who refuse to shut up about it; who refuse to be intimidated or to appease it; who, in short, refuse to abandon reality, reason or freedom-- must once again call up the courage and will to defend the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and stand against the forces of tyranny.

Because, even as freedom began to light up areas of the world that had laid in the dark for generations, a new evil was coalescing that combined the virulence of communism and socialism with the toxicity of a medieval, inflexible, intolerant, and oppressive religion.

This union of totalitarian thought from both left and right was itself an unexpected combination of memes; but when you add to that lethal mix the rhetorical and political strategies of postmodernism, the result was a rare malignancy that threatens to destroy all human values; all human decency and all human civilization.

Postmodern philosophy and rhetoric that embraces "political correctness" and all the multicultural bull that flows from it, was the "prerequisite condition" that facilitated the rise of the Karposi-like malignancy of radical Islam, and gave it carte blanche to spread and kill.

Appreciating the intellectual and moral rot of the postmodern political left is key to understanding why radical Islam has managed to garner a completely unexpected amount of traction in today's world.

UPDATE: Gagdad Bob has a truly marvelous post that proposes a 12-Step Program for the dsyfunctional left. But first, he has this to say:
Some day Leftsim will be rejoined with its twin ideology, fascism, which no one takes seriously anymore. Why is that? With the exception of nazi Germany, one could probably argue that fascism in practice was less harmful and more workable than Leftism. In fact, fascism is not a “right wing,” much less “conservative” ideology, but a competing from of socialism. It was the communists who tried to discredit “national socialism” by labeling it “right wing” merely because it wasn’t what they wanted, which was international socialism.

Go and read it all. Then read this post at American Thinker, and my post on Neoconservativism, "What the World Needs Now". The insanity of today's world will begin to make much more sense, I guarantee it.

No comments: