Saturday, August 13, 2005

And furthermore

If you haven't read Bermans' "Terror and Liberalism" then you should. Whether you agree with his thesis, the idea that the "Islamism" is yet another form of fascism is powerfully argued and convincing in many respects.
Terror and Liberalism

But the war between France and Germany in World War II was complicated by Nazism's ability to call on sympathizers and co-thinkers all over Europe, including in France--which is one reason why the French went down to defeat. Communism was likewise an international affair, even if simpleminded analysts on the anticommunist side found it comforting to picture communists all over the world as mere agents of a reconstituted Czarist Empire. Likewise the Warriors of Christ the King, who may have described themselves as narrow nationalists but nonetheless drew their support and even their Warriors from all over the Latin world. And the twentieth-century wars displayed one other pertinent trait. The liberal side in those wars, the side that stood for a liberal and democratic society, was never entirely sure of itself.

The liberal side was internally divided. On the liberal side, there were always people, sometimes in large numbers, who suspected that the antiliberals might be correct in their view of liberalism and might even have justice on their side. And so the twentieth-century wars were ideological in a double sense. There was the struggle of liberalism against its enemies; and there was the struggle of liberalism against itself, a self-interrogation, which was liberalism's strength as well as its weakness.

The present conflict seems to me to be following the twentieth-century pattern exactly, with one variation: the antiliberal side right now, instead of Communist, Nazi, Catholic, or Fascist, happens to be radical Arab nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist. Over the last several decades, a variety of movements have arisen in the Arab and Islamic countries--a radical nationalism (Baath socialist, Marxist, pan-Arab, and so forth) and a series of Islamist movements (meaning Islamic fundamentalism in a political version). The movements have varied hugely and have even gone to war with one another--Iran's Shiite Islamists versus Iraq's Baath socialists, like Hitler and Stalin slugging it out. The Islamists give the impression of having wandered into modern life from the 13th century, and the Baathist and Marxist nationalisms have tried to seem modern and even futuristic.

But all of those movements have followed, each in its fashion, the twentieth-century pattern. They are antiliberal insurgencies. They have identified a people of the good, who are the Arabs or Muslims. They believe that their own societies have been infested with a hideous inner corruption, which must be rooted out. They observe that the inner infestation is supported by powerful external forces. And they gird their swords. Their thinking is apocalyptic. They imagine that at the end they, too, will succeed in establishing a blocklike, unchanging society, freed of the inner corruption--a purified society: the victory of good. They are the heirs of the twentieth-century totalitarians. Bush said that in his address to Congress on September 20, and he was right.


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