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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson has another fine article on the strange "paradoxes" of the West's confrontation with Islamofascism:
. . . bin Ladenism trumpets contempt for bourgeois Western society. . . . indolent infidels, channel surfers who eat, screw, and talk too much amid worthless gadgetry, godless skyscrapers . . .

. . . .

It was hard for the Islamic fascists to find ideological support in the West, given their agenda of gender apartheid, homophobia, religious persecution, racial hatred, fundamentalism, polygamy, and primordial barbarism. But they sensed that there has always been a current of self-loathing among the comfortable Western elite, a perennial search for victims of racism, economic oppression, colonialism, and Christianity. Bin Laden's followers weren't white; they were sometimes poor; they inhabited of former British and French colonies; and they weren't exactly followers of the no-nonsense Pope or Jerry Falwell. If anyone doubts the nexus between right-wing Middle Eastern fascism and left-wing academic faddishness, go to booths in the Free Speech area at Berkeley or see what European elites have said and done for Hamas. Middle Eastern fascist killers enshrined as victims alongside our own oppressed? That has been gospel in our universities for the last three decades. . . .

. . . .

Nearly three years after 9/11 we are in the strangest of all paradoxes: a war against fascists that we can easily win but are clearly not ready to fully wage. We have the best 500,000 soldiers in the history of civilization, a resolute president, and an informed citizenry that has already received a terrible preemptive blow that killed thousands.

Yet what a human comedy it has now all become.

The billionaire capitalist George Soros — who grew fabulously wealthy through cold and calculating currency speculation, helping to break many a bank and its poor depositors — now makes the moral equation between 9/11 and Abu Ghraib. For this ethicist and meticulous accountant, 3,000 murdered in a time of peace are the same as some prisoners abused by renegade soldiers in a time of war.

Recently in the New York Times I read two articles about the supposedly new irrational insensitivity toward Muslims and saw an ad for a book detailing how the West "constructed" and exaggerated the Islamic menace — even as the same paper ran a quieter story about a state-sponsored cleric in Saudi Arabia's carefully expounding on the conditions under which Muslims can desecrate the bodies of murdered infidels.

Aristocratic and very wealthy Democrats — Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, and John Kerry — employ the language of conspiracy to assure us that we had no reason to fight Saddam Hussein. "Lies," "worst," and " betrayed" are the vocabulary of their daily attacks. A jester in stripes like Michael Moore, who cannot tell the truth, is now an artistic icon — precisely and only because of his own hatred of the president and the inconvenient idea that we are really at war. Our diplomats court the Arab League, which snores when Russians and Sudanese kill hundreds of thousands of Muslims but shrieks when we remove those who kill even more of their own. And a depopulating, entitlement-expanding Europe believes an American president, not bin Laden, is the greatest threat to world peace. Russia, the slayer of tens of thousands of Muslim Chechans and a big-time profiteer from Baathist loot, lectures the United States on its insensitivity to the new democracy in Baghdad.
Hanson is accurate when he points to the current of self-loathing among the comfortable Western elite that enervates the West's capacity to respond to the Islamofascist challenge. At its core, our battle with Islamofacism is a battle of the principles of Western liberal democracy against the principles of religious fascism. We have the physical means to win--the technology, the armaments, the manpower. But do we have the will to win? Do we think we deserve to win? The "current of self-loathing" inspires within Western societies doubts about ourselves. As to whether we are more deserving of victory than our enemies, the cultural relativists answer openly, "No, we cannot be better or more deserving than our enemies because no culture can be said to be superior to any other." Then, paradoxically, the relativists go on to proclaim that not only are we no better than the Islamofascists, we are actually worse than them because we are powerful. In the relativists’ cosmos (which is not a "cosmos," but a "chaos" in which nothing can be judged as morally different from anything else), where no one can be judged as better than anyone else, one exception is made in the case of “the powerful,” who are always, unquestionably, and oppressively evil. That is the core of their logic: We are powerful; therefore, so we are evil. But at their emotional core is the paradox of a complacent self-loathing.

Yet the deeper paradox is that Hanson himself, and those who think as he does, are now part of the paradox in that they, too, participate in Western self-loathing. When, for example, Hanson writes that the West long-ignored the terrorist threat so that "we could go from Dallas to Extreme Makeover and Madonna to Britney without too much distraction or inconvenience," the loathing that he expresses for Western moral laxity differs little from that expressed by a bin Laden. Indeed, moral laxity is somehow the cause of self-loathing among those on both the right and the left. The shapers of opinion on the left embrace the contemporary moral laxity, which allows them openly and freely to pursue and enjoy the personal and financial fruits of debauchery while ridiculing their critics as "judgmental moralistic bigots." Yet at some deep level they feel ashamed of themselves and this shame manifests itself in self-loathing. Those on the left, lacking steadfastness of moral principles of their own, find something attractive in the steadfastness of the moral clarity the Islamofascists claim for themselves. Thus, twenty-five years ago the political and intellectual leaders of the Western left made their pilgrimages to Paris to sit cross-legged at the feet of Ayatollah Khomeni. In domestic economic matters, this phenomenon of leftist self-loathing has long been correctly identified as "limousine liberalism." They sense that, morally speaking, we are all going to hell in handcarts. But the ride is too pleasant to resist, so they assuage their guilt by fretting over whether the upholstery of some handcarts is too plush compared to some others.

On the right, the self-loathing is perhaps not so personally self-directed, but aims more at the whole of Western culture, as when a Victor Davis Hanson complains about what the "postmodern West" has become. Hanson ostensibly targets his critique only at "the comfortable Western elite," but when he uses bin Laden's voice to mock the "channel surfers who eat, screw, and talk too much amid worthless gadgetry," we know it is really Hanson himself talking about the lot of us. When we conservatives in the West ridicule the flacid Europeans, we are somehow ridiculing ourselves because we are children of the same father. Yet such criticism of the West's moral decline feeds the enervating doubts no less than the leftist's self-loathing, and perhaps more so because the criticism is all too valid. Hanson’s criticism, true enough as to the West’s present condition, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of the West’s future prospects. It seems that Hanson-like railing cannot succeed and, therefore, seems only to contribute to the West’s internal doubts and divisions.

And there's the dilemma: To sustain ourselves for what will be a very long fight against the Islamofascists, we in the West must first reform ourselves morally, but it seems that the precondition of that reform is a Hanson-like self-criticism which only increases our self-loathing and undermines our will to maintain the struggle.

What is the way out of the dilemma of the post-modern paradox? I do not know. I do know that for a few brief moments after 9/11, the more immediate concern for survival made most of us, even many of those on the left, give up the indulgence of self-loathing. That makes me fear that the threat to survival would have to be much worse--much more obviously, intensely, and prolongedly worse--before we could summon and sustain the will necessary to overcome our enemies. But, as Hanson points out, our enemies are too clever to make us to live with the sense that our culture is being pushed to the brink of extinction; theirs is a strategy of "threaten, hit, pause, wait; threaten, hit, pause, wait." When they hit us hard, we all want to fight back at first, but then we settle into our old habits. Then they hit us again. At the end of each cycle, we find ourselves moved closer to the abyss, we become more confused and disgusted with ourselves, and the abyss becomes alluring.

What's needed now is a Reagan-like figure to save us from the abyss of self-negation, someone who can lead to what we can become without making us feel quite so dispirited about what we are.

posted by Bathus | 6/14/2004 12:43:00 PM
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