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Monday, April 19, 2004

A Liberal Hawk
Paul Berman edits Dissent magazine, but his leftism does not come through with his hawkish, and I think, realistic stance on Islamism and Iraq. In the NYT on the 15th, he did an excellent job of identifying the roots and solution for Islamic terrorism. The root:

These movements draw on four tenets: a belief in a paranoid conspiracy theory, according to which cosmically evil Jews, Masons, Crusaders and Westerners are plotting to annihilate Islam or subjugate the Arab people; a belief in the need to wage apocalyptic war against the cosmic conspiracy; an expectation that, post-apocalypse, the Islamic caliphate of ancient times will re-emerge as a utopian new society; and a belief that, meanwhile, death is good, and should be loved and revered.

That's it in a nutshell. And when you recognize that bin Laden is stone cold insane, it suggests some different solutions than if the diagnoses is that capitalist, colonial oppression drove him to it. Berman:

That is because terror has never been a matter of a few hundred crazies who could be rounded up by the police and special forces. Terror grows out of something larger — an enormous wave of political extremism.
[...]
But everyone who feels drawn to that [anti-war] conclusion had better acknowledge its full meaning: the unavoidable implication that we would be better off today with Saddam Hussein in power; better off with economic sanctions still strangling the Iraqi people; better off with American army bases still occupying Saudi soil (Osama bin Laden's original grievance against us); and better off without the progress on weapons proliferation in the Muslim world (unless you believe in the sheer-coincidence theory, in which case, you think that progress would have happened willy-nilly). That is a pretty horrifying set of alternatives.


He's also correct when he says Bush has not been very eloquent or successful in his attempts to bring either a domestic or international audience around to this vision. However, he seems to blindly partisan (how else to explain it?) when he says the Democrats can do this best. Is he aware that John "law enforcement" Kerry thinks that the terror threat is "exaggerated" and that this same fellow is the Democratic nominee?

Anyway, this article about Berman is titled Bush is an idiot, but he was right about Saddam. Basically, he argues that Bush has done a horrible job handling Iraq and Islam, but the left has not even recognized the threat. Given these choices, I would take the idiot who's moving in the right direction, but Berman seems to think we are better off with the "enlightened" yet completely blind. There is still good stuff in there, despite that.

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