July 07, 2005

The Nature of the Threat

British journalist Nick Cohen (no relation), on Normblog, reviews Paul Berman's book Terror and Liberalism, a powerful critique of liberal wishful thinking in the face of Islamist fascism.

[Berman's] central point is that Islamism and Baathism are continuations of Nazism and communism, not only in their fine points - founders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Baath Party were admirers of Hitler and Franco - but in their fundamentals. Once again we had the promise of earthly paradise, but now the paradise wouldn't be the paradise of unexploited labour or the paradise of an Aryan Europe, but the paradise of the early days of the prophet or a reunified Arab nation, pure and free. Once again there were great leaders who were semi-divine as they led the faithful into cosmic struggles. And once again their programmes were insane. . . .

Berman is trying to overcome the resistance of Western readers who have watched the Iranian revolution and the murder of millions and the enslavement of whole African tribes in the Sudan and the destruction of every last remnant of freedom in Afghanistan and not understood that what they've seen is a totalitarian movement going about its business. . . .

You are confronted with totalitarian movements . . . and your first thought is to blame them on the West. Your second is to make excuses for them. Your third is to betray your comrades. Your fourth is to go up to the totalitarian movements and shake them by the hand.

Cohen was one of those wishful thinkers, he admits, until he read Berman's book. And that's a powerful admission coming from a journalist with a previously comfortable position on the opinion spectrum.

Read Cohen's piece on normblog here.

Then read more about Berman's book here.

I learned about Berman's and Cohen's pieces at Harry's Place, where Harry quotes and responds to a letter from a wishful-thinking UK friend about today's terror bombings.

And I learned about Harry's place from The Glittering Eye.

UPDATE: I corrected a broken link, above, to the amazon listing for Berman's TERROR AND LIBERALISM.