Using Bees To Effect Vengeance

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Thursday, April 03, 2003
Recently, the New York Times magazine ran a fascinating piece about The Philosopher of Islamic Terror. It introduces us to Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian whose thinking seems to have prefigured and informed al-Qaeda and Islamism in general. The piece now resides behind the NYT's pay-per-view archive (a piece on Qutb in the Guardian is not as satisfying), but equally brilliant and eye-opening is Salon's interview with its author, Paul Berman.

Seriously, bite the bullet and watch Salon's little ad in order to read this interview -- it's worth it. Salon, with its usual devastating subtlety has chosen to entitle it "Bush is an idiot, but he was right about Saddam", but it's really a challenge to liberals to honor their tradition of anti-fascism and support for human rights. I really feel like this guy is identifying something important, and I'm completely in agreement with his analysis on a number of points -- specifically, how liberals ought to be viewing the Iraq situation and the threat of terrorism, the shallowness of Noam Chomsky's worldview, the unfortunate way that liberals can unwittingly align themselves with their worst enemies (e.g wartime French socialists with Vichy, European Communists with Stalin)....

I'm tempted to cut and paste the whole damn thing as a public service, but here is a choice excerpt:

What we need is a politics as I describe in my book, a new radicalism which is going to be against the cynical so-called realism of American conservatism and traditional American policy, in which liberal ideas are considered irrelevant to foreign policy. And also against the head-in-the-sand blindness of a large part of the American left, which can only think that all problems around the world are caused by American imperialism and there's nothing else to worry about.

What we need is a third alternative -- a politics of liberal solidarity, of anti-fascism, a politics that's willing to be interventionist when tyrants or political movements really do threaten us and the people in their own countries, a politics that's going to be aggressive in spreading and promoting liberal ideas and values in regions of the world where people who hold those values are persecuted. A politics of active solidarity, not just expressions of solidarity, but actions of solidarity with liberal-minded people in other parts of the world.

It's scandalous to me that large parts of the political spectrum aren't acting on this now. Where are all the universities and human rights foundations and trade unions and all the other civic associations in the United States? Where are those groups now? Why aren't those groups acting now to establish links of solidarity with people of the Middle East and Muslim world? To try to foment movements, or even revolutions, on behalf of liberal ideals?


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