Paul Berman, the "liberal hawk" who I posted about earlier, just published a NY Times magazine piece on Sayyid Qutb, an obscure (to us) Islamic philosopher, who apparently is the key to Berman's "Islamic fascism" hypothesis. We've been discussing it over here. In so many words, Berman says that Qutb's brand of militant religious fundamentalism has the potential to unite secular and spiritualist Arab factions that have traditionally been opposed (and still are, judging from Osama bin Laden's recent condemnation of Saddam Hussein).

Ellen Willis reviews Berman's book in Salon today, and says he's wrongheaded to support Bush's war--she calls him "naive." Berman treats Bush as a mere instrument to bring Enlightenment (i.e. liberal democracy) to spiritually mature but politically ignorant Arabs, but Willis reminds us that Bush has a fundamentalist agenda of his own. I'd say Berman is doing Bush's intellectual spadework: in his research and exegesis on Qutb, he's trying to forge a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that Bush has so far been unable to prove.

Berman says the antiwar movement makes fascism abroad possible, but by giving Bush philosophical legitimacy, he's abetting its spread here at home. The "reluctant hawk" argument (espoused by the likes of Joshua Marshall, who rah-rahed the war 'till a few days before it started) is "We need to take out Saddam, I just don't think George Bush is doing it the right way." This seems totally unrealistic and hypothetical to me. For all the center/left's blather, the only plan on the table is Bush's. And the left's first priority should be removal of that right wing nutjob by 2004 at the latest. Supporting his war helps keep him in power.

- tom moody 3-25-2003 8:12 pm

Regarding removal of nutjob: this means you will vote for whomever the major Democratic candidate is?
- jimlouis 3-27-2003 3:20 pm

Before I answer that, I want to mention that I've posted the last page of Paul Berman's Salon interview here. In this Q&A, he calls the antiwar movement appeasers (and says some of them are anti-Semites), and endorses Bush's war against Iraq (as much as he tries to wiggle out of saying it). You have to read a few paragraphs to get the full preachy, icky flavor of the guy.

Jim, hopefully it's not going to come to holding our noses and voting for Joe Lieberman. Bush could do a lot between now and Nov 2004 to lose popularity and a better Democrat could surface. Impeachment is another desirable alternative.

Right now Howard Dean looks like the most palatable Dem, if only because he opposes the war and has more on the ball than Dennis Kucinich. But probably any of the Dems, if elected, will continue the Iraq quagmire, just as Nixon did with Vietnam after Johnson. The main priority should be getting the New World Order types back out on the street (or in jail).
- tom moody 3-27-2003 7:50 pm

I'm all over the "Unnamed Dem in 2004!" bandwagon.

I'd even vote for Gray Davis, if that's what it took. After typing that, I need to go wash my hands.
- mark 3-27-2003 8:47 pm

James Woolsey, the ex-CIA head being considered for a top post in Iraq's rolling democracy, told a group of college students yesterday he thinks we're in the midst of World War IV. According to CNN, Woolsey believes "the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda." I'm putting this comment under my Berman thread in an effort to keep track of the taxonomy of all our enemies. I still feel the effort to weld them rhetorically into a monolithic force a la the Soviet Union--whether by the right or the left--is a massive con job, the main result of which is to keep defense contractors fat and happy.
- tom moody 4-05-2003 1:31 am

CNN story on Woosley's WW IV speech
- mark 4-05-2003 1:45 am

what happened in ww3? did i sleep through it?
- dave 4-05-2003 1:56 am

Outrageous military spending (by us) toppled the Soviet Empire.
- tom moody 4-05-2003 2:02 am

Within the military-industrial complex and especially the intelligence community, the cold war was WWIII. Somewhere I have a poster that I "appropriated" from my employer in about '82. It's a picture of an incoming missile marked CCCP, with the legend "Does it contain American technology?" This poster was part of a program intended to promote attention to security, and was one of the more overt expressions of the pervasive underlying sentiment, especially among the long-timers, that we were at war with the Evil Empire.
- mark 4-05-2003 2:12 am

i thought you had a more recent post about berman but i couldnt find it. heres a new review in nation.
- dave 4-15-2003 1:00 am

i was thinking of this post from ruminatrix.
- dave 4-15-2003 1:10 am

your buddy berman is on charlie rose tonight. third guest.
- dave 4-16-2003 6:41 am

Liberal hawk Josh Marshall reviews Berman's book and reaches the same conclusions I did based on reading interviews with Berman:

Though this is a serious book, it is shot through with an equally serious flaw: the desire to inflate the threat of Islamist violence--and particularly its intellectual stakes--to levels beyond what they merit and to force them into a template of an earlier era, for which Berman has an evident and understandable nostalgia. Over the course of the book, the disjointedness between what the radical Islamist menace is and what Berman wants to make it ranges from merely apparent to downright painful, and ends up obscuring as much as it clarifies. And, unfortunately, the obscuring elements may be the more important ones. Given the role intellectuals are playing in this war, these are mistakes that could have dire real-world costs.

- tom moody 4-26-2003 7:12 am

I have to admit I think Berman makes a lot of people uncomfortable because it exposes them to the charge that as well meaning as they are, as much as they love human rights, it would appear only those who are victims of the US are deserving of them.

I don't think one can seriously watch world events in the last twenty years and conclude that terror attacks in places as far apart as the Phillipines, the US, India and Spain are a figment of our imagination. Watching Van Gogh murdered was a wake up call for a lot of Europeans. Bermans argument resonates with the truth; people do NOT want to believe that there are mass totalitarian movements whose existence cannot be explained rationally, any more than we could explain Hitler.

I've watched people making excuses for Palestinian terror for well over twenty years, and I've never been able to understand how the same people going berserk in the streets over the US invasions or Israels' occupation cannot find their voices when Hussein was butchering the Kurds, Milosevic was slaughtering the Bosnians, and now blacks are murdered in Sudan.

I don't find the notion of mass graves and nerve gas attacks particularly "preachy", but if one is suddenly confronted with the quandry of being a critic of US policy because of human rights violations but not really giving a shit about human rights violations otherwise, the proper response is not to shoot the messenger.
- anonymous (guest) 11-30-2004 10:35 am

I think the key word here is "invasion." There is only one juggernaut, and that is the industrial north rolling over the developing south. "Terror" is localized responses to Modernity and colonialism, it's not incipient fascism. And this is the second commenter in as many days (maybe you're the same person) to obsess about the "left making excuses for Palestinian terror." I'm sick of being implicitly accused of this. Go berate some other lefty! Last I heard, the Palestinians were victims of territorial aggression, not invaders of countries. Expressing a modicum of sympathy for them is not wearing an Arafat T-shirt, or ignoring suffering elsewhere.
- tom moody 11-30-2004 11:22 am

dont you love how the concern for civil rights suddenly has becomes an issue for the right? (thats why they were so up in arms over abu ghraib. and if only we had a few troops to spare for the sudan. god knows bush is all about peacekeeping for the brotherman and the otherman.) youd think they gave a fuck about people other than themselves. of course, at bottom, its self preservation but look how cute they are pretending to care. we're all wilsonian's now, except for that part about hating blacks and jews.

i guess palestinians dont count as human so they have no rights. only the chosen people have rights at least until jesus returns and condemns them all to eternal damnation.

- dave 11-30-2004 4:57 pm

Anon, when did you first oppose Hussein? I was pissed off at Ronnie and company in the eighties for supporting Saddam's invasion of Iran and Saddam's slaughter of tens of thousands of young Persians. I made a career change because I could not support US military activities that were providing tactical intelligence to Hussein to allow him to more efficiently deliver the nerve gas developed using dual use technology acquired from the US and others.

One can not make a meaningful analysis of human subjugation in the 20th century without examining the US's role on both sides of the issue. The so-called Islamofascists are minor players by comparision.

"people do NOT want to believe that there are mass totalitarian movements whose existence cannot be explained rationally"

Me neither, but then 11/2 happened.
- mark 11-30-2004 8:10 pm