Can the Left Face the Threat of Islam?
by Jason Pappas © November 15, 2004
“Why do they hate us?” This question is repeated ad nauseam in the press, in intellectual journals, and in the broadcast media. For those on the Left, this question holds a peculiar importance that reveals a deeply felt notion about America and its place in the world today. It’s a fundamental sense that we are wrong in our relation to the rest of the world; and that our country’s moral standing has more than eroded.
It was this spirit – a spirit of national shame – that permeated the 2004 Democratic Presidential campaign, not as an overt doctrine but as a leitmotiv continually punctuating the campaign via angered insinuation, undue disparagement, absurd vilification, and incessant whining. There was the oft repeated canard that we suddenly lost the world’s sympathy, so prevalent for a few moments after the attack of 9/11. There was the silly notion that we alienated all of our allies and “went it alone,” because we did not wait for France. There were charges of willful deception, because our intelligence agencies, like every other country’s, failed to give an accurate snapshot of Saddam’s current WMD programs. And then there was the insinuation that we are the aggressor, having undertook a “war of choice” in defiance of the standards of the ”international community”, supposedly all honorable bastions of the rule of law.
Most of all, Mr. Kerry, with a deep resonant scornful voice, conveyed a sense of moral condemnation and shame – a shame for our nation. Over and over again his moral posturing turned minor practical drawbacks – the loss of a few French troops, the lack of one final UN resolution, or the lost of the world’s “love” – into gross negligence if not outright moral failure. “Why do they hate us?” The tacit message, that he would never overtly acknowledge, is that their hatred is understandable. It’s not something wrong with them; it’s something wrong with us. Whether or not he truly feels that way we can only surmise, but it is clear he is pandering to the far left, his core constituency. Why does the left hate America?
In all fairness, traditional social democrats were not completely ready for this harsh view. This posed a problem for Mr. Kerry as he needed wider support than just the hate-America left. During the last days of the campaign, he emphasized the themes of competency and effectiveness. Now it was only a question of the implementation, rather than a profound moral disagreement or a fundamental difference of purpose. However, this isn’t a flip-flop, as is often said; he holds antithetical positions simultaneously by explicitly denying that there’s a fundamental disagreement while insinuating that we are shamefully fighting a “wrong war” – a morally wrong war – in Iraq. His far left core gets his underlying message, loud and clear, as he explicitly contradicts that message in a desperate attempt to gain late-deciding voters.
Mr. Kerry’s core constituency has distinguished itself for showing more sympathy for the enemy than our fighting men and women. According to the left, the few thugs and jihadists, whose daily terrorist bombings kill scores of Iraqis, are the authentic indigenous freedom fighters – not the 100,000 men in the Iraqi security force trying to bring stability to their country. The terrorists, often called insurgents, hate us for invading their land and justifiably target our GIs, according to the left. “Fahrenheit 911”, which got rave reviews from the Democratic Party from Terry McAuliffe on down, portrays a peaceful Iraq made bloody by America. It’s become so common place to vilify America that one is hardly shocked at the hatred and viciousness displayed over the last year. As I point out elsewhere, in many quarters, it is virtually a cliché to refer to America as being evil.1
Sadly few Democrats will repudiate Mr. Kerry’s message of a shameful America. One exception is Zell Miller.2 On the notion that we are oppressors, not liberators, Zell Miller responds: “But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy.”
What has happened to the left? Why are they so comfortable with a picture of America as the evil force in today’s world when religious fanatics, motivated by Islam, are viciously killing peaceful civilized people in the West and establishing oppressive theocratic states in the East? Why do some on the far left have an instinctive kinship with the jihadists that fight against our country and our allies? Why is there such an instinctual hatred for America on the left that only grows year after year? These are the questions that David Horowitz addresses in his latest book: “Unholy Alliance”. 3
Immediately after the 9/11 atrocity – with the World Trade Center smoldering and America still in shock – the far left “launched a campaign to protest, in advance, any military response.” 4 Echoing enemy propaganda, the left insinuated that we brought it on ourselves. They saw this not as an aggressive attack but a retaliatory act whose “root causes” were understandable. Susan Sontag, Barbara Kinsolver, Kate Pollitt, and Eric Foner – the usual suspects – wasted no time launching a parallel front here at home. They denigrated our patriotism, scoffed at our moral righteousness, called our country the true terrorist, condemned our future actions as heinous war crimes, and blamed Bush for starting a Holy War. Teach-ins, demonstrations, and other forms of mobilization, as virulent of the 60s, propounded the party line that the threat was not our theocratic fanatical Islamo-fascist enemy but the government of the United States. And this was before the battle of Iraq.
Under the banner of “United We Stand” both sides of the isle supported the battle of Afghanistan. Of the various options, the President chose Iraq as the next battle in the war due to a number of factors. In actuality, the policy of regime change originated in the previous administration. Indeed, in Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox, “the United States and Britain flew 650 bombing sorties and fired 415 cruise missiles into Iraq, a greater quantity than during the entire Gulf War.” 5 Thus, there was “a reasonable expectation” for continued “broad and unified support.” 6 Horowitz documents the growth of the “anti-war” movement leading up to the invasion of Iraq, chronicling the transformation of the Democratic Party into a rallying point for the opposition. Once again the odious nature of Saddam’s fascist regime made little difference to the left. The concern and wrath was directed toward that which was, oddly enough, considered a significantly greater problem and threat: America. Colombia professor, Nicholas De Genova expressed outright what others only implied: “U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy. … The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.” 7 He called for “a million Mogadishus.” 8
In Part Two of the book, Horowitz does what he alone can do best: he paints a well-balanced portrait of the American left’s political endurance amidst its intellectual disintegration. Its ideals scattered by the harsh reality of failure after failure, its dream of “social justice” is now only a vague sentiment. With no concrete political philosophy, system, or program, the dream becomes a dim apparition fading into a future that recedes beyond sight.9 The only thing real that binds the left is its nihilist hatred.10 It’s all that is left. Todd Gitlin explains the transformation of the anti-war movement of the 60s. “It inflamed our hearts. You can hate your country in such a way that the hatred becomes fundamental. A hatred so clear and intense came to feel like a cleansing flame. By the late 60s, this is what became of much of the New Left.” 11
This nihilism is the remnants of irrational religious-like utopianism created in defiance of reality.12 Subsequent rationalizations, by exaggeration of our historical faults compared to the unknowable utopian dream, enable the lie of America being guilty of genocide,13 sustaining an unusually horrendous slave industry, being an imperialist leader, and being responsible for nearly every ill that befell mankind.14 To some, like Chomsky and Blum, America is worse than or even responsible for Nazi Germany! 15 Obviously, these charges are not the result of an empirical study. They stem from fundamental metaphysical assumptions that precede any consideration of the evidence and, in their world-view, make all explanation possible. “Three assumptions underlie the arguments of the anti-American cult. (1) America can do no right; (2) even the rights America appears to do are wrong; (3) these wrongs are monstrous.” 16 In the end, it boils down to a simplistic formula: we’re powerful, they are pathetic; it must all be our fault.
Horowitz sums up the exceptional position of America: “A crucial element in the worldview of American radicals is the belief in American omnipotence – the ability of America’s leaders to control the circumstances of their international policies without regard to the interests of allies or the threats of adversary powers or the constraints imposed by domestic political forces. Radicals never see America as reacting to a threat …” 17 He continues to back that up with example after example of how the left, like today’s Muslims, blames the world’s problems on American action or inaction.18 He could have easily written a book on this topic alone. If he did he might have exposed the hypocrisy of the left, which implies that the prevalence of dictatorships in impoverished countries worldwide is the result of a handful of American covert operatives, but at the same time, it is apparently “hubris” to imagine that a 200,000 man intervention in Iraq can bring substantial change. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t – it’s all somehow our fault!
The left has long embodied an asymmetric determinism. It comes in many guises. For example, an individual’s behavior is said to be determined by society but apparently not to the extent that they can’t initiate action to change society by becoming part of the collective will – as exemplified by the left or other designated “authentic” group. In the current context one of the most common myths holds that the powerless are subject to economic and structural forces beyond their control thus absolving them of any actions – all actions are reactions – as if they lack any volitional capacity. The successful, however, are automatically to blame for the state of the universe, regardless of their actions, so long as there are inequities. This structural analysis holds that ideas are secondary to status; indeed, ideas are the result of structure rather than its cause. Thus, for the left, ideas are an epiphenomenon – a superstructure – with little causal relevance. Religion in particular, quoting Marx, “is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the oppressed.” 19 Thus, Islam is not taken too seriously; the Islamic Revival is our fault.
Part Three is a brief introduction to the malady infecting contemporary Islamic mass-movements. After reviewing the influence of 20th century totalitarianism on Islamist and Baathist movements,20 Horowitz describes the common mindset shared by leftists and the jihadists, at present.21 Much of the Islamist hate comes from reading and regurgitating self-loathing Western critics. And the critics are delighted to find “confirmation” from the “spontaneous” response against American “imperialism.” Paul Berman reports on the left’s embrace of Islamist violence in his book “Terror and Liberalism” At a Socialist Scholars Conference, “an Egyptian novelist defend[ed] a young Palestinian woman who had just committed suicide and murder – and having heard the defense, the crowd broke into applause.” 22 As usual, the “root cause” of the rise of Islamism is seen not as the power of belief – this is dismissed by the left as a by-product – but as the result of material factors controlled by the powerful: American and Israel. Thus, leftists and jihadists are, deep-down, soul-mates united by a common hatred.
For those unfamiliar with the standard faire of anti-Americanism on the far left, Horowitz reviews their treacherous attempts to undermine our response to the jihadist movement and allied regimes – covered in part Four and Five of his book. Here he is on solid ground as one of our foremost critics of this cultural swamp. If you are unfamiliar with this shabby corner of contemporary politics, you can find no better guide than Mr. Horowitz. The influence of the extreme left on the whole of the Democratic Party and mainstream media is achieved not by the doctrinal conversion of sizeable number of the honest and sincere loyal opposition; but the influence has gripped our friends on the left more than they had realized – and realized by the average citizen.
Horowitz masterfully shows how far left ideas captured the Democratic Presidential campaign of 2004. What was bipartisan support for our war against terror, turned into a fierce opposition that viciously vilified a wartime President. On a day to day basis we heard that the war is immoral and unnecessary, that it is based on a lie, and actually caused by ulterior mercenary motives. This constant pounding over and over again is the kind of propaganda one would expect of an enemy intent on demoralizing our fighting men and women. Horowitz documents the events exactly as they unfolded as a fitting climax to the book and a record for future generations.
David Horowitz achieves what may at first seem impossible; he shows how the modern American left and the medieval Islamic revivalists are natural allies. Two sides of the same coin of nihilism, a synthesis of superficial opposites, and united by a common hatred, they move in parallel, attacking and chipping away at the greatest achievement millenniums in the making: Western Civilization. Our Islamic enemy could find no greater ally than the American left.
There are several shortcoming with Horowitz’ analysis. Horowitz fails to come to grips with the underlying problem of Islam. While the influence of 20th century totalitarianism is an important influence on the Islamic Revival, there is little discussion of Islam proper. Is Islam itself a problem? Is Islam susceptible to the influence of secular totalitarianism and a ready receptacle of the worst collectivist ideas and practices? Or has Islam gone astray in a failed attempt a modernization during the heyday of fascism and communism? I suspect Horowitz isn’t sure given the debate on his website, frontpagemag.com, between critics of Islam and defenders of reform. His book leaves the impression that Islam was harmed by the absorption of foreign totalitarian ideas in an otherwise blameless culture. Interestingly, he retains a failing of the left; he fails to come to grips with the indigenous backwardness of Islamic cultures and has implicitly found the fault external to Arab culture and the Islamic religion.
Moving from the political to the epistemological, there is a deeper connection to be made. The nihilistic post-modern academia shares something with the pre-modern Islamists: skepticism of reason. The post-modern attack on reason is a culmination of centuries of critiques that undermined reason’s authority, reduced reason’s domain, and opposed reason’s centrality in human affairs. Reason is no longer seen as a substantial and robust power to grasp and master reality; and guide man’s actions. The only power of reason, for the post-modernist, is to destroy itself. There are epistemological nihilists attacking our culture at its root: the human mind.
The Islamic hostility to reason is centuries older. It is rooted in the mysticism and dogmatism of an unreformed religion. One thousand years ago, the remnants of Hellenic philosophy were tolerated in Arab society in one locale or another. However, Islam ultimately rejected the best of Hellenic thought allowing that advantage to pass to Christian Europe. Horowitz doesn’t tread on this philosophical turf. He hardly explores the post-Kantian philosophical disintegration that gives rise to the multi-cultural constructivist group-oriented subjectivism. He does, however, briefly deal with the left’s transformation from class analysis to race/gender/queer analysis.
Horowitz could dig deeper and explicitly discuss the hostility both have towards the importance of the individual. Neither the left nor the Islamists see the individual as an end in himself. However, Horowitz approaches this issue in another way. He describes their common utopian desire for purification and perfection of society. It’s an important point to which he allocates a chapter. It is not clear that his criticism is reserved for irrational standards of human perfection, but may include human excellence itself. Is his view is more Augustinian – finding an essential baseness of human nature? He is, after all, a conservative. It’s often hard to tell his view. This is part of a general failure; he rarely gives alternatives. Even though this is a book about the American left, its narratives, and its failures; the reader is left without a potent contrast.
Horowitz does what Horowitz does best: expose contemporary trends in a common sense manner accessible to the average person with an open mind. He is virtually a one man expose of the left’s sad history in contemporary post-war America – including much they wished would disappear in the revisionist’s trash bin. Mr. Horowitz has prevented that from happening. Despite the near complete takeover of academia, a few men and women, speaking the truth is enough to hold the line against the enemy within. Horowitz is leading that contingent. This book is a major contribution in the battle for civilization.
1. Jason Pappas, Is Islam Evil?, March 5, 2004
2. Zell Miller, Keynote Speech, Republican Convention, Sept. 1, 2004
3. David Horowitz, “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left”, Regnery Publishing, Washington, 2004
4. Horowitz, ibid p. 11
5. Horowitz, ibid p. 25
6. Horowitz, ibid p. 26
7. Horowitz, ibid p. 35
8. Horowitz, ibid p. 34
9. Horowitz, ibid p. 47, 160
10. Horowitz, ibid p. 59, 90, 161
11. Horowitz, ibid p. 80
12. Horowitz, ibid p. 66, 79, 81, 82, 85, 124, 127
13. Horowitz, ibid p. 85, 107
14. Horowitz, ibid p. 147
15. Horowitz, ibid p. 94, 117
16. Horowitz, ibid p. 109
17. Horowitz, ibid p. 115
18. Horowitz, ibid p. 129, 133
19. Horowitz, ibid p. 129
20. Horowitz, ibid p. 123-127
21. Horowitz, ibid p. 127-131
22. Horowitz, ibid p. 128