30 August 2006

And in other news

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a bit late, but nonetheless, it seems he got the memo. That would be the memo with talking points drawn from Victor Davis Hanson’s recent column for the National Review titled “The Brink of Madness” (published 4 August 2006 and available here) in which he recasts the contemporary “western” fight against Islamic terrorism as akin to the battle against fascism during World War II. Hanson’s principle complaint is that too much of the west is in appeasement mode, making the current situation appear eerily similar to the betrayals of the 1930s. In strong terms, he frames the argument as follows: “But what is lost sight of is the central moral issue of our times: a humane democracy mired in an asymmetrical war is trying to protect itself against terrorists from the 7th century, while under the scrutiny of a corrupt world that needs oil, is largely anti-Semitic and deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, and finds psychic enjoyment in seeing successful Western societies under duress.”

Rumsfeld, having clearly read Hanson, takes a similar line in a speech he gave yesterday in Salt Lake City. The Associated Press quotes him as saying “I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism,” and he referred to the pre-World War II period as “a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the Western democracies,” leading to appeasement of Hitler.

In many ways, I agree: there is too much waffling, particularly in western Europe, about terrorism, terrorists, and how to deal with the them; oil is certainly a corrupting influence; and there is far too much joy coming from these professed Islamists over the suffering of other humans at their hands, which seems strongly inconsistent with the values of Islam. That said, Hanson proposes no specific solutions or precise battle plans to combat what he sees as appeasement, so it is hard to know what he really intends for the west to do. In the case of the recent Israel-Hizbollah war, he says Israel should have fought harder and more aggressively. Presumably he believes, as does Rumsfeld, that in Iraq and other places where there are known terrorists, the US and the nations of Europe should also be more aggressive. Hanson also talks about potential terrorism and terrorists here in the United States, abusing our open society for their evil purposes.

However, the Iraq war is not going very well, the Israel-Hizbollah conflict was, at best, a draw (if not a Hizbollah victory – victorious for merely for having survived), and some new ideas for how we choose to face and fight the problem are necessary but completely lacking. In the United States, the USA Patriot Act has been passed and re-affirmed, giving the government forces great powers to round up terrorists, and not to appease them, while the Bush Administration plays on our fears as a security measure of its own. What more does Hanson want? To arbitrarily remove every Muslim from the United States and prohibit them from coming back? Given his solid attack on anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of Jews, it seems odd to turn around and make a scapegoat of a different religious minority. Likewise, for Rumsfeld: having gotten the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, is he nonetheless calling for attacks on Iran and North Korea as a means to prove America has the guts to not to appease?

Whatever the solutions to these problems look like, whatever Hanson’s and Rumsfeld’s visions of aggressive non-appeasement, it must also be consistent with the values that make western society where Hanson, Rumsfeld, and I all choose to live. If we espouse, act on, and create our own version of a repressive, fascist society, we have lost the war – and will have done it to ourselves, to boot. So what is it, exactly, that they want?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home