Terror and Liberalismby Paul Berman
A manifesto for an aggressive liberal response to terrorist attacks.One of our most brilliant public intellectuals, Paul Berman has spent his career writing on revolutionary movements and their totalitarian aspects. Here he argues that, in the terror war, we are not facing a battle of the West against Islama clash of civilizations. We are facing, instead, the same battle that tore apart Europe during most of the twentieth century, only in a new version. It is the clash of liberalism and its enemiesthe battle between freedom and totalitarianism that arose in Europe many years ago and spread to the Muslim world. The author considers the wars against fascism and communism from the past, and draws cautionary lessons. But he also draws from those past experiences a liberal program for the presenta program that departs in fundamental respects from the policies of the Bush administration.
Author Biography: Paul Berman is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. His books include Debating P. C. and A Tale of Two Utopias.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Paul Berman is what one could fairly describe as a thinking man¿s pundit, unafraid of alienating either his more sympathetic supporters from the left, and sometimes drawing praise and agreement from the conservative right. The author of many provocative and thought-inspiring essays, Berman found himself surprised and befuddled by the turn of events on 911, which he watched with dismay from his perch on his apartment house roof in Manhattan. Quite quickly he became much more aware of the radical threats pulsing through the city as, for example, a Yemeni cleric was indicted and subsequently convicted of laundering and forwarded tens of millions of dollars to Al Quaida. In ¿Terror And Liberalism ¿ he turns his considerable wit and intellectual powers to a consideration of the nature of, and threats emanating from, what he has come to describe as ¿Islamic Totalitarianism¿ Far from flying with the angels of either the right or the left, Berman indicates understanding the rise of such radical organizations requires abandoning these kinds of simple dichotomous paradigms, and in examining the ways in which the terrorism of the 21st century finds its roots in the violent and reactionary movements of the 20th century. Berman shows how the recent episodes of terror committed by such Islamic groups finds its origins in a continuation of the historical struggle between reactionary fascist and totalitarian groups such as the Nazis on the one hand, and the Soviet, Chinese and Cuban communists on the other against the entrenched liberal cultures of the Western democracies. Seen in this perspective, self-described Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al Quaida and Hamas are less the exclusively pure religious rejections of the Christian West as they are a violent and ultimately secular ideology camping under the tent of a highly corrupted Islamic fundamentalism that finds its rage and purpose by rebelling against what they see as the ¿hideous schizophrenia¿ of modern society. This is all documented in a relatively obscure set of voluminous texts written by Egyptian scholar and intellectual Sayyid Qutb and entitled ¿In The Shade of the Qur¿an¿, which Berman believes provides the theoretical underpinnings of the Islamic totalitarian movements now assailing the West. So, while Berman admits the philosophical musings of Outb to be sophisticated, intellectually profound, heartfelt and deeply nuanced, he also finds reason to criticize the more radical interpretation which spokespersons for radical Muslim fundamentalism such as Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden approach the kind of crypto-fascist critique of post-modern Western societies, and indeed now constitute the same sort of grave threat to the continuation of our culture. Arguing quite persuasively, Berman posits that the radical forms of Islamism and Baathism (which is the variation of Islamic thought that ideologically propels Saddam Hussein¿s former ruling party) stem from the same kind of reactionary counter-revolution against the rising forces of liberalism that a century ago created the conditions for the First World War. Therefore, he argues, we must marshal our resources to combat this ideological challenge that such violent ideologies arising within the Muslim world today. This makes great sense in trying to piece together a workable strategy for working through the issues and concerns being raised by our interventions in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and will give rise, Berman believes, to a more sophisticated and comprehensive world view than those offered in the overly simplistic liberal or conservative frames of reference in current vogue. He suggest perhaps amore enlightened liberalism will recognize, just as FDR did at the outset of World War Two, that there is great merit in rising to the international challenge and combating the tyrannical forces of radical Islamic totalitarianism. This is a terrific book, and one that will stretch and prod those old brain cells into ac