Monday, January 29, 2007

Which Enemy At Home?

Over the weekend Atrios (a.k.a., Duncan Black) named Fred Hiatt, governor of the op-ed pages of the Washington Post, "Wanker of the Day" for publishing Dinesh Dsouza's piece defending his new book, The Enemy At Home. I have to disagree. Dsouza nicely illustrates the dark underside of the conservative case for what we ought to do in response to 9/11 that we are going to hear a lot more about if and when the disaster in Iraq ever leaves center stage.

You can pretty much dismiss the first half of Dsouza's op-ed as a long whine about the assaults on his book in various liberal publications; it's Exhibit Z in the bizarre conservative argument that the Right is a persecuted minority in this country. But when he gets that out of the way, Dsouza gets down to the heart of his book's argument: Islamists and other defenders of "traditional cultures" are legitimately outraged by the spread of "liberal" American culture, and that's the real source of al Qaeda's strength. Thus, repudiating the "cultural left" is the only way to win the war with Jihadism.

In case you think I'm exaggerating, check out this passage from Dsouza's op-ed:

What would motivate Muslims in faraway countries to volunteer for martyrdom? The fact that Palestinians don't have a state? I don't think so. It's more likely that they would do it if they feared their values and way of life were threatened. Even as the cultural left accuses Bush of imperialism in invading Iraq, it deflects attention from its own cultural imperialism aimed at secularizing Muslim society and undermining its patriarchal and traditional values. The liberal "solution" to Islamic fundamentalism is itself a source of Islamic hostility to America.

In one of the reviews of his book that Dsouza whines about, Alan Wolfe explains where this line of "reasoning" leads:

America is fighting two wars simultaneously, he argues, a war against terror abroad and a culture war at home. We should be using the former, less important, one to fight the latter, really crucial, one. The way to do so is to encourage a split between “radical” Muslims like bin Laden, who engage in jihad, and “traditional” Muslims who are conservative in their political views and deeply devout in their religious practices; understanding the radical Muslims, even being sympathetic to some of their complaints, is the best way to win the support of the traditionalists. We should stand with conservative Muslims in protest against the publication of the Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad rather than rallying to the liberal ideal of free speech. We should drop our alliance with decadent Europe and “should openly ally” with “governments that reflect Muslim interests, not ... Israeli interests.” And, most important of all, conservative religious believers in America should join forces with conservative religious believers in the Islamic world to combat their common enemy: the cultural left.

Identifying yourself with America's great detractors is obviously a risky endeavor when you are a "scholar" at the conservative Hoover Institution, so Dsouza tries to pull a "so's your old man" maneuver by claiming that the self-same "cultural left" that's despoiling the world perceives the larger battle just as he does:

Indeed, leftists routinely portray Bush's war on terrorism as a battle of competing fundamentalisms, Islamic vs. Christian. It is Bush, more than bin Laden, they say, who threatens abortion rights and same-sex marriage and the entire social liberal agenda in the United States. So leftist activists such as Michael Moore and Howard Zinn and Cindy Sheehan seem willing to let the enemy win in Iraq so they can use that defeat in 2008 to rout Bush -- their enemy at home.

This isn't, of course, what most hard-core Left antiwar activists "routinely" say; they tend, in fact, to ascribe economic or militarist motives to Bush's foreign policies, and often view the cultural aspects of the conflict with Jihadism as phony window-dressing for oil-lust or military contracts. But here's Dsouza's most ridiculous misrepresentation of reality:

Now I fear that the extreme cultural left is whispering into the ears of the Democratic Congress. Cut off the funding. Block the increase in troops. Shut down Guantanamo Bay. Lose the war on terrorism -- and blame Bush.
This is, to use a technical term, complete crap. If anyone's "whispering in the ears of the Democratic Congress," it's the American people, many of whom have become convinced that Bush's Iraq policies, not our liberal cultural traditions, are risking defeat in the broader struggle with Jihadism. And if anyone's being defeatist here, it's people like Dsouza, who believe this country should blame itself for Jihadism, repudiate our own culture, curtail our own freedoms, and align ourselves with people whose main dissent from al Qaeda's doctrines is merely tactical.
-- Posted at 10:33 AM | Link to this post | Email this post

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