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May 10, 2004
Victor Davis Hanson Explains It All

Victor Davis Hanson may wind up as the leading intellectual voice behind the war on Islamofascist terror. In today's lengthy essay on OpinionJournal, Hanson relates the historical context of our current conflicts and the debilitating philosophies that brought us, finally, to this pass:

The 20th century should have taught the citizens of liberal democracies the catastrophic consequences of placating tyrants. British and French restraint over the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the absorption of the Czech Sudetenland, and the incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia did not win gratitude but rather Hitler's contempt for their weakness. Fifty million dead, the Holocaust and the near destruction of European civilization were the wages of "appeasement"--a term that early-1930s liberals proudly embraced as far more enlightened than the old idea of "deterrence" and "military readiness." ...

Most important, military deterrence and the willingness to use force against evil in its infancy usually end up, in the terrible arithmetic of war, saving more lives than they cost. All this can be a hard lesson to relearn each generation, especially now that we contend with the sirens of the mall, Oprah and latte. Our affluence and leisure are as antithetical to the use of force as rural life and relative poverty once were catalysts for muscular action. The age-old lure of appeasement--perhaps they will cease with this latest concession, perhaps we provoked our enemies, perhaps demonstrations of our future good intentions will win their approval--was never more evident than in the recent Spanish elections, when an affluent European electorate, reeling from the horrific terrorist attack of 3/11, swept from power the pro-U.S. center-right government on the grounds that the mass murders were more the fault of the United States for dragging Spain into the effort to remove fascists and implant democracy in Iraq than of the primordial al Qaedaist culprits, who long ago promised the Western and Christian Iberians ruin for the Crusades and the Reconquista.

What went wrong with the West--and with the United States in particular--when not just the classical but especially the recent antecedents to Sept. 11, from the Iranian hostage-taking to the attack on the USS Cole, were so clear?

Hanson makes clear that, in his mind, what went wrong was that the West adopted the radical-left notions of victimhood and moral relativity so evident in John Kerry's words to Congress in 1971: "I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist."

In other words, the left felt, and still feels, that ideology and democracy are irrelevant to judgments of worthiness, and that all that matters is if a particular system meets people's needs. When a system fails, as communism and Islamocism have, then the problem is not the system but outside influences on that system. Western capitalism makes the perfect target, for a variety of reasons -- it forces people to keep up, which creates economic "victims" of those who don't, and it requires the emphasis of self-responsibility and free markets, which distribute wealth on the basis of productivity and innovation rather than guarantee an equal result regardless of effort. Based on these strategies and a stable representative government, the US has become the greatest economic power in the world, far out of proportion to our size, which infuriates those who believe in a Utopian ideal.

It doesn't take a far leap from that frustration to a knee-jerk response to believe that the West causes victimization of those cultures who refuse to modernize -- indeed, the notion itself causes offense. Why should they copy the West?, they ask; how arrogant to suggest they need to change! But it is the Islamist insistence on following the failed strategies of the twelfth century that is the problem, and our conflict of the past twenty-five years has been the inevitable result.

After reading Hanson's piece, ask yourself how the West managed the transition to stable nation-states and the liberation of its peasantry, and then compare that to conditions in Islamist states such as Iran or Saudi Arabia. It didn't happen by accident, and the West took centuries to reform itself. Islam receives no benefit by leftists declaring that Islam has no need to reform, and the West will be undermined perhaps to annihilation by the notion that we should allow Islamofascists to operate freely as some masochistic penance for imagined oppression. If liberal democracies are to survive, they must recognize Islamofascism for the cancer it is, and excise it before it metastasizes any further. (via Memeorandum)

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 10, 2004 12:38 PM

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