Osama bin Laden and the American left have forged a tacit agreement to secure the defeat of the United States in Iraq. That’s premise number one in Dinesh D’Souza’s book, The Enemy at Home. A second premise is that the global war against Islamic radicalism is linked to the Red-Blue culture war at home—and that success in the first struggle is linked to aggressive engagement in the second. A third proposition is that victory in the global war on Islamic radicalism requires an alliance between American conservatives and traditional Muslims—an alliance that deplores not only acts of terror but also the libertine culture that Blue America is exporting around the world.
D’Souza obviously knows that the American left and Muslim radicals have vastly different agendas. The former seek to make the U.S., and eventually the world, safe for pornography (i.e. for secular liberalism’s vision of individual autonomy), while the latter want to establish Sharia throughout the Middle East, then elsewhere. At present, however, a marriage of convenience exists between the atheistic left and Islamic terrorists—since both sides see their power enhanced by hanging a Vietnam-style defeat on President Bush in Iraq.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, but this pairing rivals in cynicism the per-hour sexual unions employed by mullahs-in-heat to maintain de jure chastity (a curious practice described in D’Souza’s overview of Muslim mores). Still, the author’s thesis gains plausibility from the fact that OBL’s pre-election message in 2004 was largely indistinguishable from the rhetoric employed by leftists like Michael Moore. As D’Souza observes, “If you presume that [leftists] want Bush to win and bin Laden to lose the war on terror, their rhetoric and actions are utterly baffling. By contrast, if you presume that they want bin Laden to win and Bush to lose the war, then their statements and actions make perfect sense.”
But why would the American left want George Bush, and thus the U.S., to lose the war in Iraq? Put succinctly, because it “fears Bush more than bin Laden.” For leftists the “near enemy” threatens to tip the balance of judicial power, which has been employed for decades to impose liberal dogma on a reluctant public, back toward traditional jurisprudence. Consequently, a new foreign policy debacle is needed to discredit conservatives, unite liberals and leftists, and consolidate power in the hands of justices whose “sweet mystery of life” decisions consistently undermine traditional values. The left’s first priority is to defeat the “Christian fascists” in America—those folks who oppose abortion, abhor gay marriage, and embrace standards of propriety that (except for Europe and Blue America) are recognized around the globe. If countless Iraqis must die or suffer under an Iran-style regime to secure this domestic political objective, so be it.
Osama bin Laden, for his part, is happy to have American allies whose short-term foreign policy objectives coincide with his own—even if the secular left is precisely the group pushing a worldwide cultural agenda that is anathema to both Al Qaeda and traditional Muslims. The antipathy of traditional Muslims to secular hedonism is a fact largely ignored by conservatives seeking allies in the misnamed “war on terror.” D’Souza, however, far from viewing culture as a footnote, notes that Islamic radicals from Sayyid Qutb to Osama have fervently denounced the seductive power of American television, movies, music, and mores. Indeed, both radical and not-so-radical Muslims view this corrupt culture as a mortal threat to Islam. Moreover, the U.S., due to the quantity and prominence of its cultural exports, is seen as the focus of Western decadence in the world—“the head of the snake.” Neither “Western imperialism” nor (as it seems to Arabs) America’s puzzling support for Israel is viewed with similar existential dread.
To emphasize this point, D’Souza provides a penance-inducing portrait of American cultural depravity—an undertaking unprecedented among foreign policy analysts. For traditional cultures, entertainments like gangsta’ rap, Two and a Half Men, Howard Stern, and The Vagina Monologues are grossly offensive. (D’Souza gives details that transform vapid words like “explicit” and “mature” into “when I see it” obscenities that would curl Potter Stewart’s toenails.) Unlike Western liberals, Muslims in Iraq, Egypt, or Indonesia don’t equate freedom with flagrant violations of traditional morality. Indeed, for them, as for Red America, public laws that bolster families with a father, a mother, and children seem both natural and sensible—whereas a society that legalizes pornography, sexualizes children, makes abortion-on-demand a fundamental right, and puts a stamp of approval on homosexual unions seems positively demented. Yet this is the society that single-child leftists, via their Hollywood cohorts, are foisting on cultures around the world.
Moreover, because of popular resistance, leftists require the aid of U.N. agencies, Planned Parenthood, the Ford Foundation, George Soros, and various other NGOs to do to traditional cultures what they’ve already done to America. In this effort, pliable dictators often serve the left’s purposes better than democratic governments—a fact illustrated by war critics’ nostalgia for Saddam’s “equal rights for women” tyranny. (Indeed, as liberal author Thomas Frank notes, even Kansans can’t be trusted to vote as they should—thus the need for an imperial judiciary.) Liberalism and democracy, D’Souza observes, are distinct concepts, and leftists have always been willing to ditch democracy to achieve their ideological goals—social equality, lifestyle liberties, and dogmatic secularism.
The irony of this devilish compact between leftists and Islamic radicals is that Westerners who despise Islam as much as they hate traditional Christians, find themselves on the side of “redeployment”—a policy whose likely result will be the victory of radicals in Iraq. Conversely, Islamic radicals are content to empower abroad a group that sponsors aggressive global secularization. The upside of this deal for team-Osama, however, goes beyond the plum of Iraq, since its consummation highlights American weakness. Moreover, as secular liberals assume power in America, it becomes easier to convince traditional Muslims that the U.S., like the Soviet Union, is a drunken giant ready to collapse.
As D’Souza shows, leftist foreign policy has been extremely successful at conveying this impression of the U.S. to Muslim radicals. Jimmy Carter’s disastrous decision to undermine the Shah of Iran paved the way for the first Islamic state—a huge radical victory. Bill Clinton’s abrupt withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, after eighteen troops were killed in Mogadishu, inspired bin Laden to depict Americans as cut-and-run cowards. Five years later, the same President’s Monica-timed cruise missile response to devastating attacks against American embassies in Africa, led an Islamic activist to consider sending a chastity belt to the White House to help Clinton improve his aim “the next time.” D’Souza notes, poignantly, that for Clinton “there would not be a next time”—not even after an Al Qaeda orchestrated attack on the U.S.S. Cole blasted “a forty-foot hole in the ship’s hull and [killed] seventeen sailors.” Such self-defeating, feckless policies, D’Souza argues, confirmed the radicals’ belief that America, despite its wealth and military assets, had lost the will to fight. And that conviction paved the way for 9/11—thus earning the cultural left (because of its foreign policy failures and tawdry cultural exports) primary “responsibility” for those attacks.
Despite these withering cultural and foreign policy critiques, D’Souza repeatedly defends the left against charges of anti-Americanism. Leftists, the author notes, promote their beliefs, just as conservatives do. Indeed, they are even willing to employ military force, if necessary, to set up an ideological soul mate in Haiti. In the end, however, D’Souza’s defense is Pyrrhic—and is probably offered to deflect criticism of his own audacious analysis. The left’s “America,” as D’Souza shows, is a country where patriotism and religion are suspect, where loyalty rests with international organizations, and where governments exist to redistribute wealth and enforce whatever dictates du jour are issued by the gods of political correctness. Its America, in other words, is a nation that repudiates the traditional values cherished by almost all Americans up to, but not beyond, “the greatest generation.” To argue in its defense that “the left wants America to be a shining beacon of global depravity, a kind of Gomorrah on a Hill,” is no defense at all. Moreover, by D’Souza’s lax standard, even Americans who spied for the Soviets could be deemed patriotic, since they also wished to make the country better—in the image of Joseph Stalin. More to the point, leftists who now want America to lose the war in Iraq and become like Europe are cosmopolitans, not patriots. They “love America” the same way Howard Zinn does—with reckless contempt.
D’Souza’s proposals for defeating the Al Qaeda-Michael Moore axis include perseverance in the attempt to establish a democratic Iraq. Also needed, but at present woefully lacking, is serious political focus on the values that Red America shares with most Muslims around the world. Rather than demonizing Islam, defending the newly-minted right to blaspheme, and pushing Western cultural standards on reluctant Muslims, conservatives should denounce the corrupt culture promoted by the secular left and embrace the right of Muslims to configure democracies that reflect their religious and historical traditions. Instead of lecturing Arab women on the joys of chauffeurless driving, administration officials should join forces with them in conferences designed to showcase the devastation wrought by Western pop-culture. Only by highlighting the ideals cherished by Red America (natural rights and external moral standards) and repudiating the excesses of Blue America can conservatives hope to persuade traditional Muslims that at least half of the U.S. (the half despised by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins) isn’t intent on destroying their faith.
That “traditional Muslims are the only people who are capable of stopping radical Islam” is a notion that’s been bandied about in discussions of the “war on terror.” D’Souza’s book, however, fleshes out the stark implications of that thought. Moderate or liberal Muslims, the author jokes, are already on our side—all eight of them. The remaining billion-plus, however, won’t be won over by plaintive denunciations of terrorism or by rapturous paeans to freedom—not as long as they equate “freedom” with Western decadence and “terror” with the only practical means of resisting corruption. Nor will they sign up to fight against fellow believers when reckless statements about their religion are made by supporters of a war against “Islamic fascism.” To win the hearts and minds of Muslims, “democracy” and “freedom” must mean something other than MTV and rigidly enforced public secularism. And for this to happen, American rhetoric and policy, vis-à-vis traditional Islamic culture, must change.
Whether most Americans are capable of appreciating and adopting these intellectual distinctions is doubtful—as is also their willingness to publicly denounce, alongside Muslims, the decadent culture in which they have marinated for almost half a century. Certainly, American leftists and their cohorts in the media will dismiss these ideas as the ravings of a right-wing theocrat. (The author provides a list of prominent leftists and leftist groups at the end of his book.) Moreover, assuming D’Souza’s analysis of the traditional-radical split in Islam is accurate, it is far from clear that “traditionals” who are currently on the terrorism fence will put their faith in a divided-against-itself country whose cultural exports show no signs of changing in the foreseeable future.
Given these obstacles, D’Souza’s concession that his recommendations aren’t easy may qualify as the understatement of the post 9/11 century. Still, if traditional Muslims are, indeed, the key to stopping radical Islam, one wonders what other options are available to win their support.
Review by Richard Kirk
Richard Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Oceanside, CA. He is a regular columnist for San Diego’s North County Times and has been published in several Southern California newspapers. His book reviews have appeared in The American Enterprise, First Things, Touchstone, The American Spectator Online, and the California Republic website. See his blog, Richard Kirk on Ethics: Musing With A Hammer.