Saturday, March 10, 2007


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.


Anonymous said...

You're right, Mr. Kirk: fundamentalist Christians and far-right conservatives do have much more in common with fundamental Muslims than either side is willing to admit. Frankly, I'm surprised to see someone like you doing so. I congratulate you on your honesty. It's nice to hear someone on the Right actually coming out and saying that he essentially wants American society to return to the mores of the 'Greatest Generation.' I think a return to an age in which minorities and women are treated like second-class citizens would seem l an odd goal to most people in this country. You, however, seem to think that this liberal push for 'social equality' (a paraphrase of your own words), is something that most Americans regret and still have to have forced upon them by a radical judiciary. I grant that the Civil Rights movement of the '60's would not have met the level of success it did if it weren't for the dictates of the judiciary. That said, if those same matters came up for a democratic vote tomorrow, do you really think more than a very small minority of Americans would vote against them? Further, would you really be willing to associate yourself with this racist fringe? I do not mean to denigrate the past, or the members of the 'Greatest Generation.' But do you really believe this extremely racist and sexist society is something worthy of modern emulation?

If more folks who share your opinions and agenda are honest and forthright, with the result that the people of this country actually come to realize exactly what the contemporary political Right is advocating, then we will soon find out if your assumption-- that only a vocal liberal minority values this push for 'social equality'--is well-founded. I suspect it is not.

RKirk said...

It is common for individuals who don't wish to criticize contemporary decadence to tar past historical eras (with which the present can be compared) with one or two simple labels: racist and sexist. Such an analysis, or lack of analysis, ignores the fact that the leader for black civil rights in the U.S. was a Baptist minister. It also suggests some essential link between moral uprightness and racism. Even more egregiously, it suggests some necessary connection between moral decadence (the kind exhibited daily on TV, in popular music, in language and mores, in statistics regarding divorce and child-rearing, etc.) and racial equality.

I think this bogus linkage is made to innoculate the present culture from moral scrutiny--which scrutiny it cannot endure. There is absolutely no reason righteousness and racial justice aren't part of the same moral universe--as indicated by the recently released movie AMAZING GRACE (which focuses on the role played by a Christian abolitionist in ending slavery throughout the world). The anonymous poster above may have some sympathy for the belief (similar to Chris Matthews' belief that The Beatles won the Cold War) that gangsta rappers and Hollywood amoralists somehow secured the rights of blacks in the U.S.--rights that, as the black columnist Stanley Crouch points out, have been diminished dramtically by a depraved culture. Indeed, Crouch said in an interview with Peggy Noonan that he would love to have the black culture of the 50's again (with the obvious exception of racism in the larger society) in which the highest values of Western Civilization were embraced and exhibited by the black community.

By the way, the term "social equality" is used as opposed to "individual equality." The conceptual roots of the former term, which focuses on "groups" and "outcomes" lie in Marxism. The conceptual roots of the concept of "individual equality" are in the Declaration of Independence.

The poster also indicates the "contempt" he or she holds for "the people" and "democracy" and the "United States." A fan, doubtless, of Howard Zinn. Unlike Sir Isaac Newton, who said he could see so far because he "stood on the shoulders of giants," anonymous gets jollies from stomping on ancestral Lilliputians (while doing all "he" possibly can to justify the most decadent civilization in the history of the world.)

By the way, anonymous seems not to understand the purpose of a book review--and that while I sympathize with D'Souza's work, I don't necessarily endorse everything he says. The final paragraphs of the review would make that point clear to most individuals of intellectual substance.

Anonymous said...

Your phrase 'bogus linkage' caught my attention, Mr. Kirk. It is ironic that you criticize me for allegedly creating a bogus linkage, when your own reply to my comments is nothing more than a web of bogus linkages and intellectual misdirections.

The simple fact, Mr. Kirk, is that pre-Civil Rights movement American society and law were more overtly racsist and sexist than their contemporary counterparts. There is nothing bogus about that statement. The only bogus linkage is the one you made, i.e. that I was attempting to state that religion and/or conservativism were the causes of this sexism and racism.

Also, please excuse me if I conflated your own opinions with those of D'Souza. Your effusive enthusiasm for his works made me assume a latent affinity towards his ideas lay behind your review. But, since you bring it up, perhaps you would be willing to tell precisely with which of D'Souza's ideas you disagree. You already outlined one area of disagreement (his supposedly apologetic stance towards 'liberal' critiques of the current admistration). But, do you disagree with any of his ideological stances?

Lastly, Mr. Kirk, your attempts to smear my character in order to diminish my voice have not gone unnoticed. By ascribing patently absurd opinions to me (e.g. the Beatles won the Cold War, amoral people are responsible for the Civil Rights movement), you hope to discredit me. You should realize the use of these rhetorical parlor tricks only serves to identify you as someone not in search of serious intellectual discussion or pursuits, but rather as a rabidly partisan individual, whose only goal is to silence and discredit those whose own opinions differ from your own. You claim I lack 'intellectual substance,' but in your response to me you have proven your own deficiency in this particular area.


RKirk said...

Anonymous Jim wrote: "I think a return to an age in which minorities and women are treated like second-class citizens would seem an odd goal to most people in this country."

Jim is miffed because I suggestd his contributions aren't substantive. He feels insulted.
Of course he begins his initial post by assuming (quite insultingly and with no justification at all in terms of the examples mentioned by me or by D'Souza) that morality is a code word for racism and sexism and implies some endorsement of racism or sexism. Jim totally (I mean totally, friends) ignores every single example of cultural perversity given by D'Souza. What other conclusion can one come to than that Big Jim (vdw?) thinks there is an essential link between civil rights and moral depravity. That kind of thinking merits BIG JIM the title of an unserious thinker.

The "objection" he raised to D'Souza's analysis is totally derivative, raised every time anyone criticizes any aspect of our depraved culture. It is a sophomoric tactic that is employed to insulate a culture that cannot be defended, from criticism.

Jim's thought process: Legal protections for blacks and women are greater now than in the past--therefore, any criticism of moral depravity in America represents an attack on civil rights.

Anonymous said...

Again, Mr. Kirk, I never equated moralism with sexism or racism. In fact, I believe the former to be antithetical to the latter. Your limited definition of morality and your unwillingness to accept that a sense of morality can exist that differs from your own has resulted in a crippling myopia. You think you have a monopoly on morality, and this misconception makes you both arrogant and, honestly, a clown (since my efforts to raise the level of discourse here have fallen on deaf ears, I won't continue to be sparing with my words for the sake of politeness). In this particular instance, your condition has manifested itself in this repeated misreading of my original comment, which was in turn caused by your inability to recognize that those terrible demons of the Left are actually acting based upon their own sense of morality, and not somehow seeking to destroy our society. Liberals are not the boogey-man, Mr. Kirk; please feel free to stop trembling and to come out from underneath your covers.

As for me being, 'miffed,' I think you've drastically overestimated the effect you are able to have upon my mood. The rants of an irrational reactionary cease to occupy my mind the second after I hit the 'publish your comment' button at the bottom of the screen.