May 11, 2010

The Flight of the Intellectuals

Not long after September 11, 2001, Paul Berman wrote a masterful little book called Terror and Liberalism that electrified me the first time I read it. Later it served as a philosophical and political anchor for me as I ventured out on long and sometimes dangerous journeys in the Middle East to uncover things for myself.

He returns now with a new book called The Flight of the Intellectuals, which is your required reading this month. It picks up, in some ways, where Terror and Liberalism left off. While we haven't had a repeat of the apocalyptic terrorist attacks on September 11, what we do have is an entirely new class of people in the Western democracies who live in hiding and under armed guard from the same sorts of killers. Salman Rushdie was but the first, and Somalia-born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one-time collaborator with the butchered Theo Van Gogh, is now but the most famous.

Something terrible has happened to the intellectual class during the interim period. The killers' would-be victims have been excoriated in the press, and even, in some cases, blamed for their predicament. Berman won't stand for it. As Ron Rosenbaum put it hopefully in a recent review of Berman's new book in Slate, "Maybe some of the previously silent will begin to speak out against the death squads rather than snark about their victims and targets."

The Flight of the Intellectuals begins and ends with Tariq Ramadan, a troubling Swiss-born Islamist who has been praised to the heavens by some of the very same intellectuals who carp nastily about Hirsi Ali. Paul and I spent a recent afternoon talking about his book and some of the questions it raises.

Flight of the Intellectuals Cover

MJT: You've spent a great deal of time reading and criticizing Tariq Ramadan, and reading and criticizing others who have written about Tariq Ramadan. What is it that drew you to him in particular?

Paul Berman: I stumbled onto him by accident. I had seen his name mentioned as an admirable young reforming moderate in the world of Islamic religious thinkers, and I thought of him as a good guy based on that reputation. Then by chance I came across a book of his in an Islamic bookstore in New York. I read it, and I was struck by the contrast between what I read by him and what I had read about him.

I touched on this in passing in a book I wrote some years ago, Terror and Liberalism. And then I became ever more fascinated by the contrast. Also a little indignant about it. And the more I poked at the contrast, the more central it seemed to me to some of our debates and dilemmas regarding the Muslim religious world and how we should look at our own journalism. I became seriously interested in Ramadan himself. He is truly an interesting personality, almost someone out of Shakespeare or some great novel that hasn't been written.

He is fated by his family heritage to stand for certain things. But he is fated by his own personal temper and the time in which he lives to stand for other things. He upholds every possible position and its opposite, which did seem to me kind of interesting.

So I plunged into a mad campaign of reading. I read works by Tariq Ramadan, by his family, and sometimes by people around him. I read works written about him. And I marveled at the contrasts and confusions.

Tariq Ramadan
Tariq Ramadan

MJT: He has his defenders, and they're aware of you and some of the others whom you quote in your book who are critical of him, but they don't see what the big deal is. They don't seem to think there's much there there. Can you give us the short version of your argument?

Paul Berman: He has different kinds of defenders. Some of those people are his own fans or followers. But he also has defenders in the Western liberal press who are not themselves Muslims and certainly have no relation to the Islamist political movement.

The Western liberals, some of them, defend Ramadan for two reasons. If you listen to Ramadan for fifteen minutes, you will learn that he says all the right things, whatever a liberal-minded person would want such a man to say.

MJT: He does.

Paul Berman: He's against bigotry, he's against anti-Semitism, he's against terrorism, he's for the rights of women, he's in favor of democratic liberties, he's for a tolerant and multi-religious society ruled ultimately by secular values. He's for science, learning, and enlightenment. He's in favor of every possible good thing. There isn't a single objectionable point in the first fifteen minutes of his presentation.

MJT: Yes.

Paul Berman: Unfortunately, the sixteenth minute arrives, and, if you are still paying attention, you learn that he wants us to revere the most vicious and reactionary of Islamist sheikhs -- the people who promote violence, bigotry, totalitarianism, and terror. The sixteenth minute is not good. The liberal quality of his thinking falls apart entirely.

However, his liberal admirers in the Western press stop paying attention in the fifteenth minute, and they rush to acclaim him. They do it by mistake. That's one reason.

But they are motivated also by something else. I think a lot of people without Muslim backgrounds have a hard time imagining how vast and complex and huge and finally ordinary the Muslim world is. There are a billion and a half Muslims, and they do have more than one opinion. But I think a lot of journalists and intellectuals whose experiences are mostly European or Western somehow end up imagining that the whole of Islam constitutes a single thing. They imagine that some single terrible error has occurred within Islam. And they imagine that the single terrible error is going to be undone and corrected by a single messianic figure. So they go about surveying the horizon looking for the grand good guy, the single person who is going to rescue us from the single terrible error.

On this basis, we have ended up with a lot of liberal-minded journalists who proclaim themselves to be the enemies of racism and bigotry, and who engage, even so, in the worst sort of stereotyping of a vast portion of mankind, in their enthusiastic quest for the great Muslim hope. These people hear the first fifteen minutes of Tariq Ramadan's presentation, they leap from their seats and they say, "There he is. We found him." And they rush into print to proclaim the good news.

MJT: I think you're right. I know a number of Arab and Muslim liberals and moderates. Some of them are my friends, and I've interviewed countless more. I've caught myself looking for something like that from time to time myself, although I realize it's more than a little ridiculous, especially after hearing you describe it that way.

It's interesting that so many Western journalists who have written about Tariq Ramadan can't digest the sixteenth minute.

Paul Berman: No, they can't. Partly it's sloppiness, but mostly it's fear of discovering what they're going to hear in the sixteenth minute. They don't really want to take him seriously. He demands to be taken seriously, yet his admirers are precisely the types who, out of fear of the sixteenth minute, don't wish to do so.

What you discover in the sixteenth minute is that Tariq Ramadan is his grandfather's grandson. And his grandfather was Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 and played a huge role in introducing all kinds of horrendous modern ideas into the world of Sunni Muslim religious thinking, which then spread also into other zones of Islam. Ramadan is someone—if you pay attention to the sixteenth minute—who wants to remain loyal, as best he can, to that family tradition. And he does remain loyal, though sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in ways that are far from obvious.

Hassan al Banna
Hassan al-Banna

MJT: You wrote in your book that he must look to reactionary Islamists like he's half lost to the vapors of Western liberalism. Do you think that makes him an improvement over his grandfather, or is he perhaps a bit more dangerous, from our point of view, because he still half belongs to the world of radical Islam yet comes across as though he does not?

Paul Berman: There is a half-a-cup debate to be had about Ramadan. In some ways he is, in fact, an improvement over his grandfather and his father, Said Ramadan, who was quite a case himself. On the other hand, he also argues that his grandfather was already perfect -- that his grandfather was a kind of democrat, though his grandfather was in fact a charismatic demagogue with a plan for a totalitarian state. Tariq Ramadan tells his audiences: you must tread in the path of Hassan al-Banna. This means treading in the path of all kinds of terrible people. But Ramadan also says: the path of Hassan al-Banna is the path of democracy, tolerance, and rationalism. And so, Ramadan introduces a remarkable ambiguity into the debate, which ends up producing a sea of intellectual confusion.

This is what has drawn me to the topic. In the past I've written about bad-guy bad guys. I became interested in the most radical tendencies to come out of the Muslim Brotherhood, the tendencies that culminated in Al Qaeda and similar groups. I wrote at length about a philosopher from the Muslim Brotherhood named Sayyid Qutb, who composed his books in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and came up with some of the doctrines that, in a still more radicalized version posthumously, produced the doctrines that we see today in Al Qaeda and some other groups.

Ramadan is a completely different case. He's not a bad-guy bad guy. Ramadan is in a gray zone. If the first fifteen minutes of his presentation were the whole of it, I would be his fan. But then he goes on into the sixteenth minute, and we're back to the traditions of the Muslim Brotherhood.

MJT: What's fascinating to me is how some Western intellectuals will praise this guy as a moderate when he is, at best, only half moderate, and yet at the same time they sneer at authentic Arab liberals.

Paul Berman: Yes.

MJT: You provided some examples in your book, and I've some experience with this myself. I was in Beirut when the Syrian military was finally thrown out by a million citizens taking to the streets, and the whole thing was dismissed by some people in the West as a right-wing Christian Gucci revolution.

March 14 2005 Beirut 2
Beirut, Lebanon, March 14, 2005

Paul Berman: Yes.

MJT: It was absolutely appalling, and I will never forget it. To this day I get hate mail from these kinds of people when I write about Lebanon.

Paul Berman: It really is something remarkable. I can understand it intellectually, but not emotionally. It comes from some old and very unattractive currents in Western thought that we can see over the course of the 20th century.

Remember, a lot of people despised the Soviet dissidents, too.

MJT: Right. What do you think causes this? I think I have it mostly figured out, but I still feel like I'm missing something.

Paul Berman: Well, I don't have it entirely figured out either. [Laughs.] But I note it. In regard to the Soviet dissidents of the past, at least nowadays there is a consensus of opinion that, yes, the dissidents were correct and we should have listened to them. So why didn't we? When I say "we," I mean the intellectual community as a whole in the Western countries. And it's for a whole set of reasons.

An outright sympathy for communism and the Soviet Union itself was only one of those reasons. This only accounted for one set of people.

There were other people who dismissed the dissidents for what you might call conservative reasons. They wanted to assume the Slavic world was hopelessly steeped in traditions of autocracy and ignorance and habits of obedience and deference -- the traditions of tsarism. They could see very well that communism in the Soviet Union had replicated the whole tsarist system, in a new version. There was a leader at the top whose rule was uncontestable. There were the masses at the bottom who had to proclaim the wisdom of the leader at the top. And a lot of people looked at this and said, yes, this is what the Slavic world is supposed to be. This is the authentic thing. Slavs are inherently inferior to Westerners. They aren't capable of being free people. They aren't capable of thinking for themselves.

So when the dissidents rushed out and told us that the Soviet Union is crushing individual liberty or doing other oppressive things, our response to them was to pat them on the head and say, well, it's nice that you got out, and you are welcome to stay, but you're not talking about the real world. The real world is one where Slavs are destined to remain forever victims of oppressive tyrants, and this is because Slavs enjoy being victims, so we're not going to take people like you, the dissidents, all that seriously.

The logic behind that kind of thinking is very appealing, to some people. It pictures a world that is dominated by cultures that we like to regard as authentic -- cultures with unchanging deep qualities that go back thousands of years, and may be rich with cultural jewels, but will never produce anything more progressive and will certainly never embrace the kinds of freedoms and advantages and dynamism that we celebrate in our own culture. So that's one idea.

Then there's another idea that appeals to many people, which is based not on our own feeling of superiority, but on our own inferiority. We look at ourselves in the Western countries and we say that, if we are rich, relatively speaking, as a society, it is because we have plundered our wealth from other people. Our wealth is a sign of our guilt. If we are powerful, compared with the rest of the world, it is because we treat people in other parts of the world in oppressive and morally objectionable ways. Our privileged position in the world is actually a sign of how racist we are and how imperialistic and exploitative we are. All the wonderful successes of our society are actually the signs of how morally inferior we are, and we have much to regret and feel guilty about. So when we look at the world, we should look at it in a spirit of humility and remorse, and we should recognize that other people have been unfairly treated.

We should recognize the superiority of those other people over ourselves. Money-wise, we may be richer. But, morally, the other people are richer. And so, we should despise ourselves, and we should love the other people -- the people who possess qualities so superior to our own as barely to be human. And then, filled with those very peculiar ideas, we set about looking for messianic figures who might express the superior culture of the other people, and might lead the human race to a higher stage of development. And if someone objects to this analysis, we say, oh, we inferior Westerners are incapable of understanding the mysterious thought-patterns of those other people, so who are you to judge?

MJT: I think you have it pretty well worked out.

Paul Berman: I assure you, I don't.

MJT: This all sounds right to me. You just described two very different, even opposite tendencies, one which you've described as conservative, the other which could only be described as leftist. Lately, though, it seems what you describe as the conservative view of the Slavic world is now, in some ways, a left-wing view of the Arab world.

Paul Berman: Yes.

MJT: A lot of the people who contemptuously dismiss Lebanese liberalism fuse these two views together. Not only were the Lebanese who took to the streets and demanded the Syrian occupiers leave their country not acting in a way that Arabs are supposed to act, George W. Bush came along and said something nice about them. So not only are these people "inauthentic" Arabs for resisting Syria and Iran instead of Israel and the United States, but now George W. Bush's America is taking their side which effectively puts them on the wrong side of history.

Paul Berman: Yes. There was and is a tendency like that. I will admit that, in one infinitesimally tiny respect, I can sympathize with it. It is because of George W. Bush. I also used to think, when I heard George W. Bush speak, that the opposite must be true. If George W. Bush said the sun rises in the east, I would have been tempted to argue that, on the contrary, the sun rises in the west.

MJT: [Laughs.] I used to react to Bush that way, as well, but I had to stop after a while. I stopped after 9/11.

Paul Berman: I'm confessing to my own prejudice here, but I couldn't bear the tone of the man. I stopped listening to his speeches and instead started reading his speeches online. Some of his speeches were really well written. As long as I read them and didn't listen to them on TV, I was happy with them -- at least, with certain passages.

I think it's worth bringing this up because Bush did seem to inspire an irrational response in many people, and I sympathize with the people who responded that way. I'd like to think that I overcame my irrational response to Bush, or at least I can identify it and laugh at it, but it did exist.

Who was it who coined the phrase Bush Derangement Syndrome?

MJT: I don't know who coined it, but it certainly describes a real phenomenon.

Bush Derangement Syndrome

Paul Berman: It's a great phrase. [Laughs.]

MJT: It is, isn't it?

Paul Berman: Whoever coined that phrase should write in to your blog, and the rest of us will proclaim him a genius.

Bush Derangement Syndrome does exist! I know it exists because I feel it in myself sometimes. And that has to be thrown into the mix.

MJT: I used to feel it myself, and I have to say it's much easier to get past it when you spend time in the hard parts of the world instead of in soft places like France. I was in Georgia, for instance, when Russia invaded and carved up the country. Nobody there had anything bad to say about George W. Bush except some of the Americans who were visiting, who were angry at the Georgians for saying nice things about Bush. This was at a time when Russia was attacking Georgia and Bush was sticking up for Georgia, so what on earth would any rational person expect the Georgians to say?

I Am Georgia Stop Russia2

Paul Berman: I had an experience like that in relation to Ronald Reagan. I had a huge learning experience in Nicaragua in the 1980s when I was reporting for the Village Voice on the Sandinista revolution -- a Marxist semi-communist revolution in those days.

Reagan was against the Sandinistas, and he did all kinds of things that, at the time, I thought were terrible. And I still think he did terrible things. Still, I was always astounded when I was among very poor people in Nicaragua to learn how many people liked Ronald Reagan. I would question them, and I could comprehend their answers, pretty much.

MJT: What did they say?

Paul Berman: Extremely poor market women, for instance, in an extremely poor town, would tell me, "the workers and peasants are suffering."

I would ask, "Who is defending the workers and the peasants?"

And they would say, "Ronald Reagan."

I said, "Ronald Reagan is defending the workers and peasants?"

[Laughs.]

MJT: [Laughs.]

Paul Berman: And they would say, "Yes!"

All they knew—and they got this from the Sandinista news radio—was that if the Sandinista regime had a bitter enemy anywhere in the world, it was Ronald Reagan. And therefore they felt he was defending the workers and peasants. Their way of speaking about the workers and peasants reflected the Marxist rhetoric, but they hated the Marxists.

MJT: [Laughs.]

Ortega Time Magazine Cover

Paul Berman: I saw something similar in the Czech Republic during the Velvet Revolution. I was there early in 1990, and I realized that masses of ordinary Czechs regarded the United States as an absolutely great place. They thought George Bush the elder, who was president then, was okay. But they really loved Ronald Reagan. It was because Reagan had denounced the Soviet Union and communism. He knew how to get the message through to them by speaking in an extremely simple way. Of course, it was the simplicity of his language that aroused the indignation of a good many liberal-minded people in the Western countries. But he knew how to make himself understood in the Eastern bloc.

So I well understand what it was like in Georgia. I was in Poland a few months ago, where there is a certain nostalgia right now for George W. Bush because there is a feeling among some people, at least, that maybe Bush was a more reliable ally against neo-expansionism in Russia than Barack Obama might turn out to be.

MJT: They may be right.

I lot of people around the world like Obama, and they seem to like him for very different reasons than Reagan was liked. They seem to like Obama because they sense he won't cause trouble, but nobody seems to think he's going to save them. I don't get the sense that anyone out there in an oppressed country thinks Obama will ever do much for them.

Paul Berman: Hmm.

MJT: You don't agree?

Paul Berman: I'm thinking it over.

Obama is a complex symbol, more than any of our previous presidents. The fact that he's black counts for a lot. It signifies, I think, to a lot of people around the world that America really is the democratic place it claims to be. Every last person around the world who knows the slightest thing about politics knows that the worst thing about America has always been its racism against blacks.

MJT: Right.

Paul Berman:. So the fact that America has elected a black president and the fact that the black president is attractive and appealing communicates a message, in Reagan-like fashion, in a way that's not even conveyed necessarily through words. Reagan was said to be a master of the photo op, but Obama is a walking photo op. If he just stands there, he's a photo op. It's as if he has beautified the American flag.

Obama and Flag

I think his presidency has a certain meaning that's inspiring to people, though it doesn't bear on the question of policy.

In regard to policy, I can sympathize with what you're saying. The problem is that Bush, during his eight years, managed to say to people all over the world that he was standing for the oppressed, that he was going to fight for people who were threatened by tyrants, but he compromised everything he said with an incompetence of action. He successfully achieved some of what he set out to do, but he also managed to bungle outrageously. So despite all his marvelous oratory, the oratory that I read and admired, it ended up meaning very little.

Some of his incompetence turned out to be disastrous, so I can understand why the Obama Administration has reverted to an anti-idealist "realism." I don't approve of this reversion, and I think it's ironic that it's being done by the left.

MJT: It is, isn't it? They've adopted an old conservative position.

Paul Berman: Yes. This is the ultimate in Bush Derangement Syndrome. We have a liberal administration practicing the most conservative of old foreign policies. I can understand a little how this happened, but I wish they'd get over it. [Laughs.]

MJT: The Bush Administration was saying all kinds of things that the left used to say, and now the Democratic Party is saying all sorts of things that the right used to say. I can't help but wonder if the reversal is permanent.

Paul Berman: I find it hard to believe. I think there's a DNA code in some of these things, and sooner or later the DNA is going to kick into action. The Obama Administration contains a lot of people who played noble roles in the Balkans during the Clinton years, and Hillary Clinton herself presumably learned some of those lessons. So it's hard for me to imagine that the Democrats are going to stay this way.

I've always found John McCain to be a very noble and appealing character, and he certainly proved to be right on some issues, like the surge in Iraq, but he never persuaded me that he had the kind of sophistication to pursue a successful foreign policy. I feared he was going to be someone like Bush, noble in rhetoric and incompetent in action.

What do you think, by the way, is going to happen with my book?

MJT: I think it should be extremely interesting even to readers who don't agree with you because you go far out of your way to give a fair hearing to the other side in these debates. You praise Timothy Garton Ash, for instance, who really has done great work. But then you point out how he held up a supposedly moderate cleric from Egypt, Jamal al Banna, as more worth listening to than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Jamal al Banna is a supporter of suicide terrorism. For God's sake, to compare Hirsi Ali unfavorably to someone who supports the mass murder of civilians is extraordinary.

Infidel Cover2

Paul Berman: There is something deeply off in these discussions. Hirsi Ali has ten thousand opinions, and I don't agree with them all. I don't even agree with all my own opinions. But she's visibly a reasonable rational person arguing through the issues as you would want any reasonable person to do. And some of the people she's unfavorably compared to are not. This ought to be obvious.

MJT: You do a good job unearthing fascinating characters I hadn't heard of before. I didn't know about Sayyid Qutb, for instance, the modern philosopher of Islamic terrorism, until you introduced me to him almost a decade ago. I would have found him by now because lots of people have written about him, but you were the first one to write about him in the mainstream press.

Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual godfather of Al Qaeda theology

Paul Berman: I was thrilled when I discovered Sayyid Qutb. The man makes sense, sort of.

MJT: He does, sort of. His world view is understandable and logical on its own terms.

Paul Berman: Yeah. He gets at some deep things, in a horrendous way. You can see why someone could get drawn into it.

The news media always seem shocked to discover that the latest suicide bomber is an educated guy from a privileged background, but why? I understand it perfectly. An ordinary uneducated person would never get lost reading the dozens of volumes by Sayyid Qutb, but an educated person might. And the next thing they know they've lost their moral bearings, and there they are, ready to pull the plug.

MJT: I also appreciate the chapters in your new book about German foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa during World War II. It's all absolutely fascinating and disturbing. You've written about this before, and so have others, so I wasn't entirely unaware of what happened, but I didn't realize the Nazis spent that much time and effort broadcasting their message about Zionism and Jews into the Arab world.

Paul Berman: I had written about it before, but less was known then than is known now.

MJT: Right. I've been all over Arab world, and to many Muslim countries outside the Arab world, and conversations about Zionism and Jews are very different outside the Arab world. The differences are striking, sometimes overwhelming. Nazi Germany's foreign policy in the Arab world can't explain all of it, but I think it does explain part of it.

Paul Berman: It's a big issue. It was a big issue in the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam's army took up their positions with their chemical warfare suits expecting, as we later learned, to be attacked with chemical weapons by Israel. The whole question of paranoid ideas about Jews and about Israel has, I think, been underreported.

MJT: Even within Iraq, though, ideas about Jews and Israel vary. The Kurds, for the most part, like Israel. I find it fascinating how the opinions of Arab and non-Arab Muslims can vary so wildly. If you want to look for bad things written about Jews in the Koran, they're in there. And the Koran is, of course, read by Muslims outside the Arab world. They seem more likely to skip over this stuff and not take it seriously, though. The leadership in Iran is not at all typical.

Paul Berman: The Kurds, yes. We know this about the Kurds. Why is it the case? Of course, it bears on the question of Arabism.

Kurdistan American and Israeli Flags

MJT: Absolutely. The Kurds are a minority in the Middle East. They're indigenous to the Middle East while the Arabs are not. And Arab Nationalists make enemies of all the minorities, which includes both the Kurds and the Jews. So Kurds and Jews have a common enemy, and they have no real-world reason to dislike each other. Some Kurds are surely aware that this anti-Jewish stuff is in the Koran, but they either don't care or don't take it seriously. Their problems with Arab Nationalism are much more immediate and pressing.

Paul Berman: There are also some semi-nice things about Jews in the Koran. It can be read in different ways.

Iraq had one of the largest Jewish populations in the Middle East.

MJT: It was huge. A third of Baghdad almost.

Paul Berman: An Iraqi friend explained to me that in the 1950s, some of Iraq's greatest pop singers were Jews, so even now if you get into a nostalgic music phase, you'll be nostalgic for the old Jewish pop stars. Even today, you can't eliminate Jews from Iraqi culture.

It's all very mysterious and, I think, poorly understood. The German aspect of this story is part of it. It's not the whole of it, but it's a part of it. And it's a part that bears in some degree on Tariq Ramadan because his own grandfather, as the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, was tied to German policy by his very intense and passionate alliance with the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was the most influential of the Palestinian leaders, unfortunately, in that period.

Mufti and Hitler
Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and Adolf Hitler

The mufti was a hardcore supporter of Nazism. He delivered Nazi-like speeches, or speeches presenting Nazi ideas translated horribly into Koranic phrases over short-wave radio during the war. And Tariq Ramadan's grandfather was his great ally.

Mufti Inspects Nazi Troops
Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini inspects Nazi troops

If you keep paying attention to Ramadan, this is one of the things that comes up in the sixteenth minute, or the seventeenth minute. If people ask him about it, he gets really testy and declines to answer or declines to answer honestly. It's a big deal, I think. It's not just a matter of having a peculiar grandfather, which of course we can't be responsible for.

MJT: Right.

Paul Berman: But he has written at length about his grandfather, in one of his major books. He reveres his grandfather. His grandfather's doctrines lie at the heart of his own thinking. And his grandfather's legacy is quite important. It is a living legacy, as I try to show in my book.

MJT: You mention in your book how some Western intellectuals get really bent out of shape if you bring up Nazi foreign policy in the Arab world during World War II. What do you suppose that is about?

Paul Berman: Bush Derangement Syndrome may come into play because Bush used the phrase "Islamofascism." But that's not sufficient to explain the phenomenon.

Stop to consider: if you and I were to get up in front of an audience and have a conversation about France during World War II, we might point out that a lot of French people joined the Resistance, but a lot of other French people supported Hitler. We might point out that, if you want to understand French politics today, for instance the role of Jean Marie Le Pen and his National Front, it would make sense to look back on the Nazi sympathizers of the past, back in the 1930s and '40s.

What would happen if you and I made those observations in front of an audience? The audience would nod sagely and say, "yes, those are interesting points, worthy of discussion."

MJT: Yes, that's true. This conversation has in fact been had thousands of times.

Be Prepared for the Real Holocaust

Paul Berman: We could have the same discussion about Latin America. We could point out that, if you want to understand the history and tradition of the ultra-right in Latin America, you ought to glance back at the mid-twentieth century and remember how much sympathy there was for the Fascist Axis in Latin America -- a topic that has never been adequately investigated, by the way. If we were to say, "let's discuss that," people would again nod sagely and say, "yes, that's worth discussing."

And then we would go on to discuss how much emphasis should be put on this sort of thing, maybe a lot of emphasis, maybe only a little. It would be a matter for research and analysis, as with any political and historical question.

But the mere mention of this in relation to the Arab world gets people red in the face. They get very upset at the mere mention of it. And I find that…very peculiar.

Muslims God Bless Hitler

MJT: It is very peculiar.

Paul Berman: How do you explain it?

MJT: I can partly explain it, I think, depending on who we're talking about. I know some radical leftists who bum around the Middle East. I meet them, I have drinks with them. Many of them sympathize to one extent or another with the radical movements of the Middle East, which are actually reactionary and totalitarian movements. And if you point out that the ideas which animate these movements have a Nazi pedigree, you're basically saying these Western radical leftists are Nazis, and no one takes kindly to being called Nazis.

Hezbollah Children
Hezbollah

Hezbollah Salute
Hezbollah

But this only explains why the hard left gets red in the face. It doesn't explain how people a little more sensible might also get red in the face. That, I don't understand. I haven't thought about it as much as you have because you have really delved into it, and I don't have the answer.

Paul Berman: Another aspect that is odd: the same people who will say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism will get upset about this discussion. And yet the discussion of Nazi influences is precisely one of the important discussions that might allow us to draw intelligent distinctions between the kind of opposition to Israel that is anti-Semitic and the kind that is not.

MJT: Right.

Paul Berman: But if you actually launch the discussion, people get upset.

MJT: Obviously there is a large overlap between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Israel the Cancer

Paul Berman: And a large resistance to wanting to discuss it.

MJT: Some people who are reflexively anti-Israel are just uninformed. They pick up a general vibe in the media, but are only vaguely aware of what actually happens in the Middle East. They aren't even in the same time zone as the anti-Semites, they're just aware that many people out there think the Israelis are harsh and that that's not cool.

Paul Berman: Some people may perhaps fear that the entire Arab world is being branded as Nazi or pro-Nazi, and they may see this as a hideous slander.

MJT: Sure.

Paul Berman: And it would, in fact, be a hideous slander.

MJT: It would be. It's demonstrably false.

Paul Berman: But because there's no discussion of the legacies from World War II, the slander has been allowed to persist. If you count up the number of troops, many more Arabs and Muslims from other parts of the world fought on the Allied side in World War II than fought on the Axis side.

MJT: Right.

Paul Berman: Forty thousand African troops died fighting with the free French forces to liberate Europe. A huge percentage of them would have been Muslims of various sorts. That's really a staggering number. Even in Palestine, many more Palestinians fought with the British army than for the Nazi side, and those people have never been given their due. There is no historical memory of the noble role of a great many Arabs and Muslims in World War II. Instead, we have the apologetics of someone like Tariq Ramadan, trying to explain away or even to deny the role of people like his grandfather.

And what is the result? One result is that Ramadan goes on telling us to revere the people who carry on al-Banna's legacy. The great example is a sheikh named Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is al-Banna's leading champion in our own time. Qaradawi thinks Hitler was doing God's work. He has said so, which is hard to believe. Actually, the Nazis were the first to say it, but Qaradawi repeats the argument. Qaradawi promotes suicide terror. He does it on television. He is probably the single most influential theological champion of Hamas.

Qaradawi
Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Even so, Ramadan goes on saying nice things about Qaradawi. Ramadan does this even even in his most recent book

. He does it even while quarreling with Qaradawi on one point or another. Ramadan simply will not remove himself from this particular legacy. He doesn't want to remove himself. It is his grandfather's legacy. So Ramadan denies the meaning of the old legacy, and he gets redder in the face than anyone else if somebody wants to talk about it.

And yet, some genuinely well-intentioned liberals, people I admire, go on applauding Ramadan, as if Ramadan were himself a liberal. The whole intellectual atmosphere of right now has become a little strange on points like these. That's the meaning of my title, The Flight of the Intellectuals. Too many very intelligent people are running away from looking at some very influential and pernicious doctrines of our own time. They don't want to look. They prefer to shut their eyes and hope for the best.

Paul Berman is the author of The Flight of the Intellectuals and Terror and Liberalism.

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 12:23 AM
Comments
Cheers for putting this up Michael - its a very interesting read. Ill see if I can find a copy of the book.
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at May 11, 2010 1:09 am
Michael, for some very strange reason that I can't figure out myself, I want to give Tariq Ramadan the benefit of the doubt. What if he really think his grandpa was a good guy. What if he doesn't totally understand the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have several friends who are hardcore Hezbollah supporters (with pictures of Nassrallah on their wall and everything) who truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that Hezbollah is just looking out for the interests of their own country. They do not understand that Hezbollah actively seeks to destroy Israel. They do not understand that Hezbollah want to Iran-ize Lebanon
Posted by: Ali at May 11, 2010 1:37 am
Oh and Charles Krauthammer, who I believe is an actual psychologist, coined the phrase here.

"Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A37125-2003Dec4

Do I win a prize? Free copy of Flight of the Intellectuals?
Posted by: Ali at May 11, 2010 1:47 am
Fascinating!
This reminded me a little of the Druze in Israel being dismissed as irrelevant in the discussion of the way Israel treats Arab citizens and Palestinians.
Posted by: jonorose at May 11, 2010 2:42 am
Ali, Mr. Krauthammer is a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. The former is a Medical Doctor (MD), the latter stayed at a Holiday Inn.
Posted by: Ron Snyder at May 11, 2010 4:28 am
I know a man who's Bush Derangement Syndrome became such an obsession with him that he had to be treated with anti-psychotic medication in order to stop constantly ranting and get back to normal living. I wish I were joking. He's not still on the medication by the way.

And no, I don't understand the emotional problem with Bush myself. It sounds to be like an overreaction to the man's inability to speak. It's true that I've heard GWB give a speech with Mexican president Vicente Fox, and even though Fox can barely speak any English, he's more articulate than GW.

In the end I think BDS is rage stemming for having a man who sounds retarded and has different politics than one's self in charge. Prejudice couple with an unwillingness to compensate and ever consider any of Bush's words or policies on their own merit.
Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 11, 2010 6:44 am
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Saffron Walden CF. Saffron Walden CF said: http://www.michaeltotten.com/2010/05/the-flight-of-the-intellectuals.php [...]
Posted by: Tweets that mention Michael J. Totten -- Topsy.com at May 11, 2010 7:32 am
Bush derangement syndrome is a funny thing. Ever seen how lefties call Bush a Nazi, a fascist and a terrorist, but the worst they can say about Saddam Hussein is "Yeah he was a bad guy, but..."
Posted by: Virus at May 11, 2010 7:34 am
Mr. Berman,

Great interview, and I'm looking forward to reading the book!

I do suggest you spend a little more time working on your recovery from BDS, though. No war, or series of wars, can ever be trouble-free, and your conclusion here sounds too much like those who would hold Bush to an impossible standard. It's one thing to find specific instances to take issue with (and believe me, I have plenty myself!) But given the limited support in the West for *any* kind of definitive action, I think it's worthy of some note that his administration accomplished even what it did.

And as far as nuance, or its absence, goes: the name "India" doesn't appear in the interview, but no fair account of the bungling cowboy president can be complete without some recognition of what he accomplished in our relations with that country, and how his successor appears to be tossing away those gains for nothing in particular.

(And Michael, wonderful interview!)
Posted by: Kirk Parker at May 11, 2010 8:31 am
Former useful idiot here, so let me see if I can give a swing at the Western sympathies towards these movements. As a background, I considered myself a Communist and I sympathized with radical groups in the Middle East for about 5 of my very formative years: from about 15 years old until I was 20.

This is how I got to this place and though I can’t say that my experience has been universal, by speaking to others who share similar viewpoints as I did, I can say that my experience has been shared by many in the far left.
I grew up in an upper-middle class white suburb of New York (though my family was not nearly as wealthy as our neighbors). My hometown was and still is very conservative politically. I grew up seeing injustices like growing up right next to a black community but with an imaginary, mental wall as impenetrable as Berlin’s dividing us. I saw how people with money lorded it over others (and me) and the rank sense of entitlement felt by mediocre people who just got lucky by birth. I was (and still am) gay, so I was an outcast there.

I began to drift towards radical views, party out of genuine concern for injustice seen in my world and the world around me, and partly out of selfish feelings of being slighted by others less gifted than I. My drift to far leftism fulfilled a largely psychological longing. (and whenever conversing with other far leftists now, I inquire a bit into their pasts, and I usually find that they, too, were frustrated outcasts of some sort). Admittedly, underpinning it all was a certain nobility; no one joins the far left just because they enjoy acting like thugs. Even Mao Tse-Tung was noted for giving his sandwiches to poor students when he was a child. But you grow accustomed to the inertia in your world. You preach the “truth,” but no one listens. You eventually find allies outside of your circle. Though I was likely the only Marxist in my high school, I read that a whole country had thought like I did! I researched the USSR, and though admitted the excesses of Stalinism, I was quick to note the successes of the system (which I will still admit, in fairness, do exist to some degree).

But most importantly, and this is where neo-far leftists get into trouble, I hushed over the excesses of the lighter, less murderous, Brezhnevism, and of the totalitarian nature of the system (this are more palatable to stomach than Stalinist excesses). Sure, it may not seem pretty to lock up your opponents, but hey, I’ve been preaching my views, my *correct* views for years, but people don’t listen and keep living their exploitative lives. Locking them up now sounds like a good idea! I am preaching the truth, I have come to this conclusion with my own experience, I know it to be a fact, and people are actively hurting my ability to help people. They must be stopped.

At this point, I don’t have many friends, I am socially awkward to a degree, and people treat me poorly. These same people are rewarded (in my view) by society, by American society. I see this all over the US: pretty bad people getting ahead, while pretty good people (me) getting stomped on. Where are my other, fellow victims (*any* victims), who will support me and whom I can support? I see them in society (any minority). I begin to see them in the world at large (Communists, Islamists, etc.).

By now, I’m so locked into my mindframe, I don’t want to admit that Islamists (and other “oppressed” people) don’t like me because I’m gay (they’re homophobes themselves) or because I’m white (I am a member of the oppressor class, no matter how hard I argue otherwise…but hey! *I* was oppressed for years growing up! What gives now?). Admitting I was wrong would be too tough; I had invested way too much energy and thought into my political beliefs. So, I delude myself. These people aren’t so bad, I say. How are they expected to react under such conditions? Of course they’ll wind up killing civilians or hating Jews or joining radical groups! If they start leaning towards Americanism (fall of the Berlin Wall, Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, etc.), THEY were the ones who were duped (because I myself cannot be duped. It must be they who were). To save yourself the shame of saying “whoops! I was way off for years,” you make excuses for those around you so as to save your own mental sanity.

Long post. Maybe another time I’ll discuss how I came to my senses =)
Posted by: Kyle at May 11, 2010 8:32 am
"The Kurds are a minority in the Middle East. They're indigenous to the Middle East while the Arabs are not." Since when are Arabs not indigenous to the Middle East?
Posted by: Richard at May 11, 2010 8:40 am
[...] Totten has a long interview with Paul Berman, author of the new book, The Flight of the [...]
Posted by: The Divine Conspiracy Blog » Blog Archive » The Flight III at May 11, 2010 8:48 am
"not a psychologist. The former is a Medical Doctor (MD), the latter stayed at a Holiday Inn."

My wife is a psychologist, she is not an MD. She obtained a Ph.D. from a nationally known university, and passed licensing examinations.
Posted by: Fat Man at May 11, 2010 9:19 am
Kyle, I really wish you would tell us how you 'came to your senses.' I've always been stumped trying to understand the exact phenomenon you talk about. I did recognize the underlying resentment in it, but I never grasped the 'why'.
Posted by: HC at May 11, 2010 9:49 am
Richard: Since when are Arabs not indigenous to the Middle East?

I meant to the northern part of the Middle East which Arabs conquered and colonized.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 10:35 am
Great interview, MJT! And Kyle, I really enjoyed reading your comment. My parents were leftists and hippies when I was a child but I think that was mostly just because it was the "cool" thing for young intellectuals to be into back then. As an adult, I've only gotten to know one leftist very well and we butted heads so much that I never really got her story :)

I meant to the northern part of the Middle East which Arabs conquered and colonized.

Yes. Most people don't know this but most of the ME was Christian before Arabs invaded. And most of the Arab world was NOT Arab. In the case of Iraq, it was part of Persia before the Arabs conquered Persia. It was also the staging ground for war between the (Christian)Eastern Roman Empire and the (Zoroastrian)Persian empire. The fact that the tribes in Southern Iraq that the Persians were relying on to act as a buffer between them and the "barbaric" bedouins of the Arabian peninsula were Christian contributed greatly to Persia's downfall. They cut a deal with the Muslims and threw the Persians over the side. I mention this because Iraq and the conflict between Byzantium and Persia was really key to everything for Muslims in the early 7th century. If the Eastern Romans had been in possession of Iraq, or if the Persians and Eastern Romans had stopped warring with each-other and allied with each-other instead *sooner* then Islam would never have left the Arabian peninsula.

That's actually a story that's very illuminating for people who argue Islam was not spread by the sword, or who believe that persecution of religious and ethnic minorities is something recent. The correspondence between Yazdegerd III and Omar is particularly troubling, and should give Islamophobes plenty of ammunition :)
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 11:00 am
One quibble: I simply can't agree that "everyone who knows anything about politics" thinks that race is the US's biggest problem. Especially coming out of Europe, which has far greater race issues than we do.

Other than that quibble, this was a fantastic interview.
Posted by: C Kelsey at May 11, 2010 11:16 am
You are right Craig. The long-time warring between the Byzantine and Persian empires severely weakened both. The Arabian tribes became Muslim and united in that moment in history when the two great powers that could have kept them confined to the peninsula were exhausted.
Posted by: semite5000 at May 11, 2010 11:19 am
Kyle,

I grew up in an upper-middle class white suburb of New York (though my family was not nearly as wealthy as our neighbors). My hometown was and still is very conservative politically.

An interesting choice your parents made, living in an area that was realistically beyond their means. I think that's a choice a lot of people make these days in their quest to feel "upwardly mobile", and I think it backfires pretty badly in a lot of cases, as it did in yours.

My family was very different. My mother and father were both white collar professionals with good jobs when I was a kid, but my dad always liked to find areas that were run-down and past their prime and buy a big "fixer-upper" house on a big piece of land that was available for far less that what it objectively should be worth, due to the bad location. Then he'd invest a lot in rehabilitating the property to the point where it was conspicuously nicer than anything else in the whole town. I think in his hippy way he felt he was doing his white-guy duty by gentrifying a decaying neighborhood, but I really struggled with having to constantly explain to the other kids at school that my family wasn't actually rich lol. That's a really hard sell when you SEEM rich, in comparison to somebody else. It's too bad people can't just settle for living in areas that are the right fit for them. It seems a lot of people use their real-estate to try to make a statement about where they think they belong in society, though.
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 11:24 am
Paul Berman:
"The fact that he's [Obama] black counts for a lot. It signifies, I think, to a lot of people around the world that America really is the democratic place it claims to be. Every last person around the world who knows the slightest thing about politics knows that the worst thing about America has always been its racism against blacks."

I see it differently. Obama to me is a leader who does not know how to lead. He is good political commissar, the kind, which was attached to each and every person of autority in former Soviet Union. His job was to brainwash masses by pushing every new Communist Party line. These people are good presenters when they are told what to peddle, but on their own they do not know how to lead or even what to push. Obama ended up in the highest position of authority and there is nobody to tell him what to do anymore. His advisers are of similar kind. They are perfect when one needs to be elected, but they are useless when one needs to actually lead. And regarding elections and race, I believe, last elections were probably the most racist elections in the history of the USA because this time people were openly and proudly voting for the skin color instead of merit.
Posted by: leo at May 11, 2010 11:34 am
Michael, another fantastic interview (we wait yet another month for YOUR book?). I think BDS was coined after J. Chait penned his "I hate Bush ... for the way he talks ... and walks" article.
To which I responded about the similarity of Bush hate, Jew hate, success hate.

The irrationality of Bush hate is related to that of Nazi-like Jew hate; it's important to discuss these hates. It's also related to the hatred so many intellectuals have against capitalism, which is based on freely chosen win-win deals for individuals, as compared to commie or fascist collectivism.

There's also some non-successful blame against the successful.

Early in the post Berman talks about longing for:
the single person who is going to rescue us from the single terrible error.

I think this describes a good portion of the pre-election support for Obama, as well as the unspoken ideal of too many intellectuals (including Libertarian Randians) and especially the media.

Democracy is too complex for any one person to be more significant than everybody else put together -- but it's much easier to report the news if you assume getting the "right philosopher king" would just solve all the biggest problems.

(Kyle, thanks for a GREAT note -- please tell neo-neocon. She's got a fantastic series on:
A Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change. Used to comment here quite a bit, now has a fine blog.)
Posted by: Tom Grey at May 11, 2010 11:37 am
Too many very intelligent people are running away from looking at some very influential and pernicious doctrines of our own time.

It depends on what one chooses to call intelligent. It isn't uncommon for someone of high IQ to have little curiosity or motivation to view the world and form their own opinions based on observation. Indeed, many folks with high IQ's seem consumed with abstractions and received wisdom. Another factor that I think plays a role is a deep human need for the things religion provides; those who can't acknowledge that need and deal with it tend to fall into ersatz religious thinking with no awareness of the fact. I think that accounts for some of the severity of BDS, he was an apostate who even mouthed some liberal words, it was an unforgivable sin for a member of Satan's party to act so. And if you can't take seriously the belief of many that Republicans are the tools of Satan you probably haven't read enough left wing blogs ;) I suspect Berman himself is a bit infected with this sort of thinking.
Posted by: chuck at May 11, 2010 11:49 am
Chuck I disagree with Berman that the Democrats will ever have the slightest bit of idealism in their foreign policy again...

Liberalism isn't something you just abandon, if you ever believed in it. What we've found out is that the left never actually believed in it.

The problem isn't that Bush mouthed some liberal words, the problem is that he called for a deep commitment to liberal values and sacrifice for liberal values.

Faced with that the democratic half of our society disavowed liberalism in foreign policy.

You can't come back from saying "you know, all those ideals I had, those were lies"... I can't see it ever happening.
Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 11, 2010 12:00 pm
Michael, thank you for the reminder that much of what is called "Arab land" (i.e. outside the Arabian peninsula itself) is "Arab" by virtue of invasion and conquest. Way too few people understand this, and frequent reminders are necessary. I recall several years back a journalist hearing about the persecution of the Christian Copts in Egypt, and who responded: "But they choose to live in a Muslim country!" Clearly, this journalist didn't have a clue: the Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, and the Arabs are, in comparison, the newcomers who conquered and imposed their way of life on the indigenous Copts. And this is a guy who's bringing us the news!
Posted by: Harold at May 11, 2010 12:24 pm
Josh, I never fell for the proposition that the American left believed in liberal ideals. Why? Because *I* believe in liberal ideals, and I don't see any evidence the left supports or ever has supported any of that on ideological grounds. The only cases where the left supports liberal ideals are when they happen to overlap with socialist ideals. The concept of "social justice" domestically, for instance. But even then, their proposed remedies for social injustice are in no way liberal. To be a liberal, you have to believe in individual freedoms. You can't get there (individual freedoms) when your recipe calls for the central government to babysit the people you are supposedly trying to help.
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 12:26 pm
Craig, individuals cannot individually organize the collective apparatus that allows for the peaceful cooperation of modern society. I never heard a definition of liberal as believing only in individual freedoms excluding those freedoms achieved collectively like sanitation and national defense.

As in the interview which was great, Liberals come in various pedigrees. In the ultimate Bush Derangement Syndrome (I think I know who created the term, a one Tully over at Stubborn Facts) the neo-Liberals are co-opting their impression of Republican realism in an act to counter the GOP's pilfering of Democratic Internationalism. The anti-war Left resembles more the anti-war right of WW2, another peace in Berman's puzzle. Saddam was the Grand Mufti's spawn as was Arafat. And Eisenhower's "realism" allowed the Mufti to escape French prison and return to the Middle East to plant his venom. It was also that realism that approved the Shah's ascendancy and sent Marines to Syria.

Well done Micheal. I can't help but remember when Chomsky refused to go along with the Truthers. He was basically excommunicated from his followers. His own theory was just like South Park's -Bush created the 9/11 conspiracy to discredit the Left...lol What started as BDS has led to a bizarre adpatation of mimicry, simultaneously by both parties. Now that's some dance.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 11, 2010 12:59 pm
http://stubbornfacts.org/definitions

I was wrong, Tully pointed me to who created the term BDS. Funny who did and not a surprise.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 11, 2010 1:08 pm
The sixteenth minutes in life is when critical thinking would take over in a true intellectual, but only when anchored in a necessary prerequisite, intellectual courage.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 11, 2010 1:11 pm
Maxtrue,

Craig, individuals cannot individually organize the collective apparatus that allows for the peaceful cooperation of modern society. I never heard a definition of liberal as believing only in individual freedoms excluding those freedoms achieved collectively like sanitation and national defense.

There's a big difference between individuals banding together to protect eachothers hard-won rights and freedoms, and abdicating that responsibility to a government.

And no, I don't want to argue about this. There's nothing either of us could say on the matter that wasn't said much better, 200+ years ago :)
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 1:27 pm
PS Maxtrue,

Liberals come in various pedigrees.

I don't really agree with that, if you're going to try to convince me that the Americans who have wrongfully been calling themselves "liberals" in the US since the 1950s or so are just a different pedigree of liberal. There's nothing about socialism that can be called "liberal".

And I'm just guessing here, but I'd say there are more liberals who vote Republican than who vote democrat. Democrats tend to be pretty socially conservative, except for people on the hard left. And the hard left forms a negligible part of the electorate in the US.
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 1:35 pm
To follow on Craig's comments; the Persian empire during the 620s AD looked like:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sassanid-empire-610CE.png

This is the empire that the Ummah conquered very quickly.

Note that the Sassanid Persian empire was formed out of the Parthian empire in 224 AD, which was a fusion Greco/Avesten/Zorastrian/Aryan empire. From a certain point of view; the Parthian empire can be thought of as the last of the successor state of Alexander's empire.

A substantial part of modern culture and rule of law originates from Sassanid culture. They fused Greek, Babylonian, Aryan/Avesta/Zorastrian culture. They had a caste system similar to what exists in South Asia.

Much of what is thought of as Islamic army and culture derives from Sassanid culture as well.
Posted by: anan at May 11, 2010 2:13 pm
Craig, people are not going to "band together" and create a healthcare network or or a space program, or even an FBI. That is, they are not going to provide such essential services by simply organizing. It takes government and a legal system (criminal and contract law). Yes, we can leave 1789 aside though Jefferson did accept the idea of a national debt...lol. The irony is that he trade that for D.C. in his backyard.

The article above discusses two reason why Liberals defend the indefensible and I would argue that is because of the degree in pedigree. The more Leftist Liberal is rather self-loathing, while other Liberals have mutated into Republican analogues of the 80s spouting intellectual selectivity, moral equivalency where it does not exist and "realism". There are of course Liberals who think threats rise above politics and must be "solved" to maintain the cooperation and stability needed for commerce and freedom. Many have moved towards the Indies as national security and economic innovation/reform remain top priorities.

Michael and Paul did explore the "evolution" of political nomenclature observing how each ideological side has co-opted positions once held by the other. The anti-war Republicans of 1939 are now anti-war Democrats of 2010. The Internationalist Democrats from Wilson to FDR and Kennedy are now the battered legacy of Bush and the memory of Reagan.

The Democratic primary pitted DLCers v neoLiberals while today the GOP is in a battle between the Right Wing and the more moderate. Obama won because more Indies voted for him than McCain. The Party has tacked to the Left and the "realism" shtick, seems more a perversion of it than a reproduction. Elections in NJ, Penn and Virg show Indies don't buy it. It is in this group that Libertarians and Liberals find common ground. Today's parties seem too polarized and moderates on the left and right have had enough to quit.

I would say there are pedigrees of Liberatarians as most don't want to strike Iran or worry too much about the abuse of women or the health of wetlands. Berman discusses how Liberal Intellectuals have managed to sweep their contradictions under the rug. Lieberman, Scoop Jackson, Clinton, Bob Kerry would never cozy up to the thinking on the Obama far side. The battle between Liberals is hardly over. The GOP is counting on that and hoping you are right that next time, Democrats and Indies will swing right.

Former Bush official Joseph however, is waving the white flag to Iran. Given the Bush administration's performance in Iraq, I can see why..... http://defensetech.org/2010/05/11/beware-unpredictable-consequences-of-striking-iran-former-bush-admin-official/
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 11, 2010 3:07 pm
In the comments of your previous posting, you mentioned that you and Dave would discuss the issue of Muslim immigrants coming to the U.S., being fairly well treated, then throwing it all all away by becoming a terrorist. You have not discussed this yet.
Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at May 11, 2010 3:23 pm
Maxtrue, you're all over the place in that comment. And I'm not touching it :)
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 3:27 pm
Lindsey,

The question, if I remember correctly, was why so many terrorists are well-off and educated rather than poor and uneducated. The answer is that they read the likes of Sayyid Qutb and get caught up in a complex political philosophy that goes well beyond traditional Islam and that justifies suicide-murder.

Goat herders and simple shop keepers have no time for that kind of nonsense.

Most communists were well-off and educated for the same reasons.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 3:32 pm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sassanid_Empire

Much of what Persia had accomplished was systematically destroyed by Muslim invaders who made Iranians dhimmis in their own country. They burned the Academy of Gundishapur.

Shortly after Khomeini assumed power, he executed his top officers and then threw his army against Iraq. The country despite oil wealth has been languishing since 1979. It is a shame what the present regime has done to the legacy that was once Persia.

It is true that three way battle ultimately did in Persia. I wouldn't however call the Sassanid Empire the successor to Alexander the Great. They never defeated Byzantine or the Muslims though at their height controled a rather large area...
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 11, 2010 3:34 pm
Craig, I owe you one. Sorry for the conflation :)
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 11, 2010 3:36 pm
Well, maybe I'll just touch this little bit...

The battle between Liberals is hardly over. The GOP is counting on that and hoping you are right that next time, Democrats and Indies will swing right.

Liberals are already with the GOP. Have been for decades. As for your democrat voters, you must know that liberalism has nothing to do with conservative vs progressive politics, right? In a country like the US that has liberalism built into the system of government, liberals will ALWAYS be conservative, as they will want to preserve the existing liberal nature of what they already have. A progressive isn't satisfied with what already exists and wants to change it. I don't think it's possible for a government to be MORE liberal than the one our founding fathers created 200 years ago. Therefore, any changes a progressive would seek would be likely to result in LESS freedom rather than more.

There are exceptions like the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the women's suffrage movement before that, the abolition of slavery and etc but I would argue those were all moves towards what the founding fathers intended, not away.

Bottom line is that if you're going to tell me people who espouse illiberal ideologies are actually liberals, I'm not buying it. There's a contradiction between socialism and liberalism that cannot be resolved, no matter how many word games people who like to think of themselves as both statists AND liberals try to play!

PS-Are you planning on taking me up on the comment I made up about rank and file democrats being socially conservative? Do you think Obama's constituency in Illinois when he was a Senator were "progressives"? :)

I think it's a bit of a dirty game democratic politicians play where they promise people who don't really believe in any of their political ideology a bunch of free stuff in exchange for votes. That's not really my idea of representative government. In fact, it comes pretty close to fraud in my opinion.
Posted by: Craig at May 11, 2010 3:44 pm
"There's nothing either of us could say on the matter that wasn't said much better, 200+ years ago" and "There's nothing about socialism that can be called "liberal".

Dead on, middle of the bull's eye, Craig.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 11, 2010 3:50 pm
This post turned out to be a bit "stream of consciousness" but bear with me.

I used to be far left. Anarchist to be precise. Way into Noam Chomsky. The first thing that made me think was seeing that video of Chomsky meeting with Hezbollah and giving them his enthusiastic support. I knew that Communists were into the Soviet Union and the various monsters who ruled it, but the more I looked into it, the more I saw that the left was apologizing for, sympathizing with and sometimes openly supporting Islamism and Arab Fascism.

I think one piece of the puzzle might be that we live in a post-left society. The left, although their politics were a disaster (planned economies don't work) they were on the correct side of many struggles like Civil Rights, gay liberation, women's equality and anti-racism. Now all of this stuff has been incorporated into the modern liberal state. So what's left for the left? The rest of the world moved on, embraced the best of their struggles while they stayed still in a calcified state. The left is the new right.

Their economic vision came crashing to the ground with the fall of the Soviet union, capitalism didn't collapse like they said it would and became a resounding success, and the masses they said would flock to socialism embraced the free market and liberalism.

So the left has very few friends left. If America opposes someone then they assume they must be OK on some level. I've read disgusting endorsements of Saddam Hussein by the likes of Naomi Klein and John Pilger. The Iraqi "resistance" were given support.

I think the left were brought up on a diet of America being the imperialist, exploiting, racist, evil empire and they have trouble coming to terms with the fact that there are far worse things out there than Western democracy and liberalism. Democracy and liberalism were grudgingly preferred by the left to totalitarianism but viewed as a sham to conceal people's slavery to wealthy overlords. They always hoped that such illusions would be swept away to usher in the promised land.

So I can't put my finger on Bush Derangement Syndrome and siding with Islamofascism. There are many pieces to the puzzle and it's something that needs a lot more exposure than it's getting because it has bleed-over effects into people that would otherwise be more sensible.
Posted by: Virus at May 11, 2010 3:55 pm
"MJT: I think you have it pretty well worked out.

Paul Berman: I assure you, I don't."

You should give more creedence to Marxist politics from 1967 on, which still remains templated in their minds. Much of Marxist thinking in the West was apologism for Marxism in action. The Marxist nation-other was always apologized for, the "us", the West, was demonized. The reasons are several, but in brief, that discourse was absorbed by liberal discourse and sounded "smart." Basically, Western left-liberal discourses were massaged into anti-Zionism after 1967 because Moscow wanted them to be, the "Moscow line" of zionology became the Western left line. Also, Israel is seen as the "us." So, reflexively, there is a transference of feelings about the soviets onto the Arabs. Chomsky was a master artist of this sophistry, on the occassions he was coherent.

In part, it is also a matter of faith. Marxists protest their rationality so much due to insecurity that they are not. If Moscow or the consensus of leftist thinkers say 2=3, it is true, it is the pravda. Regarding Nicaragua, you are still hanging on to liberal assumptions. The Nicaraguan lady's reaction is near universal in communist societies. They do not experience Marxism theoretically, or in a liberal discussion of it. They experience it in action, as the paternalistic serf-nomenklatura system it really is.
Posted by: J at May 11, 2010 4:11 pm
To virus at 3:55

I swear I did not read your post before posting my previous!

About BDS, it is about to more things, BS and Infra-American cultural hatreds.

The lefties with BDS did not fall for Bush's BS because it was not culturally attuned to trick them. In comparison, they are shocked at Obama's BS towards them manipulating their own cherished thoughts and beliefs. More, it goes to culture. Bush's affect, unlike his father, was Southern. They shiver at his personality. This is expressed today to people like the "tea partiers" whom they elevated into relevance in order to have themselves something to hate and distract themselves from thinking about Obama and his class of con men. BDS at Bush was anger, tea party obsession is a displacement, something that relieves them and a comfortable focus that makes themselves feel better.

As for the Cold War, it is still rattling around the leftists' minds. It is hardwired to privilege the anti-American other. Little will change them. Absent in Eastern Europe, by the way.
Posted by: J at May 11, 2010 4:29 pm
There is nothing complex about Tariq - convoluted, certainly, but not complex. He is a master al-taqiyyist, a master of the jihad of the pen and the jihad of the spoken word, and that's about it. Paul Berman, for all his intelligence, comes off as stepping into a trap he very well knows is there. Tariq projects to Western audiences what they want to believe, because he knows that is what they want to believe.

As for this meme that the Nazis were the shaping influence of modern Islamism, it is saddening and infuriating. Islamic terrorism is fundamentally no different today than it was when Muhammad himself was using terror, deception, and the threat of genocide to drive Arabia into submission to him. Likewise, following his death, his loyal followers first crushed the apostate rebellion that sprung up, and then used terror, deception, and genocide to conquer and subdue nation after nation. Always, of course, with the promise of plenty of slaves (especially sex slaves) and loot for the jihadis, whether they survived or not. The Soviets taught Islamists some more effective ways to make their jihad seem palatable to "useful idiots", and how to organize.. but the ideology hasn't seen a fundamental change for 1400 years.


And this is just the icing on the cake:
"There are also some semi-nice things about Jews in the Koran. It can be read in different ways."

Anyone who knows the context of such "semi-nice" things damn well knows they were only self-serving al-taqiyya, and that in the end Muhammad wiped out, exiled, or enslaved every last Jew in Arabia; and that "anyone" includes every imam, mullah, and Islamic "scholar" worth his salt.
Posted by: Squires at May 11, 2010 4:34 pm
Berman spent the first few years of Iraq war affecting not to notice that the Bush administration intended to promote democracy there. It seemed queer to me back then that Totten would praise Berman's writings on the subject without noting his holier-than-thou, counterfactual appraisal of Bush's goals.

I congratulate Berman for admitting he suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome. That took guts.
Posted by: MDP at May 11, 2010 4:46 pm
I admit when I read that the current American chief executive with no previous executive experience had somehow "beautified" the American flag and Paul Berman couldn't get past the sound of George Bush's voice I was tempted to stop reading. But, out of respect for Michael's efforts, I continued.

The reason I concluded decades ago that belief fueled by emotion drives so-called liberals (the most restrictive people I've ever met, by the way, in the nanny city I live in) is that critical thinking is an unwelcome intruder, creating jarring disturbances of fact in an otherwise warm, comfortable, righteous Force. So, congrats to Paul Berman for the courage to look outside the bubble and report what he has seen.

Success breeds greed, I hear, denying the needy their entitlements (well, certain successes...; I forgot to include hypocrisy above.) Takers have "rights" that makers deny them out of selfishness.

Yet billions of (maker) dollars have been, are, and will be donated willingly. And millions of volunteer hours are offered. And entrepreneurs and businesses thrive, fueled by sweat equity no "entitlement" provided them.

But that's all outside the bubble.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 11, 2010 5:22 pm
"As Ron Rosenbaum put it hopefully in a recent review of Berman's new book in Slate, "Maybe some of the previously silent will begin to speak out against the death squads rather than snark about their victims and targets." "

Let Ron Rosenbaum repudiate his own vicious lies--claims entirely without support--about the Tea Party movement and I'll not take this reference to him as evidence your own opinions aren't worth as much as I'd like to think they are. Look to his removal from Instapundit for background RE this, and please ask Mr. Roger Simon, I believe, if you have questions.
Posted by: Tom Perkins at May 11, 2010 5:24 pm
Paul S: I admit when I read that the current American chief executive with no previous executive experience had somehow "beautified" the American flag and Paul Berman couldn't get past the sound of George Bush's voice I was tempted to stop reading. But, out of respect for Michael's efforts, I continued.

I'm glad you kept reading. Berman likewise kept up with Bush's speeches despite his being irritated.

He may be a liberal, but he's much smarter than your average neighbor in San Francisco. I would not have published a 6,500 word interview with him otherwise.

His book is brilliant, and I commend it to you. I suspect that conservatives will like his book more than liberals will, actually, but we'll see.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 5:32 pm
Great interview, Michael.

I will have to get Berman's new book--I had the same feeling you had when I read Terror & Liberalism. It was the shock of recognition, of pieces falling into place.

As for the left's attitude toward Muslims, I think it's an echo from the French Revolution, the first leftist revolution. The idea of the Noble Savage, the primitivism in the arts--all of that ties in with, as Berman says, the guilt of affluent West. The "authentic" Muslims, therefore, are the ones who reject the West. they are the left's Other in a way that disguises its shallowness and bigotry.
Posted by: Patricia at May 11, 2010 5:34 pm
Tom Perkins: Let Ron Rosenbaum repudiate his own vicious lies--claims entirely without support--about the Tea Party movement and I'll not take this reference to him as evidence your own opinions aren't worth as much as I'd like to think they are.

What in the hell does Ron Rosenbaum's opinion of the Tea Party have to do with me? If your opinion of me depends on whether or not a man who is a complete stranger to me repudiates comments he made previously that I am entirely unfamiliar with, then you can kindly sod off.

Perhaps you aren't familiar with me or what I write about, but I cover foreign affairs.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 5:38 pm
Anyone who knows the context of such "semi-nice" things damn well knows they were only self-serving al-taqiyya, and that in the end Muhammad wiped out, exiled, or enslaved every last Jew in Arabia; and that "anyone" includes every imam, mullah, and Islamic "scholar" worth his salt.

I'm reminded that the best sounding peaceful quote from Mohammad, that poetic one about how someone who kills kills the whole world... If you back up and take the whole paragraph, you see that it's a rebuke to Jews, calls them evil and tells them to look out. It's not telling Muslims to be peaceful. There's nothing like that. When you bring that up to Muslims their defense is that it must be rebuking only the evil Jews not the good ones.... Not reassuring.

In any case, Berman still has a point in that, whatever horrors have been in Islam from the beginning and manifest at various times, Nazi propaganda didn't help and modern fundamentalist movements have brought out the worst of the worst.

So yeah, the Taliban aren't the Khomeinists aren't the Bath party, but they're all new and (I guess) a lot worse that what was common a hundred years ago.
Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 11, 2010 5:41 pm
Josh Scholar: the Taliban aren't the Khomeinists aren't the Bath party, but they're all new and (I guess) a lot worse that what was common a hundred years ago.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 5:47 pm
"What in the hell does Ron Rosenbaum's opinion of the Tea Party have to do with me? "

He was brought up on this page as someone whose opinions are noteworthy in a positive and informative sense.

I think you brought him up in that sense.

I know differently from reading the man's words. He's no one to take a blurb from, except in the sense a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Mentioning him does Berman no credit.

Your mileage may vary.
Posted by: Tom Perkins at May 11, 2010 6:08 pm
Tom,

I don't know any more about the Tea Party than my mother-in-law knows about the Tea Party. I haven't a clue what Ron Rosenbaum thinks either, nor do I care. It is completely off-topic. I write about revolution, totalitarianism, terrorism, and war.

Rosenbaum's comment about Berman's book was both on-topic and apt, so I used it.

If you have any other complaints about anyone else I've ever quoted who wrote about separate and unrelated matters, you can take it up with the authors in question.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2010 6:36 pm
Rosenbaum's comment about Berman's book was both on-topic and apt, so I used it.

Well, it was rather jarring to see a nutjob like Rosenbaum quoted approvingly. But when it comes to liberals I guess you have to take what you can get.
Posted by: chuck at May 11, 2010 9:55 pm
Chuck: visceral reactions on one matter (e.g. the Tea Party, Bush Derangement Syndrome) can easily be juxtaposed with intelligence and and even good sense on others. People can be quite complex. Ron Rosenbaum's book Explaining Hitler (which I review here) is well worth reading, for example.

Michael: Great interview.

On the matter of Tariq Ramadan, I have only read one book of his (The Messenger, which I review here, also citing Paul Berman's TNR essay on Tariq Ramadan) but it was enough. Tariq Ramadan is ultimately committed to the view that the peak of human moral understanding, particularly about the organising of society, was reached in C7th Arabia. He may know how to push liberal/academic buttons, but that is his basic message.

One can miss it only by being wilfully blind or not bothering to seriously read what he writes.
Posted by: Lorenzo at May 11, 2010 11:07 pm
If, after an encounter with TA, one is left feeling bored, humorless, and perhaps a bit demoralized, there's always Michel Foucault's enthusiastic ejaculations about the Ayatollah Khomeini to bring a smile to one's face.

(Kind of like the intellectual equivalent of slapstick....)
Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 12, 2010 2:54 am
Sorry. Should be, "After an encounter with TR..."
Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 12, 2010 3:01 am
[...] J. Totten – The Flight of the Intellectuals Submitted by The Glittering [...]
Posted by: Watcher of Weasels » Watcher’s Council Nominations May 12, 2010 at May 12, 2010 5:56 am
Excellent article, Michael. I especially enjoyed the analysis of Tariq Ramadan's appeal. Ramadan is a skilled salesman, but his fans are only fooled because they want to believe. Ordering Berman's book now -
Posted by: Mary Madigan at May 12, 2010 6:53 am
Mr. Totten: Wow.

This interview opened my eyes and I was planning on purchasing your book.

Until I saw the comments. It turns out your fan following consists of crazy American right-wingers. People who think Obama is a communist, wasn't born in America, etc.

So I'm going to assume that this nice nugget doesn't deliver the whole picture and there's something about your message which attracts neocon extremists.

You might want to do what you can to ditch them if you want truly widespread appeal. The potential for which is very much there and hidden in your views.
Posted by: TheDude at May 12, 2010 7:14 am
"Liberals are already with the GOP. Have been for decades. As for your democrat voters, you must know that liberalism has nothing to do with conservative vs progressive politics, right? In a country like the US that has liberalism built into the system of government, liberals will ALWAYS be conservative, as they will want to preserve the existing liberal nature of what they already have."

So Liberals are really with the GOP?

Well obviously something in this thread is lacking. Michael and Paul touched on it in the interview. The comments here have rendered the contemporary meaning of Liberal rather useless. Perhaps we should explore the pedigrees of Liberalism so everyone at least has a common term for the group they are pointing to.

BDS allowed an influx of Leftists into the Democratic camp as a counter to Republican numbers. This influx led to what I call neo-Liberalism which obviously is far from Jeffersonian ideas and ran against the more conservative views of Hillary Clinton who Obama labeled "Republican Lite". This has changed the working characterization of Liberal as used by media to describe Democrats. Or are we to use the 1789 definition of political terms?

Intellectuals on the Left are Liberal and Leftist. Chomsky is Leftist and http://www.jstor.org/pss/2572174 Schneider points to The Nation and New Republic as Liberal Bastions as he explored the Liberal Intellectual attitudes towards the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1947. His definition of Liberal is interesting.

I would make the practical observation that use is 90% of a words meaning and suggest that we defined our terms which Michael and Paul never did either. Are we talking about the Flight of Leftist Intellectuals or Liberal Intellectuals or neither? While one might wish to draw distinctions between Progressive and Liberal, the fact remains that many people call themselves Liberal. The majority of these people have 1. illiberal ideas in terms of definitions from 1789 and 2. they are predominantly Democrats. Anyone argue with that?

As Tully claimed years ago at Stubborn Facts (see the link above), PDS precedes BDS and political derangement syndrome has been causing flip-flopping of Democratic and Republican attitudes for decades. Remember Nixon tried to pass universal healthcare. Carter made a Devil's deal with the Taliban (realism?). Democrats once rejected any negotiations with terrorists much to Chomsky's anger.

Unless we are willing to define the political spectrum (three dimensionally I hope), it is pretty useless to throw terms around and think we are getting anywhere. Today's LIBERAL does not have the same attitude on taxes, internationalism, government etc as do LIBERTARIANS. That the latter claim they are the real Liberal wing of American thought and that "real" Liberals are more at home on the GOP side flies in the face of contemporary usage and definitions.

In fact, polls show that there are more conservatives in America than liberals. The critical block of Indies have a mixed nature of conservative and liberal ideals.

"PS-Are you planning on taking me up on the comment I made up about rank and file democrats being socially conservative?"

Well Craig, you will first define "social conservative". If you mean gay marriage, legalizing pot, little gun regulation, etc......I will certainly demand the polling numbers from someone like PEW to show how the majority of Democrats are socons, but not now as this is Micheal's blog, not mine. Perhaps he can formulate a new post which deals with how we define our political banners. Perhaps even a chart of where we put people like Coles, Friedman, etc. We are of course, living in a time of mutating labels and intellectual confusion...
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 7:36 am
http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100512_1609.php The axis of evil

Also today the Russians blasted the WH on telling them where they can or cannot sell S-300 systems as they announce a nuclear energy deal with Syria. Seems they didn't want our MDS in Poland and Obama consented.

I can't wait what the Intellectual "Left" says to justify this slap at the US......

Lebanon is indeed a place Intellectuals stumble over: http://www.iloubnan.info/politics/actualite/id/45865/lebanon/Over-the-scud-crisis...

But then there seems to be an intellectual crisis in Israel too.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 9:39 am
Maxtrue, are people who advocate throwing out the Bill of Rights in the name of fighting crime and enhancing security "Liberals"?

This is not as complicated as you try to make it seem. A Liberal is somebody who espouses individual liberty. Which means Freedom.

I doubt you could find more than half a dozen elected federal officials in the democratic party who don't have illiberal voting records. If you think you can, give me some names and I'll take it up with you.

Well Craig, you will first define "social conservative".

Again, this doesn't seem very complicated. A social conservative is somebody who believes in traditional social values. Do you REALLY need me to explain what traditional social values in the US are?

I'm not trying to be nitpicky. I'm looking for clarity. Most of these concepts are pretty straight-forward once you cut through all the various agenda-driven fronts that ideologues have constructed for themselves over the years.
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 10:38 am
PS Maxtrue,

Today's LIBERAL does not have the same attitude on taxes, internationalism, government etc as do LIBERTARIANS.

That's right. In America, today's LIBERAL is a SOCIALIST. That started after World War II because socialism is a dirty word in America, and so people who support socialism had to come up with a more respectable term for themselves. And what term is more respected in the US than "Liberal"?

That the latter claim they are the real Liberal wing of American thought and that "real" Liberals are more at home on the GOP side flies in the face of contemporary usage and definitions.

What does that say about contemporary usage and definitions? I refuse to refer to somebody as "liberal" even when they are obviously the opposite, just because they self-identify that way. I can't stop them from misidentifying themselves, but I damn sure can refuse to play along. "Liberal" and "Socialist" fit together about as well as "Secular" and "Islamist".
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 10:50 am
Dude: I'm going to assume that this nice nugget doesn't deliver the whole picture and there's something about your message which attracts neocon extremists.

Dude, I write for Commentary Magazine.

You might want to do what you can to ditch them if you want truly widespread appeal.

I'm not going to do anything to deliberately irritate any readers. That's the worst author advice I've heard in a while.

I'm not writing a right-wing or a left-wing book, I'm writing a book.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 12, 2010 11:11 am
Duder,

(Or do you prefer el Duderino?)

MJT has a wide variety of readers. His blog is one of the relatively few non-echo chambers around. Many readers have views on various subjects which do not fit consistently into the broad standard categories which you seem to use.

Some readers and some of those who comment are ideologues or propagandists of various stripes. Others are honest, if mistaken :) . A few, or at least one, are always right. Smile.
Posted by: del at May 12, 2010 11:44 am
TheDude: "People who think Obama is a communist, wasn't born in America"

Not a single comment here is stating that Obama is communist or wasn't born in America.
Posted by: leo at May 12, 2010 11:56 am
Leo: Not a single comment here is stating that Obama is communist or wasn't born in America.

That's right. And neither of those wacky ideas are neoconservative anyway.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 12, 2010 12:03 pm
That's right. And neither of those wacky ideas are neoconservative anyway.

Nor would anyone who was reasonably objective refer to neocons as "extremists". Dude's comment tells us a lot about Dude, and nothing at all about the readership of this blog.
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 12:26 pm
I never cared much for labels anyway. I still do not know who I am for I like/dislike ideas from both sides of the ideological spectrum.
Posted by: leo at May 12, 2010 1:45 pm
I've been a fan of Michael's for several years now, and became more of one when he predicted the second Lebanon War. I'm a liberal, voted for Obama; originally supported the Iraq War, still support the Afghan war; Zionist (left-wing variety). So no, Dude, not all of the Michael's readers belong to one political constituency. And some of us as individuals don't belong to one constituency!
Posted by: Rebecca Lesses at May 12, 2010 2:32 pm
TheDude, I've been reading this blog for a while though I've only bothered Michael with my comments of late. He has taken on the "Muslims are eternally wrong" crowd consistently. He is not an extreme ideologue and is quite bipartisan and centrist. If you want to take on points of view, then be specific.

I have not seen, or have I myself given any voice to the Obama-is-a-Muslim and Obama-is-a-communist crowd. In fact, though many here dislike much of Obama's foreign policy, many still support him and hope he pitches towards the right direction. No one here seems to take war and peace lightly or the threat matrix some would have us believe comes from imagination land and not cold facts.

One thing about the Flight of Intellectuals is that they often focus on extreme points of view from their political opposition to draw attention away from the weakness of their own advocacy. If the alternatives are made most grim and insane, then the poor present course doesn't look so bad, right? Given the sterling track record of Intellectuals on the Left, I am not confident in their predictions or assumptions. Many are still reeling from the changes in Russia and China......and claim Islamic radicals are man-made disasters....

Craig, I understand your points. I really do. I have had this debate many times before and the best that I can come up with is that even back in 1789, there was a grey area about ideological principles. Its right their in the Federalist Papers filed under Madison's claim about the purpose of government. Rather to get into to it here, suffice it to say that not everyone buys your definition today. Though I hear you, Wittgenstein remarked that use defines meaning (to a large extent). I understand that the classical notion of Liberal was nowhere near socialism, but the concept like every other concept has changed because today's world has changed. The kind of American dream Jefferson had in mind is not exactly what 360 million Americans can achieve today. You are more a classical Liberal, abiet without the ascot, wig and musket and I dare say, slaves.......
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 3:20 pm
Michael, I'm going to give you the name of another book author who may be able to throw some light on these questions. He has a lot of parallels with Tariq Ramadan. But it's the differences that really illuminate.

His name is Mossab Hassan Yousef. His father was one of the founders of Hamas. Hence the title of his book "Son of Hamas." Which accomplished something that I did not think to be possible, until I read it.

http://www.amazon.com/Son-Hamas-Gripping-Political-Unthinkable/dp/1414333072

Mossab, you see, idolizes his father. And the thing that I didn't think was possible, is this:

I now believe, based on that book, that one of the founders of Hamas is a not just a decent human being, but a very good one.

Now, here's where Tariq and Mossab part company. Mossab could not endorse, or even ethically continue to tolerate, either the pervasive praxis of Hamas, or the aggressive jihad that murdered civilians to no ethical end.

To the point that he converted to Christianity (!), rather than continue to be a part of it.

To read his work, is to read the voice of a morally serious man. A man who could idolize a father/ grandfather for all that is genuinely good in him, but still deliver a moral judgment that his exemplar had crossed important lines, and that this was and is wrong.

The kind of man Tariq Ramadan is NOT. and perhaps, can never be.

You probably won't hear much about Mossab among the liberal courtiers, however. And the short answer for why is that to them, he's on the enemy side.

Which is the unspoken demon at the heart of the phenomena Berman describes.
Posted by: Joe Katzman at May 12, 2010 3:25 pm
If wanting (much) less government, more promotion of the private sector and a strong national defense is extreme, then I've been an extremist since I turned off cruise control and started learning from history's lessons at age 28. More accurately, for Mr. Dude, I'm a no-prefix conservative (an homage to black American conservative Lloyd Marcus' term "non-hyphenated American".)

The majority of the electorate in America got what it wanted on 4 November 2008; they should be happy. I have no sympathy for the consequences of their decision; I hope they're a learning tool. And no feelings of hate, just profound sadness.

As Michael has pointed out, his beat is foreign affairs, which is what I'm here to learn about, knowing close to zip about affairs beyond America's borders. It's a friendly, knowledgeable salon, Dude. Pull up a chair.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 12, 2010 3:31 pm
"Again, this doesn't seem very complicated. A social conservative is somebody who believes in traditional social values. Do you REALLY need me to explain what traditional social values in the US are?"

This I won't let go Craig. If you for a minute think that Pat Robertson and the social conservative squad is liberal, then we have a real disconnect. Even Jefferson wasn't a religious nut nor do I think he would ban abortion, make pot illegal or infringe on the separation of church and state like SOCONs advocate every month. How in touch are you with social conservatives (and please just don't pick off the more moderate ones). In fact, I bet few Libertarians consider themselves SOCONS.

You have completely confused me with that attempt to equate SOCIAL CONSERVATISM with the essence of being a Liberal. Didn't Jefferson have a black mistress? I don't want to tick Michael off, so let's continue this at a time where it fits into the general motif......
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 3:32 pm
Can relate to much of that Paul and I have always considered myself left of center but strong on the issues you spoke to.

I do think government has some clear and needed abilities that the private sector and individuals cannot supply. The difficulty is getting these programs to work with sufficient transparency and without the usual corruption and bureaucracy.
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 3:37 pm
Tariq Ramadan is a strange fellow full of taquiya.......... Is it true that he married a swiss citizen and his wife had circumcision=mutilation performed on her? That speaks volumes about his position on all human beings including Muslims..........
Posted by: diana at May 12, 2010 3:43 pm
The Dude: "It turns out your fan following consists of crazy American right-wingers. People who think Obama is a communist, wasn't born in America, etc."

Sorry, none of those things apply to me.
Posted by: Virus at May 12, 2010 3:49 pm
They don't apply to me either. Dude is using hyperbole.
Posted by: Harold at May 12, 2010 3:51 pm
So, anyway... back to the post...

Paul Berman:Too many very intelligent people are running away from looking at some very influential and pernicious doctrines of our own time. They don't want to look. They prefer to shut their eyes and hope for the best.

If that were really the case, it would be classic "denial" and it would be somewhat understandable. I fall into that behavior quite a bit myself, especially when thinking about terrorism. However, when people begin acting as apologists and/or enablers that goes far beyond simple denial. At that point, people are actually doing their own alleged ideologies harm. And I don't think there's any excuse for it. I'd be a lot happier if people would just STFU when they encounter a truth they don't want to have to deal with, rather than trying to rationalize it away.
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 4:07 pm
Well you can see this here Craig: ""Foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we've done to save the financial sector, we've not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners." Ezra Klein helping us understand the motivation of the NYC bomber.

I did address some of your comments Craig, but either they haven't cleared the moderator or they made the trash heap...lol

Liberal SOCONS will have to wait for another occasion.
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 4:22 pm
Maxtrue,

This I won't let go Craig. If you for a minute think that Pat Robertson and the social conservative squad is liberal, then we have a real disconnect.

What?

You have completely confused me with that attempt to equate SOCIAL CONSERVATISM with the essence of being a Liberal.

Have you been drinking or something? lol

Go back and read my comments again. My argument was that rank-and-file DEMOCRAT voters are socially conservative and that they therefore are NOT liberal.

Didn't Jefferson have a black mistress? I don't want to tick Michael off, so let's continue this at a time where it fits into the general motif......

Well, you've just ticked me off by completely misinterpreting my comments... in fact, you have INVERTED my argument. Somehow. I challenged you twice about the conservative nature of DEMOCRATS in response to your claim that liberals voted for democrats, and you somehow came back at me with the religious right accused me of claiming the religious right is liberal? I'm completely baffled.

Lets just not talk about politics, anymore? :)
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 5:52 pm
My initial (2) comments:

And I'm just guessing here, but I'd say there are more liberals who vote Republican than who vote democrat. Democrats tend to be pretty socially conservative, except for people on the hard left. And the hard left forms a negligible part of the electorate in the US.


PS-Are you planning on taking me up on the comment I made up about rank and file democrats being socially conservative? Do you think Obama's constituency in Illinois when he was a Senator were "progressives"? :)

Now, if you want to take me up on what I *actually* said, I will make the following claims:

1) Libertarians are socially liberal.
2) Neoconservatives are socially liberal.

3) Those two voting blocks are at least 50% of Republican voters.

Do you dispute that, Maxtrue? If not, our next task is to determine what are the largest voting blocks for Democrats that can be called socially liberal. Should I start?

1) I'm drawing a blank already

Wanna help me out? I know you aren't going to try to claim Al Gore's famous "working class" white folks are socially liberal, right? How about Latinos? Socially liberal? Blacks? Socially liberal?

If we exclude those groups, what's left? Anarchist and marxist college kids? Hippies who never grew up? And who else? The self-proclaimed elite aka limousine liberals? What's your best guess to what percentage of actual voters that works out to, Maxtrue? I'm not talking about how much pull they have with the media or how loud they are on blogs, but the number of actual warm bodies that show up to cast a vote?
Posted by: Craig at May 12, 2010 6:11 pm
Joe K, I was thinking about Yousef as I read Micheal's interview with Paul Berman.

A few days ago I did a Goggle to see what play by "Liberal Media" Yousef was getting. I test my suspicions when I can. I wasn't surprised that Fox and JihadWatch were amoung the top hits. Nowhere was major media. I think this reveals what Michael and Paul were talking about. Although Hamas has blasted Yousef and his life is probably in danger, where is the NYT in covering his courage to reveal what Hamas has been up to? Talk about credible courses. Perhaps I missed the MYT review..hhmmm

Yousef on Fox http://www.mefeedia.com/watch/23598955

Do we all know why the Intellectual Left is not fascinated by Yousef? It really is shocking when you think about it...
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 6:16 pm
Glad you said that Craig, I was worried.....(you don't need to respond to any of this now)

"PS-Are you planning on taking me up on the comment I made up about rank and file democrats being socially conservative?"

This is what annoyed me as most well-known SOCONS are Republican, and Republican are more rank and file Republicans and more SOCON than rank and file Democrats. Do the math. The socons you speak of are not a majority. What is it, socialist pseudo-liberal social conservatives or liberal Republican social conservatives...lol? I was making a point about using undefined terms.

Unless we define our terms, we aren't clear. I get your case for the perversion in the use of liberal. I know you want to preserve the classical concept of Liberalism which you see in conflict with the common term liberal.

Despite our beliefs, nothing is Black and White, though I'm hardly arguing relative morality. Most views are composite and the ideal or theoretically simple rarely yield practical results. Seeing the nature of the post's headline, we were inevitably going to run into this denoting problem. A lot falls under "Liberal and Leftist Intellectual" these days. You obviously think "Terror and Liberalism" an improper title.

That should ameliorate our fender bender.....for now...lol
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 6:47 pm
Republican are more rank and file SOCONs than rank and file Democrats are.....that is.
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 12, 2010 6:49 pm
[...] not in practice) but equally leftist Barack Obama, and you can see this same formula playing out in Michael Totten’s interview with Paul Berman, the author of a new book titled, The Flight of the Intellectuals. Berman seems to [...]
Posted by: Ed Driscoll » The Flight of the Intellectuals Continues at May 12, 2010 7:08 pm
You guys gonna have to get a head count to solve this?
;-)
Posted by: Paul S. at May 12, 2010 8:30 pm
Max,

re: "getting these programs to work with sufficient transparency and without the usual corruption and bureaucracy."

Problem lies at the heart of the beast, unfortunately. Absent voter imposed controls, government A, so to speak, has no government B & C competitors; the incentives to operate efficiently and cost effectively aren't there. This then, creates unrestrained incentives to waste and grow---absent those voter controls. A giant, sucking dependency, this beast is, having to take first to give out dollar one.

The taking comes from what businesses could use to hire, stock, develop and advertise. If they monitor competitors and listen to potential customers (to get some) and keep listening (to keep them), and they have a sound business plan (first), they'll eventually sustain themselves through profits. The other engine of a healthy economy is consumer power, supporting businesses. Overfeed the beast and both these engines slow to a crawl. My home state is a gargantuan maze of salaries, pensions, commissions, committees, studies, review boards...and reports. None of which will ever make dime one in profits. Put government on a diet, keep it lean and those crucial economic engines have a chance to thrive. And money not wasted or overspent is then available for roads, bridges, emergencies, and on down the list.

But an economics side road from a non-economist isn't why Michael pays for bandwidth.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 12, 2010 9:14 pm
[...] Berman has a new book out, The Flight of the Intellectuals. He’s also interviewed by Michael J. Totten. An interesting part of the interview is Berman’s admission to being afflicted with [...]
Posted by: No Serf » Terror and Liberalism at May 12, 2010 10:02 pm
The difficulty with discussing politics is that labels have changed so much over time, and mean different things to different people. In the U.S. liberals are thought of as being left-wing, whereas in most other places a liberal is someone who is a proponent of liberal economics (i.e. free market stuff), and usually associated with right-wing ideas. In fact wikipedia list three different and contradictory ideas behind the label 'liberal'.

So basically to avoid confusion you need to follow the word liberal with a paragraph to explain exactly what you mean by it!

And don't get me started on socialism!
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at May 12, 2010 11:28 pm
"Not a single comment here is stating that Obama is communist or wasn't born in America."

Leo: I think he was referring to your previous comment:

"I see it differently. Obama to me is a leader who does not know how to lead. He is good political commissar, the kind, which was attached to each and every person of autority in former Soviet Union. His job was to brainwash masses by pushing every new Communist Party line."
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at May 12, 2010 11:43 pm
"I'm a liberal, voted for Obama; originally supported the Iraq War, still support the Afghan war; Zionist (left-wing variety)."

If you are truly a "Zionist", how on earth could you have voted for someone with such palpable contempt and hatred for Israel? You are a fool.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at May 13, 2010 12:15 am
Cassius Corodes, I suspected this much. However, even if we are to assume that you and I are correct, there is nothing to link Obama to communism in that statement. Just because you and I are driving identical cars does not mean we subscribe to the same ideology. If tomorrow I will find that Obama's actions remind me something from Hannity does not mean Obama became conservative all of a sudden.
Posted by: leo at May 13, 2010 5:28 am
Well the problem with Obama is the many suit stuff, or at least all suits but one....

Yes labels have changed. I get what Craig is saying and I understand that today's libertarian takes issue with the Democratic use of Liberal. By siding with the Republicans they give greater influence to real social conservatives. Ron Paul hardly cares about Iran or Israel. Groups are not uniform however. To a certain extent I agree with him about the mutation of terms. Lincoln was a Republican. Jefferson said all men are created equal and had slaves. Today's progressives profess their love for freedom and don't mind regulating doctor's salaries. As I said, a lot of gray area behavior that makes crisp definitions fuzzy.

Yes, CC.
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 13, 2010 6:16 am
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jZ-5-3Ifvv72jUDj3i7adCd8XAYgD9FLVANG0

I will love to see how Intellectuals spin this great news....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 13, 2010 6:19 am
"Israel's policies of rejecting peace and continuing to threaten war is likely to undermine peace and security in the region," the official SANA news agency quoted Assad as saying.

More grease for the narrative of the brilliant.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 13, 2010 6:25 am
By siding with the Republicans they...

We side with Republicans because for the most part it is conservatives who care more about maintaining the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Conservatives also tend to care more about preserving individual freedoms, and keeping the power of the federal government in check. It's really a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I used to be an "independent" voter when I was younger and I voted for whoever I felt was the best candidate regardless of party. I don't do that anymore, as I've wised up to the way virtually everyone toes the party line once they are in office, no matter what their political positions were beforehand. The Republican party line is one I can live with, even though it's far from ideal. However, I'm pretty disgusted with what Republicans were up to during the Bush Administration. I didn't vote for President in the last election. I'm hoping that Republicans will re-evaluate what they really want to stand for, now that they are on the outside looking in.

...give greater influence to real social conservatives.

I disagree. I think we hold them in check. Republicans cannot win federal office without the votes of those of us who are socially liberal. Democrats love to complain about the "religious right" because they know that plays well with their potential constituents but the "religious right" goes absolutely nowhere without the rest of the party.
Posted by: Craig at May 13, 2010 8:51 am
Fair enough Leo - however know that I assumed as well that you were insinuating that Obama was a communist. Given how often I hear people say that obama is a communist, I assumed that was the underlying message. Perhaps that's an over-reaction on my part. If you find it hard to believe, replace obama with bush and communism with fascism and you will see what I mean.

Maxtrue: "intellectuals" are not bogey-men, they are just people who earn their bread by thinking. They are not all uniform in their ideas and include a variety of views.
Posted by: Cassius Corodes at May 13, 2010 9:11 am
No Cassius, intellectuals are not bogey-men. I was referring to the group Michael and Paul were. Sorry about not being specific. I went to Horace Mann so I'm not dissing higher education.....or thinking as a profession as long as reality is the guide.

Craig, well said. I don't like the purge going on with the GOP. The stupidity of many of the SOCONS keep themselves in check. Actually, lately, I think you would agree, neo-Liberals have a religion of sorts all to themselves.......

Last election for me was the first time I ever voted for a Republican presidential candidate. Personally, I think we should clear government of most of our representatives, but I fear much of the crap is systemic.....
Posted by: Maxtrue at May 13, 2010 9:20 am
Cassius Corodes, I understand what you are trying to say and agree that it is possible, but it is still over-reaction, which lead to the wrong conclusion. Kind of like 15-minute rule Paul Berman is mentioning above.
Posted by: leo at May 13, 2010 10:08 am
"Maxtrue: "intellectuals" are... just people who earn their bread by thinking. They are not all uniform in their ideas and include a variety of views."

I wish that both components of that assertion were far more true.

The modern phenomenon is far closer to the traditional role in societies with a priestly caste.
Posted by: Joe at May 13, 2010 10:09 am
"just people who earn their bread by thinking"

That would be "white collar", which is not necessarily an intellectual.
Posted by: leo at May 13, 2010 10:57 am
[...] there are often conservative writers to whom I would like to donate money — people like Michael Totten, for example.  And here’s where, maybe, you can help me.  If you happen to be inspired to [...]
Posted by: Bookworm Room » A little bleg at May 13, 2010 1:18 pm
"Today's progressives profess their love for freedom and don't mind regulating..."

This is progress? And freedom? For whom to impose what on whom?

Sounds like you might have read the minutes of an S.F. Board of Stupefiers meeting, Max. The blatant arrogance and hypocrisy is what's stupefying. Why any sane person would own property or open a business on Fantasy Island stupefies me.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 13, 2010 5:01 pm
[...] place *t* with 1 1/3 votes – Michael J. Totten - The Flight of the Intellectuals Submitted by The Glittering [...]
Posted by: Watcher of Weasels » The Council has Spoken 051410 at May 14, 2010 5:56 am
I read and enjoyed this interview, and today read the first chapter and a half of Berman's book. I was impressed and definitely will be checking out this book and Berman's other work soon.
Posted by: Dan at May 14, 2010 3:32 pm
Great interview.

Eric Holder's inability to mutter 'radical Islam' or anything close to it cries out.....FLIGHT OF THE INTELLECTUALS

Here's the video.

http://greatpowerpolitics.com/?p=2270
Posted by: Pat at May 14, 2010 10:14 pm
"Even Jefferson wasn't a religious nut nor do I think he would ban abortion,"

-maxtrue

I know this is a tangent, but I have to take issue with this. There's at least a few good Libertarian arguments that would lead to banning the great majority of abortions, all of which hinge on when an individual becomes an individual. Although, I may not have understood the crux of your argument, so I only offer that objection in passing.
Posted by: seguin at May 14, 2010 10:38 pm
[...] Michael Totten interviews Paul Berman. [...]
Posted by: CLEANING OUT THE LINK CAGE: Month-of-May-Harmonic-Convergence-Edition | ICED BORSCHT at May 15, 2010 1:30 pm
Here's an outcry from SWEDEN!

I congratulate myself for finding this perfect site.
You won't find anything like this in Sweden. We are not a cultural people. We like nature and that's it and the average Joe acts like an ostrich.
I also congratulate you, US citizens, to live in the most intellectual media climate in the WORLD. Trust me on that. So what is happening in Sweden nowadays? As usual the highest tax burden in the world. ~55%.

So, what is new?
The most acute question is the islamisation of society.
Since the first Gulf-war Sweden has allowed around 400,000 muslims to settle. The total population is only 9 million. Per capita that makes us number 1 in the western world, by far. It is equivalent to 15 million more arabs/muslims in the US the last 18 years.

The tensions in society are enormous. The swedish media is super-ultra politically correct. Everything is like Amy Goodman and "Democracy now". Nothing else. Probably worse.
Swedish journalists/editors deny everything. Sweden used to be the safest country in the world. We didn't know what gang-rape was. Now we know. But we cannot understand where and how one man can find 6 other likeminded men. Simply incomprehensible!
The jews in Swedens third largest city, Malmö, is leaving because of antisemetism. Everybody knows that the arab-muslims are the culprits. Media doesn't talk about it since that would be racist to call ARABS racist. Funny country! It's been a long time since I watched swedish news and debates. Which sane man can endure watching tiny copies of Chomsky, Pilger and Naomi Klein all day long. Intellectually I have never been surprised by the swedish media landscape. Internet is the only hope for my home country.
70% of the tens of thousands of iraqis that imigrated 18 years ago still live on benefits. Somalis don't even learn swedish...
Lars Vilks, a swedish artist, that in his art tries to provoce islamists was beaten up 3 days ago. Yesterday they tried to burn his house down. Swedish main stream media hardly mentions this. That is Sweden of today.

More about Sweden.
An american "liberal" = a swedish "conservative". We don't have any real conservatives left. They're extinct. Media hasn't allowed them a voice since 1968. And now, nobody knows how to become one.
3 times the last 80 years the liberal parties has won the elections. The other 68 years the left has been in power (usually around 6% communist, 6% "greenies" and ~40% ,as CRAIG would say, extremely socially conservative socialdemocrats).

Thanks to the climate (see Montesquieus Meteorological Climate Theory) Sweden is still a monetary rich country. i.e. you don't need brains to get rich!

By the way, an exellent interview! I know Berman. He is like wine. Better the older he gets.

And all the best to you CRAIG! I agree with you!
I'll be back!
Posted by: Johan at May 15, 2010 4:46 pm
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