A manifesto for an aggressive liberal response to terrorist attacks, this text argues that in the terror war we are not facing a battle of the West against Islam, a clash against civilizations, rather, that we are facing the same battle that tore Europe apart during most of the 20th century, only in a new version. It is the clash of liberalism and its enemies: the battle between freedom and totalitarianism that arose in Europe many years ago and spread to the Muslim world. The author considers the wars against fascism and communism from the past and draws cautionary lessons from them. He also draws a liberal programme for the present from those past experiences, a programme that departs from the policies of the Bush administration.
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Paul Berman is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. His books include Debating P. C. and A Tale of Two Utopias.From Publishers Weekly:
Berman puts his leftist credentials (he's a member of the editorial board of Dissent) on the line by critiquing the left while presenting a liberal rationale for the war on terror, joining a discourse that has been dominated by conservatives. The most original aspect of his analysis is to categorize Islamism as a totalitarian reaction against Western liberalism in a class with Nazism and communism; drawing on the ideas of Camus in The Rebel, Berman delineates how all three movements descended from utopian visions (in the case of Islamism, the restoration of a pure seventh-century Islam) into irrational cults of death. He illustrates this progression through a nuanced analysis of the writings of a leading Islamist thinker, Sayyid Qutb, ending with some chilling quotations from other Islamists, e.g., "History does not write its lines except with blood," the blood being that of Islam's martyrs (such as suicide bombers) as well as of their enemies, Zionists and Crusaders (i.e., Jews and Christians). Berman then launches into his most provocative chapter, and the one he will probably be most criticized for in politically correct journals: a scathing attack on leftist intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, who have applauded terrorism and tried to explain it as a rational response to oppression. Berman exhorts readers to accept that, on the contrary, Islamism is a "pathological mass political movement" that is "drunk on the idea of slaughter." A former MacArthur fellow and a contributing editor to the New Republic, Berman offers an argument that will be welcomed by disaffected progressives looking for a new analysis of today's world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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