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Our Real Enemy is Within Us

By David Warren

Listening to President Bush speak, on Monday's anniversary of 9/11, after a day of distastefully sentimental memorials, my question was not what have we achieved in the last five years, but rather, what have we learned? Bush and Blair -- the captain and vice-captain of Team West in the war against "the terrorists" so far -- are both now in the twilight of their political careers. Both have recently broken with habitual discretion, and made attempts to name the enemy. This has, if anything, added to their unpopularity, for when they mention that the enemy presents himself as Islamic, there are shrill cries not only from radical Muslims, but across the spectrum of the Left in the West.

Mr Bush, much the less eloquent of the two, has now retreated from his use of the term "Islamofascist" -- which as I said in a previous column, is a fairer label than "Islamist" for an enemy that spreads a palampore of traditional Islam, over a stuffing from the Western-bred totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. As I wrote last month, from Ahmadinejad to Zawahiri, we hear rhetoric that uses an Islamic vocabulary and crude grammar, but animated with a syntax that owes more to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, than to the Prophet and his traditional interpreters. The term is thus meant to suggest a skewed Islam, an Islam "adapted to our age" by psychopathic men, whose own Islamic learning is purposefully politicized, and aggressively de-spiritualized. Since the alternative would be to say that Ahmadinejad, Zawahiri, et al. do speak legitimately for Islam, I don't see why anyone should object to the term "Islamofascist".

Mr Blair gave an interview worth reading to the Israeli daily, Haaretz, published Monday. The editors present characterized it as "sombre". The British prime minister was still going through the motions of advocating the "peace process", and the "two-state solution" for Israel and Palestine, without (according to me) any real conviction that it could work. It is just something Western politicians do to please the figurative "Arab street", and it does not please anyone, any more. With much more conviction, he said leaders throughout the West have grasped that we are in a truly "global struggle", for which the people of the West are not prepared. The politicians have failed to explain to us how much is at stake, and how much will be lost if we are not resolute in defence of Western values.

For all its uncharacteristic awkwardness, Mr Blair's answer to a question about British home-grown terrorists donged the bell:

"It's not necessarily what have we done wrong, because part of the problem of what you have in Western opinion is that Western opinion always wants to believe that it's our fault and these people want to have a sort of, you know, grievance culture that they visit upon us and say it's our fault. And so we have a young British-born man of Pakistani origin sitting in front of a television screen saying I will go and kill innocent people because of the oppression of Muslims, when he has been brought up in a country that has given him complete religious freedom and full democratic rights and actually a very good job and standard of living. Now, that warped mind has grown out of a global movement based on a perversion of Islam which we have to confront, and we have to confront it globally."

I frankly admire both Bush and Blair, as courageous politicians, with open minds, doing their best within the limits of what is politically possible in their respective spheres. They are both towering figures, in comparison to the little men who oppose them. We won't know what trouble is, until the little men replace them.

I continue to be optimistic about what can be done, should we summon the will to do it. I have written repeatedly that a robust and unified Western response to "Islamofascism" could fling it quickly onto the trash-heap of history, to join Nasserism and Baathism and other earlier manifestations of Arab nationalism and socialism. Smack it hard, without apology.

My pessimism is founded in the fear that this robust and unified response cannot be mobilized. We have a huge fifth column in the West, and it is not the Muslim immigrants. They become radicalized only because our "victim culture" encourages them to nurture their grievances. Yet most, despite temptation, remain good, decent people, doing their share of the West's work.

Our real enemy is within us, in the immense constituency of the half-educated narcissists pouring from our universities each year -- that glib, smug, liberal, and defeatist "victim culture" itself, that inhabits the academy, our media, our legal establishment, the bureaucratic class. The opinion leaders of our society, who live almost entirely off the avails of taxation, make their livelihoods biting the hands that feed them, and undermining the moral order on which our solidarity depends.

© Ottawa Citizen

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