Drowning Ourselves In Guilt

Victor Davis Hanson has another exceptional piece on the war in National Review Online as well as an interesting radio interview with Hugh Hewitt. Hanson makes that argument that the West is hampered by a set of ideologies that weaken our resolve against terrorism – moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism.

Hanson’s theme is now a major topic of discussion in Britain where the aftershocks of the 7/7 bombings still loom large over the United Kingdom. The fact that the London bombers were relatively affluent and seemingly well-integrated young Muslims has caused many on the continent to wonder about how far the cancer of Islamic radicalism has pierced European society. In The Scotsman, Fraser Nelson argues that the concept of a multicultural society helps breed terrorism:

Britain is incubating its own suicide bombers and has become the European headquarters for people seeking to indoctrinate them. It is not enough for Blair to “uproot this evil ideology”; he must also treat the soil from which it springs.

The solutions proposed so far say much about Britain’s woeful progress in tackling jihadism: Gordon Brown seeks to freeze the assets of terrorist groups – as if the mission is to suspend their ISAs, not lock them away; it will, we learn, become an offence to provide or receive terrorism training. Such activities have, it seems, been allowed until now by British authorities. It is as if the attacks of 11 September 2001 never took place.

Niall Ferguson also takes a critical look at Islamism and British society:

No, the problem today is not immigration per se; it is the fact that a pernicious ideology has been allowed to infiltrate Europe’s immigrant communities. And that has happened because we have blindly allowed our country to be a haven for fanatics.

And Tom Leonard writes in The Telegraph that crieds of “racism” have stifled integration in Britain.

Europe faces a unique problem – for years Europe has been a haven for immigrants from the Middle East. There’s nothing wrong with immigration per se, as Ferguson notes. Where the problem lies is that the societies in which these immigrants have settled are unwilling and unable to integrate these immigrants into society. The “root cause” is that the West is simply unwilling to uphold the superiority of its own value systems.

Gen. Charles Napier, a former British commander in India during the 19th Century once was confronted by the tradition of suttee, or bride-burning in India – when a husband died, his wife was burned in his same funeral pyre. His response to this barbarous practice was succinct:

It is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men murder an innocent person, we tie a rope around their necks and hang them. Build your funeral pyre and beside it my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your national custom – then we shall follow ours.

Today, Napier would be hauled in front of a board of inquiry, branded a dangerous racist, and condemned in no uncertain terms. The idea that the West has a superior culture is anathema to many in the West – propose such an idea on a college campus would probably get you kicked off for violating some Orwellian “speech code”. Moral relativism is less the idea that cultures can’t be judged, it’s the idea that Western culture is uniquely guilty of the world’s ills.

It is this sense of Western guilt that is the single largest fracture in this war. It is also an ideological framework than makes it difficult – if not impossible – for the West to prevail. As Hanson writes:

These tenets in various forms are not merely found in the womb of the universities, but filter down into our popular culture, grade schools, and national political discourse — and make it hard to fight a war against stealthy enemies who proclaim constant and shifting grievances. If at times these doctrines are proven bankrupt by the evidence it matters little, because such beliefs are near religious in nature — a secular creed that will brook no empirical challenge.

These articles of faith apparently fill a deep psychological need for millions of Westerners, guilty over their privilege, free to do anything without constraints or repercussions, and convinced that their own culture has made them spectacularly rich and leisured only at the expense of others.

Britain is facing the question of whether or not multiculturalism is compatible with civil society. Like many things in life, there’s a tension here.

  • Immigration
  • Multiculturalism
  • Civil Society

Pick any two.

Stemming immigration is difficult, and undesirable in many ways. Immigrants can and do add to the strength of a society. At the same time, no option in which the civil society of a state is sacrificed can be considered a good one.

It’s pretty clear which one has to go. Either human rights are universal demands that cannot be abrogated or breached, or the entire concept is utterly worthless. Either those who preach hate and encourage acts of terrorism are evil and abhorrent to a civil society or they are not. Giving someone a pass because of their race or religion is unacceptable to a doctrine of human rights.

We can no longer afford the idea that for every criticism of radical Islamists must come a corresponding period of handwringing over Western sins, real or imagined. The idea that we can say “the use of terrorist tactics is wrong, but…” is no longer acceptable, and should have collapsed along with the smouldering wreckage of the World Trade Center on that terrible day in September. Either we stand as one united force for the doctrines of human rights, or we admit that we don’t really care for the concept at all. Either it’s universally wrong to commit acts of terrorism and systematically oppress women and minorities, or human rights is a worthless concept. Either self-determination including free elections is a universal concept shared by all humanity or the values of democracy and human rights are worthless.

The sense of self-guilt that is smothering the West from truly taking a stand against terrorism is ultimately self-defeating. At the same time, it’s also deeply harmful to the rest of the world. The values of bride-burning, suicide terrorism, subjugation of women, and theocratic tyranny are not compatible with a healthy, vibrant society. By ensuring that any condemnations of such actions are met by Western handwringing we only serve to justify the fantasy ideology of victimhood that helps justify the continuance of such barbarity.

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