Thursday, January 18, 2007


Coddle an Atheist and the Terrorists Win

That seems to be the premise of a new book by right wing doyen Dinesh D'Souza. In his book, entitled The Enemy at Home:

D'Souza argues that the war on terror is really a war for the hearts and minds of traditional Muslims--and traditional peoples everywhere. The only way to win the struggle with radical Islam is to convince traditional Muslims that America is on their side....

Which raises the question: "against whom?" Why, against "the American cultural left, which for years has been vigorously exporting its domestic war against religion and traditional morality to the rest of the world...." Apparently, as far as D'Souza is concerned, anti-Americanism among Muslims is not merely a reaction to U.S. foreign policy (or the utter lack thereof) but is also the result of revulsion with the atheism and moral depravity of American popular culture.

In a revealing interview at National Review Online, D'Souza expands on this theme:

In his Letter to America, issued shortly after 9/11, [Osama bin Laden] said that America is the fount of global atheism, and it is imposing its morally depraved values on the world. So Muslims must rise up in defensive jihad against America because their religion and their values are under attack. This aspect of Bin Laden's critique has been totally ignored, and it's one that resonates with a lot of traditional Muslims and traditional people around the world.

Robert Tracinski rightly points out that the ultimate expression of this thesis would be to "try to appease totalitarian Islam by showing that we are willing to subject ourselves to our own religious tyranny."

What is more, Tracinski reports that others on the right, such as Mario Loyola, are now criticizing D'Souza because "[t]he idea that 'justice' should have nothing to do with religion, but must come instead from reason, is a cardinal principle of the Enlightenment and part of the necessary bedrock upon which the democratic state is founded."

But as Tracinski correctly asks: "Since when did conservatives become defenders of the legacy of the Enlightenment?"

For example, how does defending secularism and humanism square with the right's history of condemning "secular humanists"? How does defending the separation of church and state square with longstanding conservative complaints that religion has been excluded from the "public square"--or their claims that the Constitution guarantees "freedom for religion," not "freedom from religion"? How does defending science and reason square with demanding that America be "one nation under God" instead of "one nation under Darwin"?

They don't, of course. But it is always amusing to see someone take ideas deeply held but lightly considered and run them out to their logical consequences. When it is a fellow believer and the results are truly horrifying, the gobbling takes on a sweeter sound.
Update: From the review in the New York Times by Alan Wolfe, who teaches political science at Boston College and is the author of Does American Democracy Still Work?:
At one point in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza appeals to “decent liberals and Democrats” to join him in rejecting the American left. Although he does not name me as one of them, I sense he is appealing to people like me because I write for The New Republic, a liberal magazine that distances itself from leftism. So let this “decent” liberal make perfectly clear how thoroughly indecent Dinesh D’Souza is. Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D’Souza’s previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed. I look forward to the reaction from decent conservatives and Republicans who will, if they have any sense of honor, distance themselves, quickly and cleanly, from the Rishwain research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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