Hatred and murder are self-realization because they impart grandeur to Islamic extremists -- the sense of being God's chosen warrior in God's great cause. Hatred delivers the extremist to a greatness that compensates for the ineffectuality in his world. Jews and infidels are irrelevant except that they offer occasion to hate and, thus, to experience grandiosity. This is why Hezbollah -- Party of God -- can take no territory and still claim to have won. The grandiosity is in the hating and fighting, not the victory.Steele's thesis is that their hatred is driven is by their sense of inferiority and we cater to their delusions driven by leftist guilt. No kow-towing to terrorism now will compensate for our supposed sins so let's just declare a moratorium on western guilt and, as they say, move on.
And death -- both homicide and suicide -- is the extremist's great obsession because its finality makes the grandiosity "real." If I am not afraid to kill and die, then I am larger than life. Certainly I am larger than the puny Westerners who are reduced to decadence by their love of life. So my hatred and my disregard of death, my knowledge that life is trivial, deliver me to a human grandeur beyond the reach of the West. After the Madrid bombings a spokesman for al-Qaeda left a message: "You love life, and we love death." The horror is that greatness is tied to death rather than to achievement in life.
The West is stymied by this extremism because it is used to enemies that want to live. In Vietnam, America fought one whose communism was driven by an underlying nationalism, the desire to live free of the West. Whatever one may think of this, here was an enemy that truly wanted to live, that insisted on territory and sovereignty. But Osama bin Laden fights only to achieve a death that will enshrine him as a figure of awe. The gift he wants to leave his people is not freedom or even justice; it is consolation.
White guilt in the West -- especially in Europe and on the American left -- confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don't hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism -- not their continuance -- forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.
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But the international left is in its own contest with American exceptionalism. It keeps charging Israel and America with oppression hoping to mute American power. And this works in today's world because the oppression script is so familiar and because American power cringes when labeled with sins of the white Western past. Yet whenever the left does this, it makes room for extremism by lending legitimacy to its claim of oppression. And Israel can never use its military fire power without being labeled an oppressor -- which brings legitimacy to the enemies she fights. Israel roars; much of Europe supports Hezbollah.
Over and over, white guilt turns the disparity in development between Israel and her neighbors into a case of Western bigotry. This despite the fact that Islamic extremism is the most explicit and dangerous expression of human bigotry since the Nazi era. Israel's historical contradiction, her torture, is to be a Western nation whose efforts to survive trap her in the moral mazes of white guilt. Its national defense will forever be white aggression.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Shelby Steele has a thoughtful column in today's Wall Street Journal examining why people so hate Israel and the West.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:19 AM