In the wake of the 9/11 attacks historian Paul Berman, a man of the Left, wrote a book titled Terror and Liberalism in which he punctured the pretensions of his fellow liberal intellectuals for their fascination with terrorism and their reluctance to think ill of the people who perpetrate it.
Now Berman has come out with a follow-up book titled The Flight of the Intellectuals which, I understand, picks up where his first book leaves off.
I haven't read the second book yet but I have read Terror and Liberalism and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the strange relationship between liberalism and radical Islamism and the motives behind this infatuation.
I also urge readers to read through an interview Berman does with journalist Michael Totten on the themes of his two books. It's an extraordinary piece. Berman has his predilections and prejudices but he is one of the most fair-minded people I've ever encountered. He didn't like George Bush much at all, and that certainly comes through in the interview, but he doesn't hesitate to give Bush credit for his clear-sightedness in the war against Islamic terrorism.
Here's an excerpt taken from a portion of the interview in which Berman and Totten are talking about the mindset of a certain group of liberal intellectuals who are willing to celebrate tyrants if the tyrants are anti-American. Berman observes that:
[T]here's another idea that appeals to many people, which is based not on our own feeling of superiority, but on our own inferiority. We look at ourselves in the Western countries and we say that, if we are rich, relatively speaking, as a society, it is because we have plundered our wealth from other people. Our wealth is a sign of our guilt. If we are powerful, compared with the rest of the world, it is because we treat people in other parts of the world in oppressive and morally objectionable ways. Our privileged position in the world is actually a sign of how racist we are and how imperialistic and exploitative we are. All the wonderful successes of our society are actually the signs of how morally inferior we are, and we have much to regret and feel guilty about. So when we look at the world, we should look at it in a spirit of humility and remorse, and we should recognize that other people have been unfairly treated.
We should recognize the superiority of those other people over ourselves. Money-wise, we may be richer. But, morally, the other people are richer. And so, we should despise ourselves, and we should love the other people -- the people who possess qualities so superior to our own as barely to be human. And then, filled with those very peculiar ideas, we set about looking for messianic figures who might express the superior culture of the other people, and might lead the human race to a higher stage of development. And if someone objects to this analysis, we say, oh, we inferior Westerners are incapable of understanding the mysterious thought-patterns of those other people, so who are you to judge?
The interview is a little long, but it'll be the most intellectually profitable 15 minutes you'll spend today.RLC