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Terror and Liberalism Paperback – May 17, 2004
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"He [Albert Camus] had noticed a modern impulse to rebel, which had come out of the French Revolution and the nineteenth century and had very quickly, in the name of an ideal, mutated into a cult of death. And the ideal was always the same, though each movement gave it a different name. It was not skepticism and doubt. It was the ideal of submission. (p. 46)"
This is an enormous insight, and to be frank it does not appear with such clarity in Arendt's work. Her explanation, that loneliness has become an "everyday experience," seems grossly inadequate. Surely the notion that it's all a matter of loneliness appeals to a sense of profound irony, but couldn't we all just get a puppy? This was the payoff for all that scholarly zeal and industry?
Moreover, Arendt never makes the connection between terror as an organizing principle for a 20th Century form of government, and terrorism as a strategy of totalitarian movements that are out of power. And so she did, in fact, miss something important.
And of course even if Arendt had not completely missed the seeding of the Middle East with the totalitarian ideas of the Nazis and the Stalinist,s she never would have guessed that Islam itself could become the excuse for such a movement.Read more ›
Berman also argues that the Left in America has as much at stake in the "War on Terror" as do those on the Right.
Paul Berman's historical research is excellent, following the path of the modern pan-Islamic movement to its roots with Sayyid Qutb (ku-tab) author of "In the Shade of the Qur'an," "Social Justice in Islam" and other works. Qutb attended the Colorado State College of Education in the late 1940's and earned a Masters Degree, but came away thoroughly disgusted with what he saw as "the barbarous West." He was especially disgusted by what the West hailed as "the emancipation of women" and "sexual liberation."
At the same time that pan-Islamacism was growing, pan-Arabism was coming into political prominence behind such figures as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Though the differences between the two camps were subtle - pan-Arabists wanted a return of the old Ottoman Empire, while pan-Islamacists envisioned a world under shariah (the legal code of Islam) - they were also volatile. Berman describes the differences between the two groups as akin to the differences between the Italian fascists under Mussolini who sought to rebuild the Roman Empire and the German Nazis who sought a return to the Roman Empire in a Germanic form.Read more ›
On the negative side, Berman's orientation is a bit too literary for my tastes. For example, I think he forces his theme of irrationality where it really doesn't fit. The totalitarian programs he talks about seem to have two major characteristics, (1) an enormously ambitious goal (remaking society, conquering the world, etc.), and (2) utter amorality in selecting the means of achieving that goal (no compunctions about massive slaughter). However destructive such programs are, there is nothing necessarily irrational about them. The one movement he talks about that does seem to be truly irrational is the Palestinian suicide bombing murder spree, in which those actions have no apparent connection to any specific political goals. Berman can also be careless in selecting examples to buttress his argument. Athens and the Roman Republic were not fragile little republics surviving only in benign circumstances, until "popped like bubbles by marauding armies from afar".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In this book, a US leftist of the '68 generation gives us his take on the politics of war and peace in the Middle East. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Edward Brynes
Paul Berman provides the clarity and historical perspective and wisdom that very few writers and historians ever achieve. Read morePublished 2 months ago by David Nelson
Paul Berman is an American “pro-war leftist” or perhaps “very liberal hawk”, whose books are considered necessary reading by the so-called “decent left”, a British-based political... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ashtar Command
Fantastic! This book is a sleeper in that it has much more relevance to todays left and their ideas about radical islam. Read morePublished 11 months ago by John in PA
This is one of those books with real explanatory power. Berman has brought together several key strands of modern history to help explain the most troubling phenomena -- the... Read morePublished on February 20, 2013 by Tim Bone
After September 11, 2001, the United States became immersed with the study of terrorism, the enhancement of national security, and the study of Islam. Read morePublished on December 5, 2010 by R. Cohen-almagor
I am not going to spend the time and effort to discredit this obvious neo-con view of the Middle East, but merely to identify it as such. Read morePublished on November 20, 2007 by Barry Weiss