The left can’t win for losing. There’s a benchmark test for basic sanity in world affairs, and that’s your attitude towards Israel. The distinguished left-wing political theorist Michael Walzer fails the benchmark test in his new book, which I have the privilege to review in the current issue of Claremont Review of Books, America’s premier journal of conservative ideas. If you don’t subscribe to CRB, you are missing the best that conservative thought has to offer. There’s no other publication that tells me so much about things I don’t know about but should.
Below are some excerpts of my tirade against the leftist illusion that the elite can fix all the world’s problems. Claremont Review has kindly made the whole essay available from behind the paywall for a limited period of time, as a courtesy to PJ Media readers.
Ancient barbarism and postmodern manipulation of Western sensibilities converge on Israel’s borders; the “modern” world that eschews the national particularity of the past in favor of universal values is manipulated by pre-modern adversaries who stage humanitarian disasters in order to compel the West to accept their demands.
The staging and exploitation of horrific events to manipulate Western sensibilities is decidedly postmodern. But it arises from primeval despair: outside of Southeast Asia, most Muslim-majority countries have derailed en route to modernity. The ancient specter of extinction haunts the Muslim world in a uniquely modern way. That explains why so many Muslims choose to immolate themselves to kill (mainly) Muslim civilians, and why Hamas seeks to maximize casualties among its own civilians.
The theatrical use of suicide is a horrible innovation. It mocks Enlightenment pretensions with a Satanic leer, and persuades the Enlightenment’s heirs on the left to humor despairing Muslims until such time that they may be reared to the standards of social democracy. Walzer asks what “a genuinely leftist movement against oppression and poverty might look like—in the Islamic world or anywhere else…? First of all, it would have to be a movement of the oppressed, not of some vanguard claiming to speak for the oppressed…its aim would be the liberation or, better, the self-emancipation of those people.” In the meantime he allows that the religious settlers of Judea and Samaria are “terrorists” and “thugs,” granting at least a modicum of justification to the likes of Hamas.
Implicit in Walzer’s encomium to the Left is the premise that all peoples and cultures are predestined to succeed, so that their failure is a stain upon the conscience of civilized men and women who should have intervened to ensure such success. Where the evidence weighs overwhelmingly against that premise—as in the case of Israel—the Left indulges in the perverse thinking Walzer deplores. The madness of the Muslim world has metastasized among the Left, and even Michael Walzer must howl at the moon in passing to fit into the pack. The founding questions of the West—what makes people flourish or fail, persist or perish—remain with us.