Neoconservative realizes “moderate” Islam is a fiction
been remarked at VFR, by people who know more about the subject than I do, that Islam has certain deep similarities to liberalism. Well, here’s a similarity I can understand: “Moderate” Islam
, that chimera that irresistibly draws all well-meaning Americans toward the vision of a universal, American-style democracy in which all mankind will be happily assimilated and absorbed, turns out to be nothing more than an unprincipled exception
to true, militant Islam. What I call the “unprincipled exception” is the method by which liberals continue to operate successfully in the world despite the inherent irrationality and destructiveness of liberalism. They do this by instinctively pulling back from the logic of liberalism (which is really illogic) when that logic has gone “too far,” while refusing to challenge the logic itself. The unprincipled exception is also the only permitted mode of “conservative” resistance to liberalism in a liberal society.
The point is that liberalism, like Islam, is an extreme ideology that only appears to be non-extreme because its adherents make lots of unprincipled exceptions to it. But this appearance of moderation is only a temporary holding action. Because liberal society permits no principled opposition to liberalism, whether by liberals or conservatives, the unprincipled exceptions to liberalism keep getting knocked down one by one by the more principled liberalism, and as a result both liberalism and liberal society keep getting more and more extreme. We end up, for example, with the abomination of homosexual “marriage,” which the neoconservative writer Max Boot, writing in the Los Angeles Times, urges conservatives to accept as normal and inevitable.
The same dynamic applies to Islam. “Moderate” Moslems (as well as naïve Westerners like President Bush) may claim that Islam is a “tolerant” and “peaceful” religion; but the inherent logic of Islam, to which the “moderate” Moslems are unable to offer any principled resistance, leads inevitably toward global jihad. (If you want to know more about the concept of the unprincipled exception, it is also discussed here and here.)
Interestingly enough, it’s a neoconservative, David Frum, who has found out the truth about “moderate” Islam:
… Why do Islam’s softer traditions seem to be losing out to the harsher versions of the faith?
We in the Western press often praise “moderate Islam.” But in practice, “moderate Islam” often turns out to be moderate in its actions only. As decent human beings, moderate Muslims will of course refrain from committing acts of oppression, cruelty, and terrorism. But intellectually, moderate Muslims have a difficult time explaining why these acts are “un-Islamic.”…
[The important Sunni cleric, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi].adamantly opposes terrorism. Yet his objections to terrorism are practical rather than moral …
Qaradhawi thinks the terrorists have gone too far, have damaged their own cause – but he cannot find ground to condemn them utterly. He rejects their actions, but he will not reject their intellectual and moral premises, not at least in public. [Italics added]
If Frum really sees what he seems to be seeing about the nature of Islam, how long can he go on promoting, as viable projects, the democratization of the Moslem world, and the mass immigration and assimilation of Moslems into the Western world?
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 24, 2004 03:23 PM | Send
“As decent human beings, moderate Muslims will of course refrain from committing acts of oppression”.
Then he proceeds to create impression that those very same “moderate” Muslims actually support terrorism. It confuses me, does Frum think that a decent human being can support terrorism and still be a decent human being?
Frum is saying that “moderate” Moslems are not themselves cruel or violent people, that they obey the moral law in their own lives and act decently toward the people they know, including people of other faiths and tribes. But at the same time, _being Moslems_, they are unable to take a principled position against the central principle of Islam, which is Jihad.
I am not sure Mik understands the point.
More consistency in liberalism gets you leftism and few unprincipled exceptions. Less consistency gets you right-liberalism and more unprincipled exceptions.
More consistency in Islam gets you the terrorists and few unprincipled exceptions. Less consistency gets you the “moderates” and more unprincipled exceptions.
The interesting thing is that Frum can apparently see “moderate” Moslems where they truly reside on the spectrum of Islamic ideology. One wonders if he will ever realize that he himself is in the same exact position vis-a-vis liberal modernism as the “moderate” Moslems are vis-a-vis Islam.
Moderate Moslems who do not commit terrorist acts are still Moslems; they just aren’t terribly consistent. Neocons and right liberals like Frum are still liberals; they just aren’t terribly consistent. Neither has an intellectual basis from which to reject the main ideological thrust, because they have already accepted the premeses of their more consistent - and therefore more extreme - bretheren. Whenever they do reject the main ideological thrust they are making what we call at VFR an _unprincipled exception_. They decide without intellectual basis that the ideology they have already accepted themselves and that drives the extremists has gone _too far_. Not that it has something fundamentally wrong with it, mind you, but that it has just gone _too far_.
When someone who accepts the premeses of an ideology makes an unsubstantiated appeal to common sense to say that that ideology has gone _too far_ on something, we call that intellectual act (really just an arbitrary act of the will outside of the person’s major line of reasoning) an _unprincipled exception_.
Now there is a quasi-Hegelian process that occurs when a more extreme ideologue encounters a less extreme idealogue who nonetheless accepts the basic premeses of the ideology. The more extreme ideologue will allow, for a time, some unprincipled exception to stand (say “civil union” instead of “gay marriage”). That creates common cause with the less extreme idealogue. But because the less extreme idealogue has no independent intellectual basis upon which to rest the unprincipled exception, he eventually lets go of it and it crumbles. In the case of liberalism we call this the Hegelian Mambo; a dance in which all of the steps move leftward. In the case of Islam perhaps we can call it the Jihad Jitterbug.
Good explanation by Matt of the UE. Sometime I’d like to see a diagram of how the Hegelian Mambo is actually done, step by step. :-)
So what is a guy to do in a world in which a billion Moslems are dancing the Jihad Jitterbug and a billion liberals are dancing the Hegelian Mambo? Sounds like major trouble a-brewing to me.
We’ll have to find someone with more artistic talent than me to do a drawing, that is for sure!
Well, how are your dancing abilities? You could give us a demonstration.
Ah, now that would be something wouldn’t it? It shouldn’t be difficult to find a dance partner to my ideological left, I suppose. Who will supply her with steel-toed boots?
Hegelian Mambo and Jihad Jitterbug - and Mr. Derbyshire goes around saying there’s no fun on this site! Derb should be here dancing- as long as he leaves the floor before these dances turn into their inevitable finale: the break dance of death.
Is the Jihad Jitterbug another name for the dance of the Whirling Dervishes?
I would like to “contract” that act for the legal 25% commission—provided it is done either in Guantanamo or some other “detention center” AND providing the people dancing it are not allowed to return to the U.S. 100% in advance, non-refundable and the first dance is “Hotel California”, or should I say “Hotel Caulifournya”? You can check in anytime you like but…
I thank Matt for his illuminating 9:24 PM post on “The Immaculate, Unprincipled Exception”. Sounds like the title of a very bad Charleton Heston epic.
Have I missed something, or has VFR really gone 24 whole hours without discussing sodomogamy?
I don’t know what Caesar means. The last blog entry I posted on the homosexual marriage issue was on May 19, and this is now the 25th. Maybe the May 19th entry was my last word on the subject, since I interpreted the events in Massachasetts as the desolating abomination that signals the end of the age.
But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
The host is of course correct, though some of us kept those threads raveling for a few days, or mentioned the subject in passing elsewhere here.
Time sure does fly in a handbasket.
While we’rw quoting Scripture, we could also take St. Paul’s advice, in Ephesians 5, where he talks of certain sins:
“Let it not even be named among you.”
I’ve expanded the original blog entry by a bit, making clearer how the unprincipled exception relates to the inherent extremism of both liberalism and Islam.
1. Does liberalism see Islam as the threat to its own existence that it is, or is it counting on Islam succumbing to the corrupt and corrosive effect of the liberal-controlled popluar culture? (The James Woodhill theory http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/000820.html )
2. How does Islam view liberalism? My overall impression is that the Jihadis simply wish to slaughter Christians and Jews and do not even ackowledge liberalism’s existence as a separate entity. Although liberalism can be viewed as a de-facto religion in its own right, it is quite parasitical by nature. Many liberals are nominal Christians or Jews and work within those faiths to reduce them to different brands of liberalism.
“The point is that liberalism, like Islam, is an extreme ideology that only appears to be non-extreme because its adherents make lots of unprincipled exceptions to it.”
Hmm. Sounds like Christianity too. And neoconservatism.
On Carl’s first question, I think his second answer is right (liberalism is counting on Islamists becoming liberals) but I would say it a bit differently. Liberalism has to believe that what it represents is something that every human being wants; it has to see itself as dispassionately above the conflict of substantive ideas and as the very thing that permits those conflicting substantive ideas to coexist without resort to violence.
In liberalism there is no such thing as a political “friend” or “enemy” in the traditional sense. There are only persons (the self-created free and equal new man) and politically subhuman oppressors. So objectively speaking, liberalism doesn’t have an accurate category for Islam, because objectively Islam is in fact a plain old traditional enemy. Moslems aren’t subhuman, and they aren’t liberals. So as long as Islam does not become an *existential* threat to liberalism Moslems will be viewed as just one step away from enlightenment. Moslems are still stuck in the quagmire of premodern history, but if only they are educated a bit more in Western ways they will see the wisdom of liberalism and play along; because anyone who is legitimately a human person at all eventually sees the wisdom of liberalism and plays along (according to the way the liberal thinks, not as objective truth). That won’t mean that they will have to renounce Islam, of course, because they will be perfectly empowered to practice Islam in their private suburban homes. But there are (in the liberal mind) only two sorts who don’t immediately see the wisdom and universal applicability of political liberalism: 1) those who for whatever reason have not yet had a proper chance to see the light, and 2) the oppressor-untermensch, who is less than fully human (at least when compared to the oppressed-ubermensch).
To a liberal, an intransigent traditional oppressor is in exactly the same category as a foetus: it is something less than human that, without the superman’s consent, stands in the way of the superman’s plenary free and equal right to create himself according to his own reason and will.
So if Islam at some point starts to become a serious existential *external* threat to liberalism, expect liberalism to treat Moslems in much the same way it treats the foetus.
Incidentally that is why, at the end of the day, the terrorists are the ones making the tactical error; while the demographic jihadis are the ones who truly understand the enemy.
The previous poster, “Captain America,” is wrong on both counts. It is certainly true that true Christianity (in the sense of fully following Jesus’ precepts) involves a total re-orientation of the self that is not normal from the worldly point of view and that only a small number of people are fully capable of. Saints, by which I mean people who live in continual relationship with God, are not normal, or at least not ordinary. But we don’t call saints “extreme.” “Extremism” has to do with a breakdown of proper proportion and rationality and a willingness to impose a transforming political or other will on society at all costs. Jesus’ all-important distinction between the things of God and the things of Caesar is a bulwark against extremism. Which is not to say that lots of Christians have not been extremists.
As for neoconservatism, it is certainly not extreme in the sense that I think the poster intends. That is, based on the poster’s attack on Christianity, I suspect he is coming from the left and sees neoconservatism as an extreme form of conservatism. Neoconservatism is extreme, I believe, in its ideology of universal human sameness and universal democracy and the assimilability of all people on earth into America. But in holding such beliefs, neoconservatism is a form of liberalism, not of conservatism.
The term “Unprincipled Exception” may be new, but the concept is not. Anthony Trollope articulated the identical idea in 1880 in his novel “The Duke’s Children”:
First, an exchange between Frank Tregear, Conservative candidate for election to Parliament, and Lord Silverbridge, son of the great Liberal Duke of Omnium:
Tregear: “If the party that calls itself Liberal were to have all its own way who is there that doesn’t believe that the church would go at once, then all distinctions between boroughs, the House of Lords immediately afterwards, and after that the Crown?”
Silverbridge: “Those are not my governor’s ideas.”
Tregear: “Your governor couldn’t help himself. A Liberal party, with plenipotentiary power, must go on right away to the logical conclusion of its arguments. It is only the conservative feeling of the country which saves such men as your father from being carried headlong to ruin by their own machinery.”
Second, the Duke reading a letter from his son:
“‘He [Tregear] says that, if there were no Conservatives, such Liberals as you and Mr. Monk would be destroyed by the Jacobins. There is something in that. Whether a man is a Conservative or not himself, there ought to be Conservatives.’ The Duke as he read this made a memorandum in his own mind that he would explain to his son that every carriage should have a drag to its wheels, but that an ambitious soul would choose to be the coachman rather than the drag.”
Lawrence Auster wrote, “It is certainly true that true Christianity (in the sense of fully following Jesus’ precepts) involves a total re-orientation of the self that is not normal from the worldly point of view and that only a small number of people are fully capable of.” There is a certain ambiguity about the phrase “fully capable” that I would like to address. There may be a small number of people (saints) who are actually fully capable (they can do it); but all of us are potentially fully capable (we could do it), if we were willing to open ourselves to the power and love of God. Fortunately, God in His mercy will accept even imperfect capability, so long as we are aware of our imperfection and are trying to remedy it.
My comment was not well written. My idea was, a Christian in the true sense is a person who does the things that Jesus told his disciples to do. I think only a very small percentage of Christians do that, or are capable of doing it. That doesn’t mean the rest of us are not Christians; grace and mercy are central in Christianity. But if we define a Christian, not as a person who believes in Jesus Christ or professes belief in Jesus Christ, but as a person who follows Jesus Christ with his whole being, how many Christians are truly Christians?
Truer words were never spoken.
Members of the “conservative” Liberal Party here in Australia still make the same argument as that advanced by the Duke of Omnium in the nineteenth century.
Just last year, a leading Minister, Tony Abbott, argued that liberalism and conservatism worked well together because conservatism preserved the social stability needed for liberalism to advance.
This, though, is hardly an “equal” relationship between liberalism and conservatism. If you accept the argument it means that society will become ever more liberal, rather than conservative.
It is, in other words, a “losing game” for conservatives to play. Genuine conservatives have to see their role as being more than just a moderating, stabilising force on liberal reform.
Of course, longtime followers of VFR already have a term for this ongoing leftward drift - it’s called the Hegelian Mambo.
Mr. Richardson, the lonely guy from the huge Outback, is correct. Conservativism is not some mere device to check liberalism. It is a belief. Maybe conservatives in Australia, Europe, Israel, and Russia can cooperate and eventually defeat our respective liberal governments.
Well, yes. IF you define being a “true Christian” in such a way, THEN very few can claim to be true Christians (I know I can’t). But what is the usefulness of such a definition? We already know that saints in this life are few and far between; cannot the point be made without implying, or at least seeming to imply, that most Christians are false Christians who not only do not, but cannot, follow Jesus?
I’ll let you have the last word, since the argument is not really germane to this thread.
You don’t have to go all the way back to Anthony Trollope to get a liberal’s appreciation of the Darwinian value of conservatives. Conservative science-fiction writer James Gunn has a passage I like to quote:
“Radicals always complain about the resistance of the establishment to change. They might reflect that the conservative renders as great a service to revolution as the rebel. If every damn-fool idea were accepted and implemented immediately we would all be engulfed in chaos. The conservative weeds out the casual impulse, the inept proposition, the ridiculous proposal and the half-baked concept; only the fittest survive — those changes which have the force of truth and the inevitability of historical necessity.”
— Kampus, 1977
If conservatism is what Gunn says it is, then it is nothing more than the right wing of the Revolution, and the Revolution needs both wings to fly.
Exactly. Ordinary conservatism isn’t just useless to traditionalists: it is the very thing that sustains the enemy. It is also the source of new traditionalists though. Thus the theme of repentance as primary. Forget about freedom and equality: blood, sword, and cross!
“Forget about freedom and equality: blood, sword, and cross!”
That’s a sensibility which the French Canadians still keep alive. Here’s the French version of “O Canada”:
O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
… ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Which translated into English is:
O Canada! Land of our ancestors,
… your arm knows how to carry the sword,
It knows how to carry the Cross;
Your history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits;
And your courage, blended with Faith,
Will still protect our homes and rights.
Compare the above to the insipid version of “O Canada” sung by the Canadian Anglophones:
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
By the way, I know off-hand of only one reference to the Cross in American politics, in Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural address:
“America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.”
How different a vision of America’s mission in the world is this from that of Wilson, Bush 43, and the neooconservatives! Coolidge seems to be calling for the Christianization of the world, while Bush wants the democratization of the world. Of course, Bush also claims that America in spreading democracy is serving as God’s messenger, the message being the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence …
I’ve noticed this conflation of liberalism and Christianity with Bush 43 before, along with a missionary zeal to persue the resulting agenda. Conflation is perhaps the wrong term, as there is no substantive Christianity left, only the evangelical jargon which serves to stupefy American Christians and disguise its basically leftist ideology. Bush’s agenda is rather like the “white-washed sepulchres” mentioned in the Gospel - impressive on the surface but full of death on the inside. Perhaps this is why I’ve come to view Bush as such a dangerous figure.
The first English lyrics set to Calixa Lavallée’s tune, by Dr. T.B. Richardson in 1906, did make mention of the Cross:
O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old
Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.
Lavallée left Canada and died in Boston. “O Canada” did not acheive official status until 1980, the song’s centennary, almost as long a wait as had “The Star Spangled Banner”. There’s something to be said for not having an official anthem— especially in the US, UK and Australia, where the unofficial anthems are far better.
Let’s aim our Gunn in the opposite direction. If his conservatism is “the right wing of the Revolution”, as our host maintains, then why not use liberalism as the left wing of the Reaction?
“Let’s aim our Gunn in the opposite direction. If his conservatism is ‘the right wing of the Revolution,’ as our host maintains, then why not use liberalism as the left wing of the Reaction?”
Could Caesar provide us with a scenario by which this marvel could be realized?
It certainly seems impossible, for reasons that will be evident to anyone who has followed our discussions. The Hegelian Mambo moves always to the left, because, as Matt has taught us, liberalism underneath its various appearances and stages of development is an ontologically stable thing, while conservatism is not ontologically stable, but always changes in response to what the current stage of the dominant liberalism is doing. Liberalism supplies the teleology, the driving force, of modern society, putting forth one innovation after another. Conservatism (and moderate liberalism) footdrags, using various unprincipled exceptions such as: (a) common sense, (b) a pragmatic recognition that we don’t want to go “too fast,” or (c) a sense that the country is “not ready” for this latest innovation, as well as other unprincipled exceptions. Conservatism moderates the liberalism, makes it more rational, less destructive, and more acceptable. Conservatism thus performs the same function in relation to liberalism that the industrialist heroes of Atlas Shrugged who have not joined the strike have been performing in relation to the prevailing collectivist system (which they only realize near the climax of the book): they’ve been helping it to work, and thus validating its evil.
Now, given all that, can we construct a hypothetical scenario by which the _reverse_ occurs, and the society becomes more and more conservative, with liberalism smoothing the path? If Caesar can do this, I will bow before him!
That older version of the Canadian national anthem is interesting. By the way, whose “thrall” do you think they’re asking God to protect them from? That’s us! They’re still remembering the War of 1812, as well as Benedict Arnold’s heroic attempt to capture Quebec in 1775.
Actually, it wouldn’t be that hard to turn the tables around. Move the battle from the liberals’ turf of “rights” to the more advantageous terrain of “duty”. Duty is the ultimate trump card (pardon my mixing metaphors)— it counters maturity to infantility, seriousness to frivolity, long-term vision to short-, and selflessness to selfishness. It’s also more romantic, especially to the young.
One area where the left has won outright political (as opposed to sneaky judicial) victories has been in environmental stewardship. It’s hard to make a rights-based case here, so they’re forced to argue from duty, and carry the day.
For an example of this approach in action, check out the following argument, from an atheist Randian libertarian no less, which would be devastating to “prochoicers” were prolifers not too stupid, or too chicken, to use it:
“The belief that there is a conflict of rights between mother and child still persists, not only among pro-abortinists, but among pro-lifers. I no longer believe such a conflict exists… because parents have an *obligation* to care for their children and, therefore, children have a right to that care.”
“I seldom see any mention of parental obligation in pro-life literature. I wonder why it is not emphasized more… *There may be a conflict of needs, but not of rights*… It’s a matter of the child’s rights and the mother’s *obligations*.”
—Doris Gordon, quoted in Rep. Ron Paul’s “Abortion and Liberty”, 1983 (emphasis in original).
Rights and obligations are two sides of the same coin. If the plan is to rob Peter to pay Paul, it’s equally correct, though less strategically sound, to tell Peter he has the obligation to provide the following things as to tell Paul he has a right to claim them. As Abraham Lincoln is often misquoted as saying, “What one man receives without earning, another must first earn without receiving.”
As far as using liberalism as the left wing of the reaction, it’s already happened, but in the distant past. Where do the time-honored traditions worth conserving like capitalism, republicanism and Christianity come from? They begin their lives as radical new ideas violently opposed by the conservatives of the time. Without neophiles, the neophobes would have kept humanity living in caves. Without neophobes, the neophiles would have led humanity off a cliff long ago.
Excuse me… Paul has obligations as well. If he is too feckless to meet them, then “the plan” is not to tax Peter to support Paul, but to tax Paul to help Peter!
Peter is the one making the greater contribution; why not augment it? That’s pretty much what the relatively high dependent deductions of 50 years ago were doing. (If this be eugenics, then make the most of it.) Paul needs to be kept in line.
It makes a mockery of the concept of duty to reduce it to the “opposite side of the coin” to imagined rights. How does my duty to God, country, village, family, forbears, etc., translate to a claim on me by my neighbor?