David Warren’s latest theory of Islam

A few days ago, Paul Cella wrote:

Aside from some throwaway lines in the final third, this is a pretty good David Warren article. .

LA replied:

Yeah, good article by Warren, but he is confused. It was he who, just six weeks ago, came up with the brilliant theory—Non-Islam Theory of Islamic Extremism No. 43(b)(ii)—that Islamic extremism is just a “pastiche,” a collection of ideological detritus, which I discussed here. This brilliant analysis inspired Mark Steyn to call Warren a “great” columnist. So, six weeks ago Warren was saying that Islamic extremism is nothing to worry about, and today he’s writing that Islamic extremism is aiming at taking over France. That’s what I mean by confused. If just once, one of these mainstream conservatives would say, “I THOUGHT SUCH AND SUCH, BUT NOW I SEE THAT THAT WAS WRONG, NOW I REALIZE THAT THE TRUTH IS SUCH AND SUCH.” But they never do that. They just slide, without announcing they’re doing so, from one position to another, often to the opposite of the first position.*

Mr. Cella replied:

The theory of Western decadence being the sole or primary explanation for the rise of Islam is a curious one—and indeed a dangerous one, as you demonstrate.

Maybe one way to answer this folly is to force its propounders to reflect on how, say, America handled subversive movements in her midst back when she did have more confidence. Lincoln tossed Northern secessionists in prison and threw away the key; Jefferson Davis hanged Unionists in East Tennessee (a fact the despisers of Lincoln tend to forget); Wilson launched the “Palmer raids” against leftists all over the country; John Adams signed the Sedition Act; etc., etc. Or let us force them to think more broadly about the West in its more confident days. Ask them to research the gentle hand of the Spanish against the Moriscos. Were not the Crusades one of the few examples of confident resistance against Islam?

Somehow it seems unlikely to me that our dear right-Liberals will be comfortable with the history of the West, on the question of subversion, in its ages of vigor and confidence.

LA replied:

Today’s conservatives (a.k.a. right-liberals) want the results of fighting the Other, without fighting the Other. That’s why every single mainstream conservative denied that Pope Benedict had said anything at all untoward or overly aggressive when he uncritically quoted the comment that everything that Muhammad had brought was evil and inhuman. They cannot admit any aggression on their own side, and don’t want to be aggressive. They think they can just appeal to some universal idea and that will make everything work out ok.

So Warren and others say, “If we recover our confidence, the Islam problem will be solved.” What do they really mean by that? Once we’ve recovered our confidence, what would we have to do to solve the Islam problem? I asked Warren that question, and he didn’t answer. I think they mean that if we recover our confidence in universalism, everyone will automatically start assimilating to universalism again. We don’t actually have to OPPOSE anyone. We just have to affirm the IDEA, and then all will be well.

So, now we understand what they mean when they say, “If we recover our confidence, the Islam problem will be solved.” It is another way of waging the neocon way of war. In the neocon way of war, you assert the IDEA, and the enemy disappears. You have an election, and the enemy disappears. You declare that Iraq is a “democracy,” and the enemy disappears. You don’t actually have to defeat anyone.


That’s terrific, Larry. The ideas are all that matter. It’s the idea of confidence, not the actual effects of confidence. It’s the idea of democracy, not the implementation of it. And since this obsession with abstraction dominates their thinking, they assume that everyone else is equally ideological; and thus that ideology, because it animates them, must animate everyone else—including our enemies.


Thank you. I think it’s a further “link in the chain” of the belief system we’re trying to understand and discredit.

Also, I said:

> In the neocon way of war, you assert the IDEA, and the enemy disappears. You have an election, and the enemy disappears. You declare that Iraq is a “democracy,” and the enemy disappears. You don’t actually have to defeat anyone.

This even fits the image of “decapitating the regime.” The neocons thought all we had to do was cut the head off the regime and that would be victory. Just the head, i.e., the “idea part” of the regime, had to be killed. They didn’t conceive that they had to defeat and master Iraq as a total concrete entity, as had been done to Germany and Japan.


*It’s not so much a matter of being confused as being intellectually unserious and superficial. They write something, then they write something else, without attempting to relate the latter position back to the former position or make the respective ideas cohere in any way. They don’t seem to feel any obligation to do that, and the lack of standards in contemporary intellectual life assures that no one else makes them feel they have such an obliglation. The most dramatic example of this is Daniel Pipes, a writer who has contributed much of value to our understanding of extremist Islam, but who, as I have documented at length, has for years veered constantly back and forth between two diametrically opposed views of Islam, the first, that traditional Islam was moderate, the second, that there has never been a moderate Islam and therefore a moderate Islam must be created from scratch, without his realizing (and without his readers realizing) that he has been doing so.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 14, 2006 04:41 PM | Send

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