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March 22, 2003

Sayyid Qutb

The New York Times Magazine has a long profile of the Karl Marx of Islamism. The conclusion is powerful:

The terrorists speak insanely of deep things. The antiterrorists had better speak sanely of equally deep things. Presidents will not do this. Presidents will dispatch armies, or decline to dispatch armies, for better and for worse.

But who will speak of the sacred and the secular, of the physical world and the spiritual world? Who will defend liberal ideas against the enemies of liberal ideas? Who will defend liberal principles in spite of liberal society's every failure? President George W. Bush, in his speech to Congress a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, announced that he was going to wage a war of ideas. He has done no such thing. He is not the man for that.

Philosophers and religious leaders will have to do this on their own. Are they doing so? Armies are in motion, but are the philosophers and religious leaders, the liberal thinkers, likewise in motion? There is something to worry about here, an aspect of the war that liberal society seems to have trouble understanding -- one more worry, on top of all the others, and possibly the greatest worry of all.

I feel privileged to have lived in a liberal society. Certainly, unlike many of my readers, I am just one generation removed from the ancient autocracy that characterizes the human condition. The modern day Left rarely speaks up for liberalism. The Right is of many minds on the subject (ranging from George W. Bush's incoherent multiculturalism to Jared Taylor's White Nationalism). But I see in the modern day American Right some who might champion a liberal conservatism, the preservation and conservation of freedoms hard won against the tides of retro-progress.

Posted by razib at 02:18 AM

Ideas have long become irrelevant in the public political debate. The complexity of the real-world requires complex thinking, the kind that is best put on ten pages or more of text. I seriously doubt that many citizens have the time, ability, or inclination to read more than 2-3 paragraphs about any given issue - that is, if they don't rely on on the 2-3 sentences + sensationalist footage that TV supplies.

Most present-day politicians are general-purpose tools that are valued for their interpersonal qualities and not their knowledge, or intelligence. Policies are subtly shaped by the men and women behind the scenes who really know what they're doing. The people who stand in front of the cameras need only know enough to sound convincing to the greatest possible audience, since in a democracy, every vote counts the same.

Posted by: Dienekes at March 22, 2003 03:06 AM

I read the article, but one thing bothered me "suicide warriors"? Is this the other (liberl) side of the coin that conservative FoxNews does by saying "homicide bombers"?

Posted by: scott at March 23, 2003 09:34 PM

A "liberal-conservatism" agaisnt the tides or "retro-progress"? Que?

I also would like to see a robust defence of liberalism, but the American rigth is never going to provide it. Neither is the American left. You want a defence of liberalism? - emigrate.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at March 25, 2003 08:48 AM