In a recent speech, Paul Wolfowitz termed Al Qaeda our age’s Khmer Rouge. In this week’s Weekly Standard, Waller R. Newell has an interesting piece that points up one of the many parallels–both movements have been heavily influenced by western post-modern Marxists.
Many elements in the ideology of al Qaeda–set forth most clearly in Osama bin Laden’s 1996 “Declaration of War Against America”–derive from this same [opposition to hedonism, materialism, egoism, etc. through death and moral rectitude] mix. Indeed, in Arab intellectual circles today, bin Laden is already being likened to an earlier icon of Third World revolution who renounced a life of privilege to head for the mountains and fight the American oppressor, Che Guevara. According to Cairo journalist Issandr Elamsani, Arab leftist intellectuals still see the world very much in 1960s terms. “They are all ex-Sorbonne, old Marxists,” he says, “who look at everything through a postcolonial prism.”
Just as Heidegger wanted the German people to return to a foggy, medieval, blood-and-soil collectivism purged of the corruptions of modernity, and just as Pol Pot wanted Cambodia to return to the Year Zero, so does Osama dream of returning his world to the imagined purity of seventh-century Islam. And just as Fanon argued that revolution can never accomplish its goals through negotiation or peaceful reform, so does Osama regard terror as good in itself, a therapeutic act, quite apart from any concrete aim. The willingness to kill is proof of one’s purity.
And as an interesting follow-up to my post of a couple days ago on the post-modern left’s fear of technology, and (not always so) veiled admiration for Al Qaeda, he writes:
What the terrorists have in common with our armchair nihilists is a belief in the primacy of the radical will, unrestrained by traditional moral teachings such as the requirements of prudence, fairness, and reason. The terrorists seek to put this belief into action, shattering tradition through acts of violent revolutionary resolve. That is how al Qaeda can ignore mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of noncombatants, and slaughter innocents in the name of creating a new world, the latest in a long line of grimly punitive collectivist utopias.
An interesting read, and one more dot to connect as to why the rabid left cannot get behind the war–at their core, they share many of bin Laden’s aims–and methods…