Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How Could This Happen?

Many people in Britain are shocked that the suicide bombers who attacked them on 7/7 were British citizens; shocked that these young men grew up in their midst, going to British schools, playing cricket, and running fish and chips restaurants.

The Anchoress links to this piece by Michael Ledeen:

That the London killers were native Brits surprised a lot of people, which is testimony to our capacity to forget our own history. Why were so many well-educated and well-informed people surprised, even shocked? Why were the facts ignored?

George Orwell got it just right when, in the winter of 1940, he bitterly observed "highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

He knew what his countrymen, and most of the intellectual elite of the West, have relegated to a quiet intellectual closet: that Hitler and Mussolini had created monstrous mass movements in two of the most civilized, and most cultured countries in Europe.

The Duce and the Fuhrer were wildly popular in the countries of Dante and Vivaldi, Beethoven and Goethe; they were not the products of some alien culture. They sprang from the most profound beliefs and passions of the highest cultures in the world (and those passions and beliefs spread to France and England, as well as to central and eastern Europe), which is why there was hardly any effective popular resistance in fascist Europe.

The great evil was only abandoned by the Europeans when it was defeated on the battlefield.

The horrors of Communism have been similarly removed from active memory, albeit through a slightly different mind game. The ideals of Communism are still unaccountably admired in our popular culture — just a few days ago the Brits themselves voted Karl Marx the greatest intellectual in recent timeseven though it is grudgingly admitted that it worked out badly in practice.

This sort of deception sank to dramatic depths in Italy during the dark years of the Red Brigades terrorists, when the leaders of Europe’s most sophisticated Communist party proclaimed the brigadiers "misguided comrades."

Both fascism and Communism inspired mass murder and individual martyrdom for "the cause," just as radical Islam does today. Like Osama bin Laden and his ilk, Hitler and his cohorts raged against the democracies.

Both blamed the free peoples for Germany’s and the Muslims’ misery and bragged of the superiority of Aryans and Muslims over decadent, corrupt, and self-indulgent free men and women. Stalin went one step further, blaming democratic capitalism for the misery of the entire world, while proclaiming the superiority of the new Soviet man.

Freedom and democracy do not protect us against such people; Indeed, in the past century, free nations elevated them to power, and kept them there until we dominated them. The evil can't be explained by economic misery, or social alienation, or even by the doctrines adopted by the terrorists. The problem lies within us.

Nasra Hassan, who interviewed terrorists and their families, noted in Saturday’s London Times that:

None of the suicide bombers — they ranged in age from 18 to 38 — conformed to the typical profile of the suicidal personality. None of them was uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle-class and held paying jobs. Two were the sons of millionaires. They all seemed entirely normal members of their families. They were polite and serious, and in their communities were considered to be model youths. Most were bearded. All were deeply religious...

To be sure, those terrorists came from Palestinian camps — not from London or San Francisco or Amsterdam, but we can recognize the London bombers, and the Amsterdam killer, and the San Francisco jihadi. They are not misfits or sociopaths. They are people who find it fulfilling to kill us and destroy our society.

As time passes, we will meet more and more of them. And, in the fullness of time, we will remember that Machiavelli warned us half a millennium ago that "man is more inclined to do evil than to do good," and that the primary role of statesmen and other leaders is to contain the dark forces of human nature.

Evil cannot be "fixed" by some social program or suitably energetic public-affairs strategy, or by "reaching out" to our misguided comrades. It must be dominated.

Otherwise it will dominate us.