Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Western Strategy 101 : The Patient is Suicidal

Talleyrand has recently asked "what is our strategy?". Stated in this manner, this question introduces a couple of unwarranted assumptions. The analysis of those assumptions and a qualified restatement of the question will be a topic of a later article, one of an ongoing series that will attempt to provide an answer.
However qualified the question, it is even more important to identify the problem before any meaningful answer may be provided. This in itself is a complex matter, and here we need to look at ourselves, our adversaries, any other parties to the conflict and the strengths, weaknesses, resources, ideologies, strategies, tactics and agendas of all involved. These issues will be topics for later articles which I keep promising and delaying for various reasons. In the meantime, some very powerful articles have been recently written about the key, perhaps only real problem faced by the West, the one problem that if solved would grant immediate access to the only resource lacking in the West, will. The key problem is one of the West's self-hatred, its intellectual and moral collapse, its "Suicidalism".

One of the most succinct and cutting analyses of what ails us is the brief article "Suicidalism" by "Armed and Dangerous". This article is usually my opening shot to any leftie or "mainstream centrist" (unwitting leftie dupe) that I may be debating.

The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West's will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.
But al-Qaeda didn't create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West's intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western intellectual life.

Consider the following propositions:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West's history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only
    the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by
    identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But "oppressed" people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist's point of view, and make concessions.

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, "political correctness" to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.

"Armed and Dangerous" has now followed up his earlier efforts with "Gramscian Damage" ,an even more brilliant exploration of the theme of Suicidalism, and the development of Western self-hatred. He also provides some predictions of likely consequences. This article goes some way towards addressing Talleyrand's question regarding strategy. This article is also a great one to throw at lefties that buy into cultural relativism, but still think of themselves as Marxists. It challenges them to address the problem of sustaining a society based on cultural relativism, even if one is desirable. The simple argument is that such a society is doomed to be eaten alive by the most aggressive, uncompromising form of absolutism that it tolerates.

The most paranoid and xenophobic conservatives of the Cold War were, painful though this is to admit, the closest to the truth in estimating the magnitude and subtlety of Soviet subversion. Liberal anticommunists (like myself in the 1970s) thought we were being judicious and fair-minded when we dismissed half of the Right's complaint as crude blather. We were wrong; the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss really were guilty, the Hollywood Ten really were Stalinist tools, and all of Joseph McCarthy's rants about "Communists in the State Department" were essentially true. The Venona transcripts and other new material leave no room for reasonable doubt on this score.


The first step to recovery is understanding the problem. Knowing that suicidalist memes were launched at us as war weapons by the espionage apparatus of the most evil despotism in human history is in itself liberating. Liberating, too, it is to realize that the Noam Chomskys and Michael
Moores and Robert Fisks of the world (and their thousands of lesser imitators in faculty lounges everywhere) are not brave transgressive forward-thinkers but pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant.
Brittingham and other have worried that postmodern leftism may yet win. If so, the victory would be short-lived. One of the clearest lessons of recent times (exemplified not just by kaffiyeh-wearing western leftists but by Hamas's recent clobbering of al-Fatah in the first Palestinian elections) is that po-mo leftism is weaker than liberal individualism in one important respect; it has only the weakest defenses against absolutist fervor. Brittingham tellingly notes po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty's realization that when the babble of conflicting tribal narratives collapses in exhaustion, the only thing left is the will to power.
Again, this is by design. Lenin and Stalin wanted classical-liberal individualism replaced with something less able to resist totalitarianism, not more. Volk-Marxist fantasy and postmodern nihilism served their purposes; the emergence of an adhesive counter-ideology would not have. Thus, the Chomskys and Moores and Fisks are running a program carefully designed to dead-end at nothing.
Religions are good at filling that kind of nothing. Accordingly, if transational progressivism actually succeeds in smothering liberal individualism, its reward will be to be put to the sword by some flavor of jihadi. Whether the eventual winners are Muslims or Mormons, the future is not going to look like the fuzzy multicultural ecotopia of modern left fantasy. The death of that dream is being written in European banlieus by angry Muslim youths under the light of burning cars.
In the banlieus and elsewhere, Islamist pressure makes it certain that sooner or later the West is going to vomit Stalin's memes out of its body politic. The worst way would be through a reflex development of Western absolutism, Christian chauvinism, nativism and militarism melding into something like Francoite fascism. The self-panicking leftists who think they see that in today's Republicans are comically wrong (as witnessed by the fact that they aren't being systematically jailed and executed), but it is quite a plausible future for the demographically-collapsing nations of Europe.
Finally, "The Adversary Culture - The Perverse Anti-Westernism of the Cultural Elite", a recent article by Keith Windschuttle, also addresses the problem of Western self-hatred and the postmodern penetration of our culture that has made such suicidalism possible. This article is a great analysis of the scholarly roots of this disease, with a strong Australian perspective. The only issue I have with the article is that it really should have been two articles. The first part deals directly with Western self-hatred. The final third of the article deals with the related, but separate problem of Islam and its recent confrontation with Western freedom of speech.
Windschuttle offers no direct answer to Talleyrand's question, but underlines the importance of finding one, and quickly.

Today, we live in an age of barbarism and decadence. There are barbarians outside the walls who want to destroy us and there is a decadent culture within. We are only getting what we deserve. The relentless critique of the West which has engaged our academic left and cultural elite since the 1960s has emboldened our adversaries and at the same time sapped our will to resist. The consequences of this adversary culture are all around us.
The way to oppose it, however, is less clear. The survival of the Western principles of free inquiry and free expression now depend entirely on whether we have the intelligence to understand their true value and the will to face down their enemies.

Finding the way to oppose suicidalism is the most difficult and important goal we have, perhaps the only real goal. Once this goal is achieved all the other issues of the day are minor headaches, easily solved with our enormous and growing wealth, genius and and military might.

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