Last week in the National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson wrote an article titled The Brink of Madness -- A familiar place. (Thanks to Douglas Groothius for pointing me to the article.) Hanson suggests that the state of moral judgment in the Western world today regarding Islamic terrorism is much the same as the situation before WWII toward Germany. His thoughts raised some pointed questions in my mind.
Hanson states his thesis this way;
Our present generation too is on the brink of moral insanity. That has never
been more evident than in the last three weeks, as the West has proven utterly
unable to distinguish between an attacked democracy that seeks to strike back at
terrorist combatants, and terrorist aggressors who seek to kill civilians.
He points out that the methods of the Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents both are to use civilians (and the UN and, I might add, Muslim shrines) as shields to either (a) protect them from more civilized societies that would prefer not to kill civilians (or freedom fighters or holy shrines of anyone's religion); or (b) allow them to claim moral superiority (or at least ambiguity) if they are attacked and the innocent shields they are hiding behind are damaged.
Hanson highlights the general difference between the Islamic terrorists and the Israeli and Western forces by an observation. European cartoonists, he says, are afraid to display Islam disparagingly, but "they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads."
He builds up to this statement: "the amoral Westerner cannot exercise moral judgment because he no longer has any."
In his summary, Hanson makes some other claims of causes of our "moral insanity", particularly in the Middle East.
He argues that the West is a "corrupt world" that, among other things, "is largely anti-Semitic" and "finds psychic enjoyment in seeing successful Western societies under duress".
Is the West largely anti-Semitic? I don't see evidence of this in the people that surround me, but that is admittedly a very small slice of "the West". I don't see it in the public statements of political leaders or influential people. I'm sure anti-Semitism exists... but is it fair to characterize the world as "largely" anti-Semitic?
Does the West in general find "psychic enjoyment" in the demise of its own success? This I can believe more readily, and I found Hanson's way of putting it quite insightful. It explains for me what has been one of the great conundrums of the age... the same people who fight hardest against conservative values in Christianity, fight nearly as hard to empower (or at least enable) the far-more-strident and violent conservativism of Islamic fundamentalism. As quick as they are to make claims of fundamentalism and theocracy and ignorance and ignominy toward Christians in the West, they are just as quick to contest such claims made toward Islamic radicals. Possibly Hanson's suggestion of a deep desire to see successful Western society come on hard times has some merit.
Thoughts, either on the points I brought out or other things that Hanson has to say?