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January 11, 2008

George Weigel's Anti-American Jeremiad


by Michael Scheuer

What, one wonders, can possibly inspire the neoconservatives' hate for Americans, their history, their traditions, and their ideas? In the context of this question, George Weigel's new book, Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism. A Call to Action, is more troubling than Norman Podhoretz's viciously anti-American World War IV. The Long War Against Islamofacism because of Mr. Weigel's reputation as a brilliant Catholic scholar, confidant of popes, and commentator on Catholicism's role in America. In Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, however, Mr. Weigel reveals himself as just one more America-hating neoconservative; he is a clone of Mr. Podhoretz and his acolytes, and, like them, can barely constrain his contempt for his countrymen, saying, for example, that it is the "sovereign prerogative" of these fools to elect non-neoconservative candidates who are incompetent, naive, and clueless. [p. 142] The book's one redeeming feature is the validation it gives to Sister Mary Lawrence's frequent admonition to my third grade class that "evil can be a contamination caught from evil companions" and that "you shall be known by the company you keep." The dust-jacket on Mr. Weigel's book is endorsed by: R. James Woolsey, Fouad Adjami, William Kristol, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and – of course – Norman Podhoretz. If she was still alive, and may God rest her soul, Sister Mary Lawrence could use the dust-jacket as irrefutable evidence that she knows of what she speaks in regard to the threat posed by keeping evil companions.

The first thing the reader will note in Mr. Weigel's book is that it is not a work of scholarship. In the book's endnotes the great majority of citations refer to the work of other neoconservatives – David Frum, Max Boot, Mr. Woolsley, Joshua Muravchik, David Gerlertner, Efraim Karsh, Charles Krauthammer, various Wall Street Journal editors and writers, etc. – or such neoconservative idols as Bernard Lewis and Benjamin Netanyahu. The book amounts to one neocon reading the work of others, and then summarizing their ideas and his for the praise of that same closed circle. Indeed, so frequent are citations of Professor Lewis' work that Mr. Weigel may be angling for sainthood for Lewis, although it is thankfully hard to see even a Mr. Weigel-influenced Vatican conferring sainthood on the scholar-turned-patron of a clique of anti-Americans.

Given the company Mr. Weigel keeps, it is no surprise that he determines that America's war with the Islamists is entirely based on those crazed and nihilistic Islamists, men "whose primary motivation is the overthrow of our very way of life – our civilization." [p. 8] Right, our foes have neither any legitimate complaints about U.S. policies or actions, nor even any basis for perceiving those policies and actions as a threat to their faith. They are simply mad individuals who love to kill. In this nonsense, Mr. Weigel is at one with neoconservative dogma: Islamists and other Muslims hate us because of a "defective theology" [p. 56] and because of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, Budweiser drafts, Christianity, women's rights, and civil liberties. And how does Mr. Weigel know this? Well, because others in the neoconservatives' closed-circle tell him so. Because David Gerlertner says, "Our enemies in this war seem varied but share one common doctrine … all agree on death. They believe in and cultivate death; they are the party of death" [p. 155]; and because the Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus says, "Jihadism is the religiously inspired theology [which teaches] that it is the moral obligation of all Muslims to employ whatever means [are] necessary to compel the world's submission to Islam" [pp. 35-6]; and because the Australian scholar Michael Casey says jihadism is "the totalitarian variant of political religion" [p. 49]; and, most of all, because Mr. Weigel himself claims it is a logical extension of the Islamist Sayyid Qutb's thought to say, "contemporary jihadists believe that the murder of innocents is not simply morally acceptable, but morally required, if such murders advance the cause of Islam." [p. 48]

In Mr. Weigel's book one will look long, hard, and fruitlessly for any hint that he has studied the statements, books, and interviews produced by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and their lieutenants and allies. It is, after all, less taxing intellectually to define the enemy's motivation and war aims on the basis of what your own philosophy demands of the foe it lusts to fight, than to listen to the enemy and then match his words to his deeds.

Questionable scholarship aside, the main goal of Mr. Weigel's book – like that of Mr. Podhoretz's – is to harangue, condemn, and damn Americans because they do not see the world as do the neoconservatives, and because they find nothing consistent with America's history, interests, character, or ideals in the type of country and foreign policy Mr. Weigel advocates. And there is no room for debate in Mr. Weigel's new world order, which is to be dominated by something he calls the U.S.-led "freedom project," apparently to be patterned on current Iraq War. [p. 117] Americans who disagree with him – and, of course, the aspiring-to-sainthood Bernard Lewis and his ilk – are not real Americans, they are rather members of the "Unhinged Left and the Unhinged Right" [p. 137 ], men and women who do not now "deserve" victory in the war against the Islamists [p. 109-10]. For Mr. Weigel and the neoconservatives, therefore, Americans must be perfected by being put through a giant re-education process – to use the term employed by another group bent on perfecting man, the Khmer Rouge. Among the lessons Americans are to learn are:

– There is just too much press freedom – "western media acquiescence to Muslim complaints about western, American, Christian, or papal ‘Islamophobia' should stop." [p. 61] Mr. Weigel adds that the media must "call things by their right names [that is, neocon-approved names] murderers in Iraq are murderers and terrorists, not insurgents or sectarians…." [p. 62]

– Only Muslims who renounce jihadism, jihadists, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial can be granted "the admission ticket" to dialogue with "western religious or intellectual institutions." [p. 68] In other words, if all you Muslims perfect yourselves as neocon-approved Muslims – that is become Christians or Jews, or at least non-Muslims – we will deign to talk to you.

– History does not apply to the United States. "Efforts to accelerate change in the Arabic world by the administration of George W. Bush were shaped by a realistic assessment [read: history-ignorant assessment] of the situation after 9/11. … To attempt to accelerate the transition to responsible and responsive government in the Middle East was neither an exercise in cowboy apocalypticism nor in Wilsonian romanticism. It was a realistic objective…." [p. 78]

– The invasion and occupation of Iraq was not a disastrous, historically ignorant idea, it was just mismanaged by the Washington-based Master Interveners in world affairs. Washington: "miscalculated" how quickly Iraq would "become a battlefield in the wider war against jihadism" [p. 82]; "badly miscalculated" the economic damage Iraq accrued under Saddam [p. 85]; allocated "inadequate financial and human resources … for post-Saddam reconstruction" [p. 86]; and "failed to devise an effective hearts-and-minds strategy for post-Saddam Iraq." [pp. 88-9] In other words, only Washington's bureaucratics were wrong, Iraqis and other Muslims really loved the idea of an unprovoked infidel invasion and occupation of the second holiest place in the Islamic world.

Once Americans learn all of this and graduate from re-education camp – and are thus all right-thinking automatons – Mr. Weigel says they can be allowed to join the "Coalition of Those Who Understand" [p. 146] and assist in the "freedom project." As members of the freedom-project team, each re-educated American will have "the obligation to press history in a more human direction…. History must be made to march in the direction of genuine human progress" [pp. 15-16] – as long, of course, as the content of "genuine progress" is defined by Mr. Weigel and his colleagues. And what is the engine of the freedom project? Not surprisingly it is never-ending U.S. intervention in the Muslim world, and presumably all other parts of the world. U.S. foreign policy, for example, must make "the promotion of religious freedom a priority," [p. 126] as long as the religion in question is on Washington's approved list. America must also intervene to help in "making the world safe for diversity [No hint of Wilsonianism there!] by helping Islamic countries develop the capacity for diversity within themselves." [p. 129] Presidential power should be increased and the "[c]ore elements of the old U.S. Information Agency ought to be brought out of mothballs and made part of the Executive Office of the President" along with a "new White House office of public diplomacy." [p. 150] Americans and their congressional representatives also "must develop and nurture the virtue of patience" [p. 143], presumably to allow the super-empowered president time to perfect the world as President George W. Bush has done. Finally, Washington must be unrelentingly interventionist, ready to stand at Armageddon and battle for the neoconservative's god – who appears to be named Mars. Why? Well, in this case the Catholic Mr. Weigel sounds much like a Calvinist predestinarian. America must intervene, Mr. Weigel asserts,

"because there is no alternative to U.S. leadership in the war against global jihadism. … [I]t seems likely that only the United States can summon the coalition capable of then resisting, and then reversing, and then defeating the jihadist tide: not only because the U.S. has the resources for the job, but because the United States is, or ought to be, the repository of the ideas, drawn from both faith and reason, that must shape the struggle." [p. 154-55]

There you have it; the utter, carved-in-stone, good-as-biblical truth. "Americans must understand all of this – for our own sake, and for that of the world," Mr. Weigel says in his concluding dictat to his as-yet-unperfected countrymen, "… there is no escape from the burden of American leadership." [p. 157]

Well, Mr. Weigel is wrong and – for our children and grandchildren – lethally so. There is an escape from the endless wars that are ensured by the interventionism advocated by Mr. Weigel, Mr. Podhoretz, Professor Lewis, and their war-loving band of neoconservative brothers, as well as by their – and Osama bin Laden's – favorite presidential candidates, Mr. Giuliani and Senator McCain. (NB: To be fair, all the current U.S. presidential candidates except Representative Ron Paul are perfectly acceptable to bin Laden as they will maintain the U.S. policies that ensure al-Qaeda's eventual success.) The escape route from neoconservatism is marked by two realities. First, the timeless accuracy of the Founding Fathers' belief that our republic will survive and flourish so long as Americans are wise enough to wage war only if genuine national interests are at stake, and otherwise avoid engaging in other peoples conflicts – especially other peoples' religious conflicts – and absurd attempts to install America's unique republican institutions outside North America. And, second, to acknowledge the validity of the Founders' certainty that man is not a perfectible creature. Mr. Weigel pays lip service to this fact is his book – he urges "a robust skepticism about schemes of human perfection" – but then immediately exempts his book's perfectionist scheme, the freedom project, and the wars it will cause, by saying that such skepticism "must always be complemented by confidence in human creativity's capacity to affect the course of history for the better." [p. 77]

As Paul Craig Roberts often has written in these pages, the neoconservatives are today's Jacobins, bent on perfecting the world in their priestly caste's image no matter what the cost in lives and treasure to the Americans they hate or how much they have to knowingly distort or ignore American history's hard-won lessons. Mr. Weigel's Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism. A Call to Action, is a clearly Jacobin manifesto, and it should be read by Americans so they know what Mr. Weigel, his colleagues, and the political candidates they support intend to do in their name.

But they should read it only after first reading two other passages. They should first memorize the words of the brilliant historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, who argued in The Roads to Modernity that for America, "it was precisely a belief in human imperfectability, and the civic and political arrangements deriving from that belief, which sustained the country – a united country – through all the turmoil of its history." [p. 229] Second, they should memorize the words of South Carolina's Charles Pinckney who, during the 1787 constitutional convention, described the proper role – at home and abroad – of America's new republican government:

"We mistake the object of our government, if we hope or wish that it is to make us respectable abroad. Conquest or superiority among other powers is not or ought not ever to be the object of republican systems. If they [the republic's leaders] are sufficiently active and energetic to rescue us from [foreign] contempt and preserve our domestic happiness and security, it is all we can expect from them, it is more than almost any other Government assures its citizens."

Readers of Mr. Weigel's book will see that he and most other neoconservatives will not seek guidance or even quote from Pinckney or the Founders. This avoidance is based on their certainty that the Founders, while ever prepared to fight for genuine national interests and independence, damned those who advocated anything akin to Mr. Weigel's Wilsonian "freedom project" as men out to destroy American liberty and independence. And who, at this date, could deny that the neoconservatives, by pursuing a foreign policy of "conquest or superiority," have earned America, as Mr. Pinckney predicted, "contempt" abroad while undermining "domestic happiness and security"?

 

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Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.

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