The fate of jihad

In the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here), Andrew McCarthy reviews three of the left’s new assessments of the war on terrorism. Now that George Bush is out of office, McCarthy contends, liberals are at pains to reclaim his Wilsonianism for themselves.

McCarthy is not amused. McCarthy was never a fan of Bush’s Wilsonian efforts, but he is also unimpressed by the critique of the left. “For his dreamy Wilsonian trouble,” McCarthy writes, “[Bush] was savaged mercilessly, the Left having ceased to see the wisdom in democracy evangelism, military adventures, and edgy security tactics once the Clinton Administration closed shop.”

The collective story of three new books by Kenneth Pollack, Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel is that the war on terror “was horribly implemented by incompetent, moralistic dullards who never really believed in it and who, in their arrogant disregard for the rule of law, came to mirror the terrorists they were fighting.” McCarthy weighs these books in the balance and finds them wanting — among other things, on account of their optimism about Islam and the particulars of their derogation of the Bush administration and the “neocons,” whose Wilsonianism they share. McCarthy ends his review with Kepel’s fantasia on Europe:

He has convinced himself, at any rate, that Islam will go Europe, not the other way around. For Kepel, the combination of human capital drawn from across the Mediterranean and European expertise is driving “an ever changing process of fascination and rejection, where friendship and enmity mingle in the register of intimacy.” His prediction is that this emerging economic dynamo will be the “alternative to the failed narratives of jihad and the war on terror.” It’s a happy ending, but is it true?

Kepel’s fantasia falls under the category of ideas to which the axiom reputedly formulated by George Orwell applies: some ideas are so absurd only an intellectual could believe them.

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