Puis je vis descendre du ciel un ange, qui avait la clef de l’abîme et une grande chaîne dans sa main. Il saisit le dragon, le serpent ancien, qui est le diable et Satan, et il le lia pour mille ans. Il le jeta dans l’abîme, ferma et scella l’entrée au-dessus de lui, afin qu’il ne séduisît plus les nations, jusqu’à ce que les mille ans fussent accomplis. Après cela, il faut qu’il soit délié pour un peu de temps. Et je vis des trônes; et à ceux qui s’y assirent fut donné le pouvoir de juger. Et je vis les âmes de ceux qui avaient été décapités à cause du témoignage de Jésus et à cause de la parole de Dieu, et de ceux qui n’avaient pas adoré la bête ni son image, et qui n’avaient pas reçu la marque sur leur front et sur leur main. Ils revinrent à la vie, et ils régnèrent avec Christ pendant mille ans. Les autres morts ne revinrent point à la vie jusqu’à ce que les mille ans fussent accomplis. C’est la première résurrection. Heureux et saints ceux qui ont part à la première résurrection! La seconde mort n’a point de pouvoir sur eux; mais ils seront sacrificateurs de Dieu et de Christ, et ils régneront avec lui pendant mille ans. Quand les mille ans seront accomplis, Satan sera relâché de sa prison. Et il sortira pour séduire les nations qui sont aux quatre coins de la terre, Gog et Magog, afin de les rassembler pour la guerre; leur nombre est comme le sable de la mer. Et ils montèrent sur la surface de la terre, et ils investirent le camp des saints et la ville bien-aimée. Mais un feu descendit du ciel, et les dévora. Apocalypse 20: 1-9
C’est la lutte finale Groupons-nous et demain L’Internationale Sera le genre humain … Refrain bien connu
Le soir, vous dites: Il fera beau, car le ciel est rouge; et le matin: Il y aura de l’orage aujourd’hui, car le ciel est d’un rouge sombre. Vous savez discerner l’aspect du ciel, et vous ne pouvez discerner les signes des temps. Jésus (Matthieu 16 : 2-3)
Jusqu’à présent, les textes de l’Apocalypse faisaient rire. Tout l’effort de la pensée moderne a été de séparer le culturel du naturel. La science consiste à montrer que les phénomènes culturels ne sont pas naturels et qu’on se trompe forcément si on mélange les tremblements de terre et les rumeurs de guerre, comme le fait le texte de l’Apocalypse. Mais, tout à coup, la science prend conscience que les activités de l’homme sont en train de détruire la nature. C’est la science qui revient à l’Apocalypse. René Girard
J’annonce au monde entier, sans la moindre hésitation, que si les dévoreurs du monde se dressent contre notre religion, nous nous dresserons contre leur monde entier et n’auront de cesse avant d’avoir annihilé la totalité d’entre eux. Ou nous tous obtiendrons la liberté, ou nous opterons pour la liberté plus grande encore du martyre. Ou nous applaudirons la victoire de l’Islam dans le monde, ou nous tous irons vers la vie éternelle et le martyre. Dans les deux cas, la victoire et le succès nous sont assurés. Ayatollah Khomeiny
La possibilité d’une annihilation existe. Le projet sioniste entier est apocalyptique. Il existe dans un environnement hostile et dans un certain sens son existence n’est pas raisonnable. (…) Oui, je pense à Armageddon. C’est possible. Dans les vingt prochaines années, il pourrait y avoir une guerre atomique ici. Benny Morris
Dans l’Islam, de même que dans le Judaïsme et le Christianisme, certaines croyances portent sur une bataille cosmique marquant la fin des temps – Gog et Magog, l’Antéchrist, Armageddon et, pour les Musulmans chiites, le retour tant attendu de l’Imam caché, qui doit déboucher sur la victoire finale des forces du bien sur celles du mal, quelle qu’en soit la définition. Il est évident qu’Ahmadinejad et ses adeptes croient que ce temps est venu et que la lutte finale est déjà entamée, et même bien avancée. Bernard Lewis
Vous comprendrez d’autant mieux la perplexité de Jacques Chirac qui a entendu, un jour de 2003, George W. Bush lui expliquer qu’il fallait intervenir militairement en Irak, parce que Gog et Magog y étaient à l’œuvre. Quand il livre ses convictions les plus intimes sur la politique proche-orientale, George W. Bush ne pense donc pas au pétrole ou à des bases susceptibles d’accueillir ses GI. Il ne parle ni d’économie ni de géostratégie. Il réagit comme un croyant qui attend que se réalise une prophétie biblique… (…) Comme ni Jacques Chirac ni ses services n’ont compris la référence du président américain, Paris s’est mis au travail. George W. Bush appartenant à la mouvance chrétienne évangélique, l’Élysée s’est orienté vers les protestants de France, qui ont transmis la requête à Thomas Römer. Jocelyn Rochat
Dans le vocabulaire politique, l’expression « millénarisme » peut servir à désigner, de manière métaphorique, une forme de doctrine aspirant à une révolution radicale, qui aboutirait à la mise en place définitive d’un ordre social supposé plus juste, et sans commune mesure avec ce qui a existé jusqu’à présent. Dans cette acception, le terme a pu servir à qualifier aussi bien le communisme que le nazisme. Wikipedia
It is a series of images that come out of the Book of Revelation. There is a Millenarian idea, of an impending calamity, that something unspeakable is about to occur. (…) At the end of the First World War, these currents in poetry, from the romantic to the symbolist poets at the end of the century and the beginning of the new century, finally convert themselves into a series of political movements, which are mass movements against the idea of liberalism. They are movements of rebellion against the belief in the many instead of the one, against the idea that life should be divided into a series of spheres — the public and the private, the state and society, the civil and the religious — and at some level, in different ways, they are movements of rebellion against the idea of rational analysis. Instead, they are movements in favor of the one, the solid, the granite, of authority, as opposed to rational analysis — sometimes of mysticism, but in any case of authority. These movements were founded by Lenin, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, the leaders of the Iron Guard in Romania, various figures from the extreme right in France, and through every single country in Europe in some version or another — the Bolshevik movement on the Left, all of the other movements on the Right. The movements were utterly different one from the other, and the Left and the Right hated each other, and sometimes the Right and the Right hated each other. But (…) In all of these cases, the similarities consisted of a belief in a deep myth, the Ur myth of the twentieth century and into our own time. The name of this myth is the Book of Revelation. It is a variation on the themes of the symbolist poets. It takes the idea of transgressive rebellion, which the earlier Romantics had already come up with, of murder and rebellion as satanic acts of rebellion against liberal society, the conversion of this idea into the mythology that you see in the Book of Revelation, and then finally these political movements convert that same notion into political doctrines in this way. The story in the Book of Revelation says: There is a people of God; the people of God are being afflicted and polluted by forces from within their own society, who worship at the synagogue of Satan. At the same time, the people of God are being afflicted by cosmic foes from abroad. The people of God who are oppressed rise up in rebellion against these polluting forces from within and against the cosmic forces from abroad. The name of this war is Armageddon, and it lasts, according to St. John, the author of Revelation, one hour. And at the end of the war, with all of those foes dispatched, the reign of Christ is established and lasts a thousand years. It is a perfect, stable society with no polluting elements. It is the millennium. (…) But the totalitarian ideal also arose in two other versions, which were distinctly not European. The radical Islamist movement — that is, the notion of Islam as a revolutionary political movement, not just as a religion — was founded in 1928 with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Pan-Arabist movement in its most radical version, the Baath, was founded formally in 1943 in Damascus. (…) There is a people of God. The people of God should be described as the “true Muslims” in the case of the Islamists, or as the “true Arabs” in the case of the Baath. The people of God are afflicted by internal corruptors within Muslim society. These internal corruptors are the Jews or the Masons or the Muslim hypocrites. The people of God are afflicted by sinister external foes, Western imperialists or the worldwide Zionist conspiracy. The people of God will resist these internal foes and external foes in a gigantic war of Armageddon. This war will be the liberation of Jerusalem or it will be the jihad. Afterwards the reign of purity will be established and this reign of purity is described in the case of both of those movements in the same way: it is the re-resurrection of the Caliphate of the seventh century in the years after the Prophet Mohammed. The Caliphate is described by each of these movements in a slightly different way. For the Islamists, it means the reinstating of Shar’iah or Qur’anic law. For the Baathists the emphasis is secular; it is the recreating, the resurrecting, of the Arab empire when the Arab empire was on the march. Finally, these two movements have lacked for nothing in the realm of practical achievement – killing millions. In the last twenty years, several million people have been killed in the course of the Iran-Iraq war, which pitted one of these movements against the other — the mass human wave suicide attacks on the part of the Iranian Islamists against the cult of cruelty, and of chemical weapons on the part of the Baathists. It is estimated that between one and a half million and two million people were killed in Sudan; 100,000 are thought killed in Algeria over the last several years. (…) The success of Muslim totalitarianism has depended on liberal naïveté — in fact, blindness. The eyes of the world have not been on these millions who have been killed in the last twenty years. Always the liberals all over the world have wanted to describe these movements as in some way rational and conventional, as movements based on grievances — “The movements are anti-Zionist, and isn’t it the case that Israel has often been at fault?” “The movements are anti-American, and isn’t it the case that the United States has often been at fault?” And these grievances do exist, but the effort to take them seriously tends often to distort their madness in such a way as to make it unrecognizable, for totalitarian doctrines are always mad. The Nazis thought they were engaged in a biological struggle. The Stalinists thought they were the proletariat and their enemies were the bourgeois exploiters. The Baathists and Islamists see a cosmic Zionist-Crusader conspiracy. It is important to keep a sense of the madness in these ideas, even if it is true that in the years after World War I some Germans were oppressed outside of the borders of Germany, and Israel and the U.S. have done bad things. All of the totalitarian movements were at bottom ideological movements, not based on a normal sense of grievances of political claims or expression of real-life interests, but movements based on ideological visions. Each of these movements in the past was defeated not militarily but ideologically. World War II was violent and military, but although D-Day was important, de-Nazification was the actual victory. The defeat of Nazism militarily would not have been all that helpful if Germany, which is inherently an extremely wealthy and powerful society, had continued to remain a society of millions and millions of convinced Nazis. The same is true now. The struggle we are involved in now has, had, and will continue to have a military aspect, but this aspect must be secondary to the ideological aspect, to the war of ideas. The basic danger we are facing now is not weapons of mass destruction, per se, because we know very well that box cutters can be lethal weapons of the worst sort. The danger that we face is not inherently military; it’s not armies in the conventional sense. It is above all ideological. As long as millions of people are committed fanatically to doctrines that are ultimately mad and that follow in the tradition of the totalitarian madnesses of Europe in the twentieth century, the danger persists. I maintain that the struggle we are involved in is, or ought to be, ultimately a war of ideas. Paul Berman
Attention: une lutte finale peut en cacher une autre !
A l’heure où, entre deux parties de golf ou condamnations d’Israël, les autruches qui nous gouvernent semblent enfin prendre conscience de la menace djihadiste pour la planète entière …
Comment ne pas repenser, avec Paul Berman, au mythe qui, du communisme au nazisme et aujourd’hui à l‘islamisme, soutend l’ensemble de ces mouvements totalitaristes …
A savoir le mythe millénariste du livre de l’Apocalypse de Saint Jean ?
Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, Joanne J. Myers
April 15, 2003
JOANNE MYERS: On behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to welcome members and guests to our Author in the Afternoon program.
Today we are delighted to have Paul Berman, a writer who has been especially recognized for his penetrating philosophical perspectives on a vast array of social and cultural topics. His latest work, Terror and Liberalism, focuses on a subject that is generating a great deal of interest, as it is the first book to address the political/philosophical dimensions of the current conflict found in Islamic fundamentalism and on the War on Terror.
I have asked Jack Diggins to introduce Mr. Berman. Jack is a Distinguished Professor of American History at the City University of New York. He has also taught at Princeton, Cambridge, and the University of London. Jack has published a number of books dealing with American politics and history, including Up From Communism: The Liberal Persuasion; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and the Challenge of the American Past; The Promise of Pragmatism; The Rise and Fall of the American Left, and The Proud Decades, America in War and Peace, 1941-1960. Just by listening to these titles you can easily conclude that Jack has concerned himself with, among other things, American intellectual history, liberalism, pragmatism, and the American past and its influence on the present, which makes him the ideal person to introduce our guest today.
JACK DIGGINS: Thank you. I am very pleased to be here and to introduce my old friend, Paul Berman.
I came to know Paul many years ago when I was living on the West Coast and there was an essay in the Village Voice on the philosopher Sidney Hook. I thought I was the only person in the United States who admired Sidney Hook, but there was one other, Paul Berman. Hook was a leading philosopher of pragmatism and Marxism and became an ardent anti-communist, which in the 1960s was not politically correct, at least on the campuses.
And then, watching television, the Iraq war, the aftermath of the war, and seeing the scenes of fists in the air and anti-American statements and rumors of Baath police being lynched and the scenes of looting, I said to myself, “This is not going to bother Paul.”
Many years ago Paul was with me in California and said, “I’m going to take a trip to Tijuana.” At that time, if you went to Tijuana and parked your car for ten minutes, the tires were gone. But Paul came back just smiling and praising it as a land of moral solidarity and all the people with hearts of gold. I couldn’t help remember the last time I was there I was taken to the police station because I refused to pay a cop a $50 bribe for crossing the street the wrong way. But Paul is so much more optimistic than I am, and maybe he is right.
With the fall of Communism, he and I would debate every day, and I would side with Gorbachev and he would side with Yeltsin or anyone who let the whole system come down. Paul describes himself as a democratic socialist, but deep down he has an anarchist impulse and he does think that out of chaos will come freedom. I am a little bit more cautious.
But the fall of Communism was, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, the greatest peaceful transfer of power in modern history, and Paul was right about it, and perhaps he will be right about his position on the Iraq war.
Some people will be curious why I dedicated a book that is about the great prudent conservative President-statesman John Adams to a radical activist from the 1960s. People wonder if there is an incongruence there. But I would like to read you the last sentence of my acknowledgement: “In the 1790s John Adams reflected on events in France, in the 1980s Paul Berman on events in Nicaragua. Both faced the wrath of some of their own friends for telling us that a revolution without representation is destined to devour itself. Truth dared to speak before its time.”
PAUL BERMAN: I’d like to thank the Carnegie Council for inviting me to speak and my dear friend, the slyly brilliant Professor Diggins, for this introduction.
I would like to offer ten propositions with which our present crisis could be observed.
1) In the nineteenth century, the belief arose that the secret of human progress had been discovered and had been proved to be correct. This secret was thought to be a belief in the many instead of the one, a belief that each aspect of life should be allowed to remain in its own sphere — the public and the private, the state and society, the religious and the civil. There was a belief that society ought to govern itself through rational analysis.
Many different philosophies and political movements expressed this idea. None of them, none of the large ones, expressed it fully consistently. Marx had some aspects of this idea. The French Revolution stood for some aspects and could not quite get the other aspects right. Thomas Jefferson stood for a very pure version of this idea and yet couldn’t quite straighten out the part regarding human slavery. Each separate movement in the nineteenth century, or in the early eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, had some aspect of it and some contradiction which was yet to be worked out.
And yet, in spite of the contradictions, there was consensus about general principles which were seen to be working in some of the societies that we think of as the West and which were regarded by some people in all regions around the world as the secret of human progress universally, not just in the places where they were seen to be prospering at that moment.
There was among a very large number of people, a general feeling of underlying optimism, which you can see in many of the writers of the nineteenth century, in many of the doctrines that came to dominate political movements.
2) At the same time, there was reason to be suspicious of these doctrines. There was a whole series of criticisms about hypocrisies or inconsistencies or lies that were concealed within it. Marx was the great prophet of this.
But beyond these doctrines of suspicion, there were also some elements that not even Marx discussed, something that went beyond exploitation and hypocrisy. This could be seen by the late-nineteenth century in King Leopold’s war in the Congo or in German Southwest Africa at the turn of the century, where the very countries, Germany and Belgium, who were among the principal exemplars of the doctrine of human progress, were in some other aspect of their national activity somehow engaged in the most grotesque genocide. The combination of the sense of optimism and the genocidal atrocities, seemed to be beyond the capability of the liberal imagination to conceive.
In the First World War, these darkest aspects, which had already been visible in the Congo and in Southwest Africa, finally rolled back across Europe. What had been unimaginable throughout the nineteenth century finally took place in Europe itself, which was mass death on the most colossal scale, nine or ten million people killed for reasons that were ultimately unintelligible. Each country went into the war with a logical set of reasons instead of treaties and alliances. The final outcome was a catastrophe beyond that which anyone would have or did predict.
3) From the nineteenth century and onward, a series of rebellions against this prevailing liberal optimism arose. Some of these rebellions are particularly worth observing.
First, there was a rebellion within the romantic literary tradition, in romantic poetry. An important sign of this was Victor Hugo’s verse play Hernani in 1830, which already broached certain themes. The play ends with the attempted assassination of the King of Spain and a triple suicide. The theme of murder and suicide in the context of rebellion had already been broached.
Baudelaire picks up the same theme. In the second edition of The Flowers of Evil, the inscription mentions enrolling in the rhetorical school of Satan.
And, in fact, there is a religious subtext that underlies this notion of rebellion, which is the romantic cult of Satan, which, within the literary tradition, begins to mean a cult of murder and suicide as literary postures.
Later in the nineteenth century among the poets, the religious aspect of this rebellion, of this notion of transgressive rebellion against the existing order, takes a new form. You can see it in Rimbaud and in a marvelous version in the greatest of the turn-of-the-century Spanish-language poets, Ruben Dario.
This new version is not the cult of Satan. It is a series of images that come out of the Book of Revelation. There is a Millenarian idea, of an impending calamity, that something unspeakable is about to occur. You can see it in Yeats. This idea emerges as the new religious underpinning.
There is something self-ironic about the writers who were writing about Satan but there is nothing ironic or self-ironic about the writers who were drawing on images from the Book of Revelation.
At the end of the First World War, these currents in poetry, from the romantic to the symbolist poets at the end of the century and the beginning of the new century, finally convert themselves into a series of political movements, which are mass movements against the idea of liberalism. They are movements of rebellion against the belief in the many instead of the one, against the idea that life should be divided into a series of spheres — the public and the private, the state and society, the civil and the religious — and at some level, in different ways, they are movements of rebellion against the idea of rational analysis. Instead, they are movements in favor of the one, the solid, the granite, of authority, as opposed to rational analysis — sometimes of mysticism, but in any case of authority.
These movements were founded by Lenin, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, the leaders of the Iron Guard in Romania, various figures from the extreme right in France, and through every single country in Europe in some version or another — the Bolshevik movement on the Left, all of the other movements on the Right.
The movements were utterly different one from the other, and the Left and the Right hated each other, and sometimes the Right and the Right hated each other. But what I am struck by is the similarities.
4) In all of these cases, the similarities consisted of a belief in a deep myth, the Ur myth of the twentieth century and into our own time. The name of this myth is the Book of Revelation.
It is a variation on the themes of the symbolist poets. It takes the idea of transgressive rebellion, which the earlier Romantics had already come up with, of murder and rebellion as satanic acts of rebellion against liberal society, the conversion of this idea into the mythology that you see in the Book of Revelation, and then finally these political movements convert that same notion into political doctrines in this way.
The story in the Book of Revelation says: There is a people of God; the people of God are being afflicted and polluted by forces from within their own society, who worship at the synagogue of Satan. At the same time, the people of God are being afflicted by cosmic foes from abroad.
The people of God who are oppressed rise up in rebellion against these polluting forces from within and against the cosmic forces from abroad. The name of this war is Armageddon, and it lasts, according to St. John, the author of Revelation, one hour.
And at the end of the war, with all of those foes dispatched, the reign of Christ is established and lasts a thousand years. It is a perfect, stable society with no polluting elements. It is the millennium.
Each of the movements that arose in the period after World War I found a new way to tell this story. There was always a people of God. The people of God were proletariat. The people of God were the children of the Roman wolf, the Italian people. The people of God were the Catholic warriors of Christ, according to the King in Spain. The people of God were the Aryan race.
There were always polluting elements from within society, such as the bourgeoisie, or the Trotskyite wreckers, or the Jews, or the Masons, or the Communists.
There were always external foes from abroad. These were the forces of capitalist encirclement, or Anglo-American imperialism, or what Heidegger described as the “pincer pressure” of the United States and the Soviet Union pressing on the people of Germany.
There was always going to be a war, which would be a war of extermination against these external and internal foes. This war would be the class war, or the crusade in Franco’s version, or the biological war in the Nazi version.
At the end was always the perfect society, which was pictured either as a sci-fi leap into the future or as a return to the golden age of the past, usually as some version of both.
The Communist version was a leap into the future, though if you read your Marx carefully, you understand that this is also a leap into the primitive Communism of the past. And in the Soviet version there are many references to the primitive Communist traditions of the Russian peasants.
All of the right-wing versions were variations of a slightly different sort.
Mussolini was going to recreate the Roman Empire, and when he marched on Rome in 1922, he organized his followers into legions. They were centurions marching on Rome. The Roman Empire was going to be recreated in a modern version. They weren’t going to go back to the ancient version. It was would be a modern version of the Roman Empire.
Franco was going to recreate the medieval Crusades of Spain at its greatest. He would do this in a modern version.
Hitler was also going to recreate the Roman Empire. The Third Reich meant the new Reich after the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. He would recreate the Roman Empire, but in an Aryan version instead of an Italian version.
And likewise, this cult of the ancient, the reestablishing of the ancient, was a leap into the future at the same time, a modernism.
The symbolist cult of the Book of Revelation is also a cult of ancient myth, which is a cult of modernism at the same time. If you want to see that artistically, picture some of Picasso, where he is evoking the ancient myths of the Mediterranean but in the most modern of ways.
5) All of these movements proposed impractical programs which were unachievable except in one way, which was through mass death. Mass death showed that these were movements of transgressive rebellion, not movements of reform, not conservative movements of reform or social democratic movements of reform, Left or Right, but movements that would break through the ordinary morality of behavior, thus would break through the existing world view.
The reassuring demonstration that one had really gone beyond the ordinary was a commitment to mass death. All of these movements failed completely in achieving what they stated to be their worldly aims, and in achieving mass death.
6) The liberal society which in its weaknesses and contradictions and inability to conceive of the dark in human nature, the liberal society which in some way had inspired these movements and against which these movements now arose in rebellion, also had a great deal of trouble in identifying what these movements were.
We are all too familiar with the failures of the left-wing Fellow Travelers, who could not understand Stalinism and could only understand it as an exceptionally advanced form of social democracy. But you can take examples of this kind of error across the spectrum.
I write about the French socialists of the 1930s, who were a deeply democratic and liberal, in my sense of the word, movement with an impeccable record of liberal democratic credentials going back into the nineteenth century, without any of the aspects of Bolshevism, Marxism, or Leninism. One has to remember that in the 1930s, the French socialists were the enemies of Nazism and of the Right.
And yet, the majority of the French socialists finally voted for Marshall Pétain because they could not get themselves to understand the nature of Nazism. They managed to tell themselves that Nazism was a legitimate movement, that the Germans did have grievances, that the Treaty of Versailles had been unjust, that Hitler might be raving but he was stating truths.
The French socialists in their majority faction certainly did not regard themselves as anti-Semites, and yet they asked themselves: “Every time somebody rails against the Jews, is it always an example of anti-Semitism?” The French socialists were, by definition, the enemy of financiers — “and weren’t some of the financiers Jewish?”
The French socialists finally thought that the great danger to France was represented not by Hitler and the Nazis but by the hawks in their own society. And who was the leading hawk? Unfortunately, it was their own leader, the leader of the minority faction, who had managed to get himself elected Prime Minister, Léon Blum, whose ethnic identity now became itself a source of much speculation.
With this kind of reasoning, the French socialists in the majority faction not only managed to vote for Pétain, but quite a few ended up joining his government, and in this way the impeccable liberal democrats of the French Left managed to convert themselves into fascists.
7) The progress of totalitarianism depends on and is inseparable from this kind of liberal naïveté. Without the cooperation of the Fellow Travelers with Stalin, without the French anti-war socialists in the case of Hitler, without the naïveté of any number of conservatives and democratic right-wingers in the case of a variety of fascists and Nazis, without the naïveté even of the United States with regard to Hitler straight through the 1930s, it would be inconceivable to imagine that these movements would have gotten very far.
So it is a mistake to think of the totalitarian movements as isolated. They existed in a dynamic, and part of the dynamic is the liberal naïve unwillingness to recognize them as what they are.
8) Totalitarianism arose in Europe in the fifteen years after the First World War. In the first twenty-five years, similar or identical movements arose on the other side of the Mediterranean too, in the Muslim world.
One of these movements was certainly Muslim Communism, which everyone forgets about. In the interpretation of the clash of civilizations, one would imagine that a Western movement like Communism would be inconceivable in what is called a non-Western society. In fact, Communism was a large and lasting movement.
But the totalitarian ideal also arose in two other versions, which were distinctly not European. The radical Islamist movement — that is, the notion of Islam as a revolutionary political movement, not just as a religion — was founded in 1928 with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Pan-Arabist movement in its most radical version, the Baath, was founded formally in 1943 in Damascus.
These movements are conventionally seen as opposites. If you turn on the TV, you will see any number of people automatically saying that these movements have nothing in common; one is religious, the other is secular; they despise each other. And it is true that they have despised each other and have committed mutual massacres on a gigantic scale.
It is useful to point out the ways in which these two movements resemble each other. The totalitarian movements in Europe also were different one from the other, and sometimes were at war with one another, and yet there were underlying similarities.
In the case of Baathism and Islamism, these similarities are easy to see. There is a people of God. The people of God should be described as the “true Muslims” in the case of the Islamists, or as the “true Arabs” in the case of the Baath. The people of God are afflicted by internal corruptors within Muslim society. These internal corruptors are the Jews or the Masons or the Muslim hypocrites.
The people of God are afflicted by sinister external foes, Western imperialists or the worldwide Zionist conspiracy. The people of God will resist these internal foes and external foes in a gigantic war of Armageddon. This war will be the liberation of Jerusalem or it will be the jihad.
Afterwards the reign of purity will be established and this reign of purity is described in the case of both of those movements in the same way: it is the re-resurrection of the Caliphate of the seventh century in the years after the Prophet Mohammed. The Caliphate is described by each of these movements in a slightly different way. For the Islamists, it means the reinstating of Shar’iah or Qur’anic law. For the Baathists the emphasis is secular; it is the recreating, the resurrecting, of the Arab empire when the Arab empire was on the march.
Finally, these two movements have lacked for nothing in the realm of practical achievement – killing millions. In the last twenty years, several million people have been killed in the course of the Iran-Iraq war, which pitted one of these movements against the other — the mass human wave suicide attacks on the part of the Iranian Islamists against the cult of cruelty, and of chemical weapons on the part of the Baathists. It is estimated that between one and a half million and two million people were killed in Sudan; 100,000 are thought killed in Algeria over the last several years.
It is conventionally said that in these movements today we face nothing like Hitler or Stalin, but statistically this is not true.
9) The success of Muslim totalitarianism has depended on liberal naïveté — in fact, blindness. The eyes of the world have not been on these millions who have been killed in the last twenty years.
Always the liberals all over the world have wanted to describe these movements as in some way rational and conventional, as movements based on grievances — “The movements are anti-Zionist, and isn’t it the case that Israel has often been at fault?” “The movements are anti-American, and isn’t it the case that the United States has often been at fault?”
And these grievances do exist, but the effort to take them seriously tends often to distort their madness in such a way as to make it unrecognizable, for totalitarian doctrines are always mad. The Nazis thought they were engaged in a biological struggle. The Stalinists thought they were the proletariat and their enemies were the bourgeois exploiters. The Baathists and Islamists see a cosmic Zionist-Crusader conspiracy.
It is important to keep a sense of the madness in these ideas, even if it is true that in the years after World War I some Germans were oppressed outside of the borders of Germany, and Israel and the U.S. have done bad things.
10) All of the totalitarian movements were at bottom ideological movements, not based on a normal sense of grievances of political claims or expression of real-life interests, but movements based on ideological visions.
Each of these movements in the past was defeated not militarily but ideologically. World War II was violent and military, but although D-Day was important, de-Nazification was the actual victory. The defeat of Nazism militarily would not have been all that helpful if Germany, which is inherently an extremely wealthy and powerful society, had continued to remain a society of millions and millions of convinced Nazis.
The same is true now. The struggle we are involved in now has, had, and will continue to have a military aspect, but this aspect must be secondary to the ideological aspect, to the war of ideas.
The basic danger we are facing now is not weapons of mass destruction, per se, because we know very well that box cutters can be lethal weapons of the worst sort. The danger that we face is not inherently military; it’s not armies in the conventional sense. It is above all ideological. As long as millions of people are committed fanatically to doctrines that are ultimately mad and that follow in the tradition of the totalitarian madnesses of Europe in the twentieth century, the danger persists.
I maintain that the struggle we are involved in is, or ought to be, ultimately a war of ideas.
JOANNE MYERS: I would like to open the floor to questions.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: A fascinating rendition of history. The problem underlying all of these movements that have done so much damage in the world is that they are the result of liberalism. Liberalism, therefore, because of its very nature of considering a wide spectrum of good and evil, as opposed to taking a position on one side, is very negative and probably should be considered unacceptable in the war of ideas. Liberals have fomented some of the major problems in the history of the world.
I’d like your comments.
PAUL BERMAN: I agree with you up until your final conclusion. Liberalism in the broadest sense, the notion of a liberal society, does in fact generate these movements.
I am not the first to make that observation. In The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper explains at length, in a book written or completed in 1943, a very evocative date, that the notion of freedom itself, which he traces back to Greece, inspires a rebellion of fear against it.
There is a relation between liberal society and its enemies, and that liberalism does inspire these movements of rebellion, and has inherently a difficulty in coping with them. If that is what you are suggesting, I agree completely.
We must recognize, first, that liberalism itself does bear some responsibility for the rise of these movements, and then bears a responsibility for failing to recognize them and to engage with them.
At a time of war people want to wave a flag and say, “these are the totally good guys and those are the totally bad guys.” I am with you on saying “those are the totally bad guys.” But about saying “these are the totally good guys” I have a moment of reservation.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with fellow intellectuals in Europe? How do they respond to your thesis, they who have suffered from Nazism and Franco and Communism, and yet seem so naïve when it comes to understanding what the United States is trying to do to combat the dangerous ideologies in the Islamic world?
How can we find again a common basis with the Europeans and others, and with Muslims all over the world, to transform this Armageddon-directed Islamism, militant Islamism, into a more open society?
PAUL BERMAN: I’m sorry to say that in the current issue of the New York Review of Books I’ve been hanged by Ian Buruma, who takes the occasion to observe that he is Dutch-born and expresses a lot of resentment at some implicit analyses of contemporary Europe that he finds in my book. So there are some tensions.
I was at a conference in Paris last summer where the tensions between some of the American and European intellectuals were in fact quite great.
At the same time, my book occupies a strange place in this debate because it has already been criticized for being anti-European and having a naïve American nationalism implicit in it.
The ideas that I have just expounded, come, insofar as they aren’t my own, from Popper in some degree, from Albert Camus, and especially André Glucksmann, the French philosopher, who in his hugely unappreciated book of 1991, Le Onzième Commandement, which is his answer to Francis Fukuyama, lays out some aspects of this notion of the Book of Revelation as an Ur myth underlying modern totalitarianism.
I just had this same discussion with a reporter from Le Monde, who called to ask me if I wasn’t anti-European, based on what she had read about my book in the New York Review. I said, “I don’t think so because all my ideas are actually French, except that I have given them a different twist.”
The great chasm that has opened up between the United States and Western Europe, at least, is much more conjunctural, much more a matter of chance events, than it is anything deeper or structural. I disagree with Robert Kagan on this point. Much of it is the fault of George Bush and could have been avoided.
In France, before the Iraq war, a poll showed that 33 percent of the French supported the war. Of those 33 percent, most were on the Right, some were on the Left. But apart from the 33 percent, the polls showed consistently that the single most admired politician in France is Bernard Kouchner, who was a socialist, Mitterand’s Minister of Health, NATO Administrator in Kosovo, and long ago had been the founder of Doctors Without Borders. Kushner supported the war.
So if you figure that the most popular politician in France, who is a socialist, supported the war, 33 percent of the population supported the war, most of whom were on the Right, meaning that you could have got much support on the Left, all you had to do was convince 9 percent of the French to change their opinion and you would have had a majority of France in favor of the war. The popular support for the war in France is much above that in Spain, where Aznar did support the war.
If Bush had presented the arguments for the war along the lines that a Bernard Kouchner would have proposed, if he had argued for the war as a further extension of what NATO had done in the Balkans finally in the Kosovo war, he would have been able to carry that extra 9 percent in France, and if Chirac saw that even a small majority was leaning in favor of the war, he would have found a way to interpret the international situation rather differently.
World War II was an age of giants, of Roosevelt and Churchill. Today we have Churchill but we don’t have Roosevelt and we don’t have de Gaulle. I attribute the breach between the United States and Europe above all to these errors of Bush.
QUESTION: Would you give us your views on the modalities by which an ideological struggle can be conducted? It is difficult for outsiders to argue with or conduct an ideological debate with the Muslim world. An ideological debate must occur within a community.
PAUL BERMAN: First, it’s a mistake to regard Muslims as outsiders to the West. In many respects the intellectual capital of the Arab world is Paris and London, where you have the freest press and the most open debate. The leading philosopher of the most moderate, fairly reasonable wing of modern Islamism is a Swiss professor who is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Second, the founders of the Muslim totalitarian movements, the most important theoreticians, like Sayyid Qutb in the case of radical Islamism, or Michel Aflaq in the case of Baathism, are Western-educated intellectuals.
A quarter of my book is devoted to the writings of Sayyid Qutb, born in 1906, hanged by Nassar in 1966. During his many years in prison he wrote a gigantic commentary of the Qur’an. It looks strictly Islamic and Qur’anic, but if you sit back and look at the ideas, it’s not hard to recognize a bit of Heidegger, of existentialism, all of the familiar doctrines of modern European philosophy.
And this guy knew what he was doing. He did not come up with totally modern ideas strictly out of the seventh-century Qur’an. He did succeed in finding a Qur’anic language to express these ideas, but this writer does not live on a different planet or come from a different universe than the intellectuals of New York or Paris or London.
If my analysis is correct, I don’t mean to deny a distinctly regional and denominational aspect of Muslim totalitarianism. I am happy to acknowledge the differences between Egypt and Italy, or for that matter Egypt and its immediate neighbors. But if the fundamentals of my analysis are correct, then all of these movements reflect the intellectual currents of the twentieth century coming out of the nineteenth century, and it is a great mistake on our part to think that the intellectuals behind these movements are coming from a different universe.
So we can argue with these people directly. And we shouldn’t assume that they are not reading us or would not be willing to read us. I came on the works of Qutb prowling the Islamic bookstores of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. There is every reason to think that the other people prowling those bookstores, who might have a different ethnic origin than my own, are nonetheless reading some of the same books that I am reading, and that the gap between us and them is not so great.
QUESTION: You describe the totalitarian forces as the people of God in their minds. Do you not think that this concept is slightly different in this context, because one could say that about an aspect of what is going on in this country? After all, there is a rather large segment of people in this country who have affected policy who call themselves the Christian Right. They believe in Armageddon, Revelation.
There is this aspect in what you would characterize as the liberalism force as also the people of God. Our President has said that God is on our side. This is slightly different from the analysis that you presented of all the other contexts.
PAUL BERMAN: An excellent question. I have two responses.
First, it is not true that everyone who calls himself a fundamentalist is the same. The mainstream of American Christian fundamentalism has, even if they allow themselves flights of fancy, political goals, such as prayer in schools, the end of the right to abortion, etc.
Maybe if they were given free rein, they would lose control of themselves and the goals would multiply. I don’t rule that out.
The mainstream of these people are not dreaming of abolishing the U.S. Constitution and replacing it with a theocracy. It’s a limited movement.
However, there are groups like the David Koresh cult and certain kinds of cults that arise on the fringe of the American Christian fundamentalist movement that have this idea. If you could picture one of those cults becoming a mass movement led by David Koresh, then you would have something much more like radical Islamism, or the Taliban.
One of Bush’s worst failures is that he is so locked into a conventional American understanding of Christianity and its role in American politics that he has no idea whatsoever how this plays in the rest of the world. He hasn’t the faintest idea that to European ears when he evokes God he sounds like a fascist. He knows he is not a fascist, and most Americans know that he is not a fascist, that he doesn’t want to overthrow the Constitution.
But the language he is using is not so different from a language that you can trace among American politicians way back into the nineteenth century and is well understood both on the Right and the Left.
So when we hear Bush invoking his Christian faith and saying “God bless America,” we shrug. But to many people around the world, in Europe especially, this is language that only a follower of Franco would use.
Bush has no idea how badly he has weakened the United States internationally by using this language and how badly he has weakened the struggle ideologically. After all, the most important thing that we want to do is persuade millions of people in the Muslim world that Islam is excellent but what they want to establish is a secular society which is not theocratic, which has the qualities of a liberal society, and that there is a fine and esteemed place for religion within it. Bush sounds like a Christian Crusader, exactly the worst fantasy of the Islamists and Baathists who are against the United States.
QUESTION: Paul, I would like to make a defense of liberalism. You’re conflating the failure of nerve of liberals in the 1930s to stand up against Hitler, and then later to see the treacheries of Stalin. But just because these movements identify themselves as opposition to liberalism is no discredit to liberalism.
How do you expect this next phase of our confrontation with the Islamic world to be a struggle of ideas? When has liberalism been able to persuade others to give up their ways? The liberal society of the North couldn’t even persuade the South to give up its ways. And in every encounter that liberalism has had in the twentieth century, it was a winning philosophy. Liberalism prevailed over fascism, over Communism, and what the Islamic world now faces is that they are isolated and in a state of desperation, backwardness and poverty.
Oscar Wilde said, “How do you reason someone out of what they have not reasoned into?”
PAUL BERMAN: They have not reasoned their way into it. When you read some of the theoreticians of these movements, you see that they are quite intelligent, and that people reasoned their way into fascism, Nazism, and Communism, and then they reasoned their way out of those movements.
In the case of Communism, the liberal world engaged in an excellent war of ideas, which, in Europe at least, meant that Communism collapsed, outside of Romania, in an entirely peaceful way, which is the ideal solution to the problem. And it was done largely through a war of ideas, that liberals of the Left and Right upheld their ideas. Liberal movements eventually began to spring up within the Communist societies, and some of the Communists themselves began to question their ideas in the face of these criticisms.
Communism has always contained something of a contradictory element, going back to Marx, who was partly wrong but partly right. The intellectual aspect of the Cold War in Europe was huge.
In the case of the Islamists and Baathists, again they are not so remote from us. Ultimately, they have to be reasoned with.
The whole history of totalitarian movements up to now has been one in which liberalism has finally triumphed, and so there is reason to feel some deep confidence about this. One actually has to go out and engage in this fight, which is largely intellectual.
There are two obstacles that exist, that make it difficult for us to engage in this fight.
One is a liberal naïveté, which has always been the case in regard to totalitarian movements, where one doesn’t want to believe that these movements are as bad as they are and one finds reasons for saying that they are reasonable and, therefore, not to take them seriously.
The other obstacle is the belief in the clash of civilizations, which attributes to the Muslim world an exoticism, that might lead us to suppose that we can’t argue with them because they come from another planet.
We must avoid the naïveté of failing to recognize what some of these movements represent and the dangers they pose and the crimes that they have already committed, and we must avoid the belief that there is no way we can speak to these people because they come from such a faraway place.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much.
ISIL could pose threat to US, Europe, officials say
The group is now considered “the most potent military force” of any terrorist outfit in the world
August 15, 2014
U.S. air strikes not « breaking the threat » of ISIL: Pentagon
U.S. counterterrorism officials have dramatically ramped up their warnings about the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), concluding that the well-armed group is expanding its ambitions outside the Middle East and may be planning terror attacks against western Europe — and even the U.S. homeland.
ISIL’s conquest of vast swaths of Iraqi territory this spring and summer netted it a “significant” arsenal of U.S. weapons from two Iraqi military bases, including hundreds of tanks, heavily armored Humvees, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, officials say. One U.S official tells Yahoo News ISIL is now considered “the most potent military force” of any terrorist group in the world.
Led by its charismatic chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the radical Islamist group is looking beyond its short-term goal of overthrowing the Iraqi and Syrian governments and replacing them with a self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. “We’re seeing an expansion of its external terrorist ambitions,” one U.S. counterterrorism official said in a briefing for reporters Thursday. “As its capabilities grow, it has attracted thousands of foreign extremists — some of whom are going home to start cells. As it carves out territory [in Iraq], it wants to go beyond that and do attacks outside. ” U.S. counterterrorism agencies had put the number of ISIL fighters at about 10,000, but that figure is now being reassessed and is likely to be raised, officials say.
Just four years ago the group, then calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, was scattered and on the run from American forces, aided by Sunni tribes horrified by the group’s often grotesque violence. Its reign has been marked by summary executions, ritual stonings, beheadings and even crucifixions.
What fueled its resurgence? Officials say the group fed off Sunni resentment over the Shia-dominated government of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who announced his resignation Thursday night. It took advantage of the power vacuum in northern Iraq to seize large chunks of essentially ungoverned territory. It saw an opportunity in recruiting prisoners; in July 2013, its suicide bombers blew their way into the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, freeing up to 500 inmates, including al-Qaida leaders.
These demonstrable successes gave the group new credibility among jihadis around the world, especially after it joined the civil war in Syria and changed its name to ISIL. (It has at times also been known as ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.) It has since changed its name again to the Islamic State after proclaiming itself a caliphate, the latest in a succession of Muslim empires dating back to the seventh century. Its ranks were soon swelled by foreigners, including hundreds of followers of the red-bearded Chechen militant Omar al-Shishani, a former Georgian army sergeant known for his deep hatred of America.
Concerns about terrorism spilling over from Syria and Iraq hit home in June when French police arrested an « armed jihadi » who had just returned from Syria in connection with the May 24 killing of four people — including two Israeli tourists — at a Jewish Center in Brussels.
Since then, authorities in Europe have broken up terror cells linked to ISIL, including one in Kosovo where officials this week arrested 40 suspects who had returned from Iraq and Syria—including some who had fought with ISIL — and seized weapons and explosives in dozens of locations.
ISIL and its followers have also proven adept at using social media, making a steady barrage of threats against the West, including the United States.
“Probably most striking are the threats on Twitter,” said a U.S. official who monitors the postings. “We’ve seen tens of thousands of postings by ten of thousands of people supporting ISIL, making threats to blow up U.S. Embassies. » One posting showed an ISIL banner apparently superimposed on an image of the White House.
It is still unclear how real those threats are, at least while ISIL is focused on its war with the Iraqi government. And the resignation of the deeply unpopular Maliki could allow for more U.S.-Iraqi cooperation in the fight against the insurgents.
But increasingly, officials say, ISIL has the perception of momentum. For the first time there are signs that some jihadis linked to al-Qaidaare expressing sympathy, if not allegiance, to ISIL — despite al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri’s disavowal of the group.
One thing ISIL does not lack is funds. The group has seized banks, accumulating vast amounts of cash and raking in more by selling oil and other commodities to smugglers. ISIL “is flush with cash. It has plenty of money. They control oil fields, they have refiners. They have hundreds of millions of dollars,” said one U.S. analyst at the Thursday briefing.
And it is exceptionally well armed. When ISIL forces assaulted two Iraqi military bases, Camp Speicher and Rasheed Air Base, in July, they got the keys to the kingdom — hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of American tanks, armored personal carriers, howitzers and other equipment. ISIL fighters have posed for videos brandishing MANPADS, shoulder-launched surface to air missiles that can shoot down low-flying aircraft.
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is …
“They’ve got enough supplies, equipment and ammunition to last them five years,” said John Maguire, a former top CIA officer in Iraq who retains close ties to the Kurdish regional government. Thanks in part to assistance from former Iraqi military officers who have defected to ISIL, “they know how to operate American equipment.”
What they also have, at least for the moment, is a de facto safe haven. Al-Baghdadi — who officials say sees himself as the true successor to Osama bin Laden — is believed to be constantly on the move. But ISIL appears to have established a headquarters in Raqqa in northern Syria, where the group’s black banners reportedly fly over administrative buildings.
Given that President Obama has placed sharp limits on U.S. airstrikes and confined them to Iraq, that effectively makes Baghdadi and his top deputies — almost all of whom were once in U.S. custody — off-limits to U.S. military action. The Raqqa safe haven “is a problem,” acknowledged one U.S. official.
The bottom line, U.S. counterterrorism officials say, is that new strategies are urgently needed to counter the surging ISIL threat. In the briefing for reporters Thursday, one senior official made the point in the most understated way possible: “We don’t assess at the moment this [the threat from ISIL] is something that will collapse on its own.”
TEA LEAF NATION
China Sees Islamic State Inching Closer to Home
Chinese media lights up after a Hong Kong weekly says IS aims to expand into Xinjiang.
August 11, 2014
They’ve been grabbing headlines nearly everywhere else, but the jihadis of northern Iraq haven’t been getting much play in China. But a threat by the Islamic State (IS) of revenge against countries, including China, for seizing what IS calls « Muslim rights » appears to have changed all that. The comments were made in early July, but the news didn’t jump the language barrier from Arabic into Mandarin until August 8, when Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong-based newsmagazine widely distributed in China, made the IS revenge threats against China its cover story. Since then, the article has been widely syndicated on Chinese news websites and has gained traction on social media as well. Ordinary Chinese who may have felt distant from the carnage now feel it creeping closer to home.
The glossy cover of the Phoenix issue features a picture of masked gun-toting jihadis advancing through a desert landscape. The piece inside sounds the alarm over a July 4 speech in Mosul, Iraq, by IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in which he urged Muslims around the world to pledge their allegiance to him. It quotes Baghdadi saying that « Muslim rights are forcibly seized in China, India, Palestine » and more than a dozen other countries and regions. « Your brothers all over the world are waiting for your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades, » Baghdadi told his followers. Phoenix noted that China was mentioned first on Baghdadi’s list. (The article also includes a map that some news reports have said shows the vast territory IS plans to occupy in the next five years, which appears to include a significant portion of Xinjiang. Although the authenticity of the map, which was widely shared on English-language social media sites in early July, has been questioned, the Phoenix piece reports it as fact.)
Online, Chinese are both agitated and bemused. One Chinese reader wrote on the social media site Weibo:
« This is good. It offends all five of the hooligans on the UN Security Council » — that is, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — which means the IS jihadis « are going to be roadkill. » Anotherresponded to a photo of Baghdadi: « Looking at this bearded pervert makes me sick. Hurry up and incinerate this kind of trash, and send him to enjoy his 72 virgins in heaven. » A third wrote that ISIS seemed to have « a death wish, » but that people should be grateful because the jihadist group was giving Beijing « a reasoned and evidence-based opportunity to crack down on terrorist activities. »
This may constitute a welcome opening for Chinese authorities. China has been fighting a low-level separatist insurgency of its own in Xinjiang for decades and worries that foreign Islamic groups are infiltrating the region, emboldening the simmering independence movement. Uighur exile groups say China’s government overstates its terrorism problem and falsely paints protests that turn into riots as premeditated terror attacks. In any case, Beijing is likely alarmed by IS’s criticism of its treatment of the Muslim Uighurs and the group’s alleged plan to seize Xinjiang, no matter how far-fetched the idea might be. But just how actively authorities will deal with any IS threat remains to be seen.
Beijing has consistently tried to keep itself removed from the political and military crises roiling Iraq, even as China has poured billions of dollars into Iraqi oil, enough that about 10 percent of its oil imports come from the Middle Eastern country. China’s most decisive action since ISIS’s surge has been to evacuate 10,000 Chinese working in Iraq. On July 8, Chinese special envoy Wu Sike met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and pledged anti-terror support, but added that Beijing would fully respect the country’s sovereignty. When Wu returned to Beijing he briefed reporters about the trip on July 29, telling them that China was a victim of terror with roots in Syria and Iraq. « Solving the conflicts in Iraq and Syria will benefit China and the entire world, » he said.
But Beijing’s reaction to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq betrays its conflicted allegiances. China usually bristles at or condemns U.S. intervention in global hot spots and has opposed U.S. sanctions against Sudan, Syria, Russia, and Iran. But the interests of Washington and Beijing are unusually closely aligned when it comes to Iraq. On August 8, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesperson as saying that China was « keeping an open mind » about operations that would « help maintain security and stability » in Iraq. The statement came in response to a request for comment on U.S. President Barack Obama’sannouncement that the United States would carry out airstrikes against insurgents in northern Iraq. Wang Chong, a researcher at Charhar Institute, a public diplomacy think tank in Beijing, wrote on Weibo that he « firmly supported » the U.S. crackdown on IS. Wang added that the United States « ought to send ground troops to wipe out those brutal terrorists » and that if there was a need, « China could also send troops to help and provide training. »
That’s possible — within limits. Zhu Weilie, director of the Middle East Studies Institute at Shanghai International Studies University, toldthe state-run Global Times on July 29 that China believes the United Nations should lead anti-terror operations in the Middle East. « China will be more actively involved in these efforts but will never be as involved in Middle East affairs as the United States, » he said.
Hezbollah sees Islamic State insurgents as threat to Gulf, Jordan
Beirut Aug 15, 2014
(Reuters) – The Hezbollah leader described the radical Islamist movement that has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria as a growing « monster » that could threaten Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states, according to an interview printed on Friday.
In a separate speech, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Islamic State also posed an existential threat to his own nation, Lebanon, the target of an incursion by Islamist insurgents fromSyria this month. He said his heavily armed Shi’ite Muslim group was ready to fight the threat in Lebanon – if required.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight a Sunni Islamist-dominated insurgency that spilled into the Lebanese border town of Arsal on Aug. 2, triggering five days of battles between the Lebanese army and militants including members of Islamic State.
« Here we live, and – if the battle is imposed on us – here we fight and here we will be martyred, » said Nasrallah. Hezbollah said it stayed out of the Arsal battle, wary of inflaming sectarian tensions with Lebanese Sunnis, many of whom have supported the uprising against Assad.
Nasrallah was speaking on the eighth anniversary of the conclusion of Hezbollah’s one-month war with Israel.
Addressing the wider threat to the region from Islamic State, Nasrallah said it could easily recruit in other Arab states where its hardline ideology exists. Even Turkey, the passage for many foreign fighters into Syria, should beware.
« Wherever there are followers of the ideology there is ground for (Islamic State), and this exists in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait and the Gulf states, » Nasrallah said in the interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
Nasrallah, whose group is backed by Shi’ite power Iran, said Islamic State was encountering resistance in some parts of Iraq and Syria. But « it appears that the capabilities, numbers and capacities available to (Islamic State) are vast and large. This is what is worrying everyone, and everyone should be worried. »
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim monarchy that has been in a state of cold war with Shi’iteIran and its allies, has shown growing signs of alarm about the spread of Islamic State. Last month, it deployed 30,000 soldiers at its border with Iraq.
Saudi Arabia has also been a major sponsor of the anti-Assad uprising.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria has helped Assad beat back the rebellion against his rule in critical areas of the country including Damascus and a corridor of territory stretching north from the capital. But large parts of Syria’s less densely populated north and east have fallen to Islamic State.
« A REAL DANGER »
« This danger does not recognise Shi’ites, Sunnis, Muslims, Christians or Druze or Yazidis or Arabs or Kurds. This monster is growing and getting bigger, » said Nasrallah.
Nasrallah reiterated his defence of Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian conflict, the focus of criticism from Lebanese opponents who say the group has provoked Sunni militant attacks in Lebanon.
Most recently, insurgents including members of Islamic State seized the town of Arsal at the Syrian border, battling the Lebanese army for five days before withdrawing with 19 soldiers and 17 policemen as captives.
Nasrallah said the insurgents would have advanced as far as the Lebanese coast were it not for Hezbollah’s role fighting them in areas of Syria just east of the Lebanese border.
« Going to fight in Syria was, in the first degree, to defend Lebanon, the resistance in Lebanon, and all Lebanese, » he said.
A Hezbollah commander was last month killed in Iraq near Mosul, a city seized by Islamic State in June, suggesting the group may also be helping pro-government forces there.
Hezbollah has not officially announced any role in Iraq.
Nasrallah linked the threat posed by Islamic State to the spread of Wahhabism, a puritanical school of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia that demands obedience to the ruler but which has been widely blamed for fuelling Sunni radicalism.
« (Islamic State) does not have borders. There is a real danger and a real fear among many states and authorities, because one of the advantages of this organisation is its capacity to recruit among followers of al Qaeda-Wahhabi thought, » he said.
(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Editing by Mark Heinrich)