"All modern thought can be reduced to a mechanical denunciation of the West, emphasising (its) hypocrisy, violence and abomination. The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed". - Pascal Bruckner
You know, I'd be rather more amenable to this kind of chat if, say, we in the west had responded to 9/11 and various other terrorist outrages by sending Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar some frosted cheesecake and a thank-you card.
Bruckner's ideas - as expounded and heartily endorsed by people who should know better - mark a bathetic new low point in the development of white-guy rage into a semi-coherent and increasingly respectable philosophy based on blubbing self-pity and belligerent indifference to reality.
Let's just grant the idea that there are all too many people in the west who react to terrorist outrages by finding inventive ways to make it all the Americans' fault. Those of us who waste much of our lives online have argued with people like this and what they lack in numbers, they make up for in tenacity.
Let's also grant that, as Anthony and Cohen both say, loads of awful liberals said that Al-Qaeda attacked the Twin Towers and the London Underground in retaliation for American and British military activity abroad.* Hell, let's go the whole hog and just say that, as the lunatic Independent reviewer contends, "the Left" celebrated the 9/11 attacks and weren't upset in the least by the Madrid and London bombings.
Well then, what?
I notice that neither ourselves nor the United States have allowed this treachery to impede our policy of launching extremely violent, insane and unwinnable wars, nor of imprisoning vast numbers in secret prisons on confidential charges. If the horrible, self-hating guilt Bruckner describes is so all-pervading, what would a confident west have done? Invaded Iran? Nuked Cairo?
You really have to wonder who this stuff is supposed to convince. Perhaps the answer is None-too-bright book reviewers.
A couple of further points occur - maybe, if you've spent the best part of a decade pretending that the word understand is a synonym for condone and cheerlead and people still aren't joining in, it's time to change tack?
And there's a very good reason why people are wary of political theories of the type that can be encapsulated in the sentence We need to be harsher on the ethnics. If you think it's because they feel guilty because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, you should probably stay away from sharp objects and hot liquids, since you are for real too stupid to avoid accidentally impaling yourself through the groin with a boiling kettle and a chisel.
*It'd be wise to accept this, not least since Al-Qaeda themselves told the world that this is why they did it. I don't rule out the possibility that this was merely a propaganda move, but painting what the terrorists themselves actually say their motives were as the pinnacle of anti-western hatred seems a little... How would the French put it? Cretineuse? Idiotique?
If Anthony and Cohen both correctly mock the notion that 9/11 was a justified act of retaliation for American adventurism, why do we think that neither of them realise that their contention - basically, that Al-Qaeda did it because Sayyid Qutb didn't like Americans dancing in the fifties - is just an equal and opposite stupidity?