New war the result of a timeless clash - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

New war the result of a timeless clash

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Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2004 10:22 pm | Updated: 6:15 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Can’t they put something new on TV?

Last year on the third Wednesday in March, cameras were trained on Baghdad, where bombs were exploding.

This year on the third Wednesday in March, cameras were trained on Baghdad, where bombs are still exploding.

Last year’s bombs and this year’s bombs differ as to their source and intended effect.

Last year’s bombs came from Americans. The first ones they dropped that night targeted Saddam Hussein.

This year’s bombs come from people who hate Americans, though the carnage in Iraq has been pretty indiscriminate with regard to nationality. The people who hate Americans are trying with their bombs to sow short-term chaos with long-term tranquility in view.

That is, they want the kind of tranquility the Taliban can bring — the Islamic extremist’s vision of paradise on Earth.

We are focused now on Islamic extremists because they’ve made the most noise of late. But it turns out they are but the latest host of a virulent old idea that some are calling Occidentalism.

“Occidentalism” is the title of a brand-new book published by Penguin Press. It was written by a couple of scholars named Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. They define Occidentalism as a hatred of all that is represented by Western civilization. Some of those things are personal liberty, urbanization, affluence and the power of reason over superstition.

What’s under attack, then, is a set of ideas and ideals centuries in the making. True, the ideals can be warped and misused. They can devolve into hedonism, materialism, selfishness, imperialism, cultural mediocrity, extreme hubris and the loss of spiritual values. They don’t have to devolve that way, but when they do that’s what the anti-Western mind locks in on.

Thus, the trains in Spain can be a target, or a disco in Bali. Or even the much-loathed France, which eschewed George Bush’s war but is still threatened by Islamists angered by its ban on religious garb in schools.

Over the years, Western civilization has been assailed not merely by Islamists but by extremists of all stripes. Nazis and fascists, Communists and right-wing Christians — all would bring down the West if they could.

Here, for example, is what Jerry Falwell told Pat Robertson as the rubble still burned in New York City:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ ”

Falwell later apologized but he clearly spoke what was in his heart. He would make a fine member of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, word came down on Wednesday that Steven Spielberg wants to make a new movie out of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”

He needn’t bother. We already have a war like that. Right now, it looks endless.

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