Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"The future belongs to us"

"One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century." said President Obama in response to the murder of James Foley. Ross Douthat doesn't think those who oppose liberal democracy are necessarily on "the wrong side of history" because it is difficult to argue historically that history takes sides.
.... Both illiberal nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism are younger than the United States. They aren’t just throwbacks or relics; they’re counterforces that liberal modernity seems to inevitably conjure up.

So writing off the West’s challengers as purely atavistic is a good way to misunderstand them — and to miss the persistent features of human nature that they exploit, appeal to and reward.

These features include not only the lust for violence and the will to power, but also a yearning for a transcendent cause that liberal societies can have trouble satisfying. ....

Which is why liberalism’s current dominance is contingent rather than necessary, and why its past victories have often been rather near-run things. .... The ideals of democracy and human rights are ascendant in our age, but their advance still depends on agency, strategy and self-sacrifice, no matter what date the calendar displays. (emphasis added) ....

...[T]he most successful counterideologies, the most threatening of liberalism’s rivals, have always managed to give the impression that their ideas are on the winning side of history, and that it is the poor milquetoast liberal democrats who are antique and out of date.
This was obviously true of Marxist-Leninism, but it was true of fascism as well. The fascists were reactionaries, to a point, in their appeals to mythic Roman and Teutonic pasts. But they offered far more than nostalgia: What the late Christopher Hitchens called “the mobilizing energy of fascism” was inseparable from a vision of efficiency, technology and development, one that helped persuade many Europeans (and some Americans) that Mussolini and then even Hitler stood at history’s vanguard, that the future was being forged in Rome and Berlin. .... [more]