Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left|
by David Horowitz
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|A Review of: Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left
by Ron Stang
Is there anyone better able to dissect the contemporary U.S. Left
than David Horowitz? After all, it takes one-at least who used to
be one-to know one. And like a whole slew of former Leftists over
the last 30 years (Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Ronald Radosh,
Sidney Hook, and Horowitz's sometimes writing mate, Peter Collier,
among others), when these folks critique the Left, they know of
what they speak because they've been there. They know the ideological
code words, frames of thought, and rhetoric.
But more than others, Horowitz has made something of a career of
his intellectual odyssey from Left to Right, from serving as one
of the foremost exponents of New Left radicalism in the 1960s as
an editor of Ramparts magazine and in his close association with
the revolutionary Black Panther movement, to acting as a Ronald
Reagan backer in the 1980s and continuing as conservative ideologue
(as publisher of the online magazine FrontPage) and as a crusader
against "politically correct" university speech codes and
affirmative action programs. He was once described as "the
most hated ex-radical of his generation."
This journey has been chronicled in books like Destructive Generation:
Second Thoughts About the 60s (with Collier), a critique of the New
Left, and Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, a biographical journey
from "Red Diaper Baby" in a Communist household to
modern-day conservative and human rights activist. (Those who don't
follow the ideological wars may know him for co-authoring such
landmark books as The Rockefellers and The Kennedys.)
It's no wonder Horowitz is a prime Left target. For one thing, the
Left never forgives those who abandon it. And could it be otherwise,
since in book after book over the past decade (The Politics of Bad
Faith, Left Illusions, and The Hate America Left, among others) he
has unceasingly attacked the Left's ideological underpinnings and
practices, from its collaboration with totalitarian Communist regimes
like North Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Cuba, to its opposition to
liberal-democratic governments like those of the United States and
other western powers that are seemingly more representative of the
Left's values in upholding "human rights" and
Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left continues his
hammering of the Left. But it is of the post- 9/11 Left, and that
makes it particularly significant in a world remade politically
after the events of September 11, when the West was awakened to
confront the new and ruthless enemy of radical Islam.
In one sense, Unholy Alliance's critique is in the vein of the
author's earlier works: he makes wide-canvas accusations that the
Left has had a lot to answer for-for its official alignments with,
and sympathetic support for, unsavoury totalitarian regimes and
movements abroad, whether of the former Soviet Union or Pol Pot;
on the domestic front he accuses the Left of siding with radical
gay activists who lobbied to thwart tough public health measures
such as the closing of gay bathhouses in the 1980s that likely would
have slowed the spread of AIDS.
In the post-9/11 world the threat may be new (specifically, radical
Islam and its desire to impose an imperial caliphate in place of
Cold War Communism's worldwide imperial classless ambitions), but
for the Left, according to Horowitz, it's the same old story. As
implied by the book's title, the Left today, again contradicting
its lip service about equality and human rights, has generally been
non-critical-if not directly supportive-of anti-democratic regimes
and movements, from Palestinian terror groups to the former government
of Saddam Hussein itself, and against liberal democracies like the
United States, Great Britain, and Israel.
Indeed, Horowitz's argument in this book is clear and cogent. For
example, whatever possessed the Left, within days of the World Trade
Center and Pentagon bombings, to rally opposition to any U.S.
retaliation against the perpetrators? Between September 11 and 30,
"before a shot was fired" in response, Horowitz says,
there were 247 anti-war demonstrations in the United States and
overseas, and approximately 150 peace vigils and teach-in protests
across the country. If the Left denounced the attacks at all, the
criticism was often muted and qualified by rationalisations that
America should look at the "root causes" such as the
country's supposed imperial activities abroad. Perhaps most notorious
among all those who took this position was author and intellectual
Susan Sontag, who said of the 9/11 hijackers, "whatever may
be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not
Once America did respond with the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan,
the U.S. Government, in many Left circles, was immediately denounced
for its "imperialism" and for waging a "racist"
war. Horowitz writes, "Within weeks of the most heinous attack
on America in its history, radicals had turned their own country
into the villain." Criticism of the invasion aside, where,
Horowitz asks, was the Left in at least condemning a totalitarian
Islamic regime (the Taliban which harboured Osama bin Laden and Al
Qaeda) "that oppressed women, homosexuals and non-Muslims and
that consequently should have been repellent to (the Left's) own
values." Horowitz says that, from both angles, this was a
"defining moment" for the U.S. Left, "analogous to
its response to the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939,"
when the Left of that era opposed the "militarist" policies
of Britain and the U.S against Nazi Germany.
But it wasn't until the U.S. started contemplating the invasion of
Iraq that the wellspring of opposition truly gained force. Horowitz,
for his part, takes the same position on Iraq as on Afghanistan-in
other words that both invasions were justified-and condemns Left
opposition equally. "As in Afghanistan, the United States was
undertaking a regime change in Iraq that the Left might be expected
to support," he argues. After all Saddam's Ba'ath Party was
modelled after the Nazi Party, Saddam was a mass murderer who had
invaded two countries, had used poison gas against his own people
(the Kurds and Shi'ites), had harboured notorious terrorists like
Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal, and had actively financed the families of
Palestinian suicide bombers. Six months before the invasion the
demonstrations, numbering in the hundreds of thousands around the
world, were larger than in the first six years of protest against
the Vietnam War.
Moreover, Horowitz points out, the anti-war protests were notable
for their one-sidedness. Only America was denounced as a "rogue"
or "terrorist" state and for desiring "blood for
oil" with slogans comparing it to Nazi Germany. By contrast,
Al Qaeda and radical Islam were not at all targets of the demonstrators'
ire. Horowitz concludes, "The international left had become
frontier guards for Saddam and the Islamic jihad."
But Unholy Alliance is more than a simple critique of the anti-war
and anti-U.S. Left. It harks back to Horowitz's previous book, The
Politics of Bad Faith, which depicts the Left as a "Gnostic"
religious movement whose idealism is rooted in the quest for a world
vastly superior to the capitalist liberal democracies extant in the
United States. For this reason, the Left sides with "victims"
of capitalism and opposition regimes, no matter how tyrannical, in
order to overthrow Western regimes and impose an egalitarian communist
Horowitz maintains that the contemporary anti-war Left has largely
been propelled by these same "Marxist" goals. But, he
asks, what does it say about these ideological "secessionists"
from traditional American values, who side with an enemy, radical
Islam, that "has condemned every American-regardless of race,
gender, age or creed-to death?" It reveals, he answers, "a
loathing-which is really a self-loathing-for their country and its
One problem I have with the book is that Horowitz doesn't really
distinguish among those people broadly against the war-who might
actually number close to half the U.S. population-and many of the
organizers of the anti-war demonstrations. Many of the Americans
who opposed the war are hardly leftist zealots. They simply weren't
convinced there was enough evidence to invade Iraq, and are shamed
because the military action has sullied what they consider their
country's traditional role as a defender and not "aggressor"
nation. They differ markedly from the protest leaders, including
anti-war organizations such as Act Now to Stop War and Racism
(ANSWER) and Not In Our Name (NION), whose main components included
such groups as the North Korean-aligned Worker's World Party and
Communist Chinese aligned Revolutionary Communist Party.
I have other quibbles, such as Horowitz's brushing over an issue
like the U.S. Government's questionable rights violations of hundreds
of people detained without trial in the aftermath of the terror
attacks, and the sanctioning under the U.S. Patriot Act, which he
otherwise does a good job defending, of allowing secret evidence
Broadly speaking, Horowitz is correct in his condemnation of the
post-9/11 anti-war Left-for its overwhelming biases against the
West, and for forsaking its own values by not condemning the practices
of Islamic regimes. Even if there were legitimate arguments against
the Iraq invasion (e.g. no direct links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam,
and the enormous death toll that resulted from the invasion), the
Left with its conspiratorial hyperbole of "no war for oil"
and charges of Bush simply seeking revenge for an assassination
attempt on his father, is in need of a fundamental re-evaluation
of where it stands on questions of democracy and human rights and
indeed the War on Terror itself. But, as Horowitz has said in this
and other books, the Left seems incapable of revaluating its agenda,
blinded by its own messianic blinkers.