Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2001 / 24 Tishrei, 5762

Robert W. Tracinski

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

An empire of ideals -- EVERYONE has finally awakened to the deadly threat posed by terrorism, and some are even willing to admit that the source of this threat is Islamic fundamentalism. But almost no one is prepared to name the long-term answer to that threat. The long-term answer -- the only means by which we can eventually secure world peace -- is cultural imperialism.

"Cultural imperialism" is not exactly the right term. That is a smear-tag created by the academic left, which hates everything good about Western culture and tries to dismiss that culture's world-wide popularity by blaming it on some kind of coercive conspiracy.

The same purpose is served by another leftist smear-tag, "cultural genocide," which sounds like mass-murder but actually refers to people in the Third World choosing to adopt Western manners and attitudes, the poor things. The inventors of these smears are the same people who clamor for a "multicultural" society, ostensibly a society that tolerates many different cultural influences -- except, of course, any influence coming from the West.

The real phenomenon that the phrase "cultural imperialism" refers to is the voluntary adoption of ideas, art and entertainment produced in civilized countries. It refers to the most benevolent kind of "empire" that could be imagined: an empire of common ideals and attitudes; an empire spread purely by voluntary persuasion; an empire whose "conquest" consists of bringing the benefits of civilization to backward regions. Western "cultural imperialism" is the march of progress across the globe.

But woe unto he who suggests that Western culture might be worth spreading. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi learned this when he stated that: "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and -- in contrast with Islamic countries -- respect for religious and political rights."

The reaction was immediate and fierce. The Belgian prime minister scolded that Berlusconi's remarks could have "dangerous consequences." Gosh, they might cause us to overthrow Middle Eastern dictatorships! The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, immediately denounced Berlusconi's statements as "racist" -- an accusation which itself equates race with culture, as if Arabs are biologically determined to embrace theocracy.

Ironically, Moussa got this idea from the West -- that is, from our own hordes of anti-Western intellectuals. One such intellectual expressed the prevailing dogma perfectly: "one cannot speak of the superiority of one culture over another."

What no one challenged, however, was Berlusconi's factual description of the values held by the West versus those held by the Islamic world. Nearly every country in the Middle East is a dictatorship. These countries are wracked with the chronic poverty bred by dictatorship -- with the exception of the rulers, who pocket money from oil reserves discovered, drilled and made valuable by Western technology. All of these countries are overrun -- or are on the verge of being overrun -- by religious fanatics who ruthlessly suppress any manifestation of the pursuit of happiness in this world, from baring one's ankles to watching television.

We broadcast to these oppressed people the Western message of liberty, prosperity and happiness -- in forms as low-brow as "Baywatch" or as sophisticated as the Declaration of Independence. This is the "imperialism" that terrifies Islamic fundamentalists.

They should be terrified -- because they know that in a fair competition, their values cannot win. On the one side, there are the Western values of intellectual freedom, science, prosperity, individual rights and the pursuit of happiness. On the other side, there are the centuries-old scourges of theocracy, superstition, poverty, dictatorship and mass-murder. Is one of these alternatives superior to the other? You bet your life it is.

We must begin a campaign of education designed to export Western values to the barbarous East -- and that campaign must be led by our intellectuals, not denounced by them. This war must be fought with televisions, radios, books and movies -- and by the intransigently pro-Western statements of our political and intellectual leaders. This is a battle between opposite and irreconcilable cultures, and if we want to survive, we must begin with the conviction that our culture deserves to win.

A physical war against terrorist states -- a war fought with bombs, rockets and guns against the governments that support terrorism -- has now become a necessity. But that battle is only a first step. In the long run, we can only stop the re-emergence of new Islamic fanatics by disinfecting the cultural miasma in which they breed. And light, the light of benevolent Western ideals, is the best disinfectant.

Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

10/01/01: Why they hate us
09/24/01: The lessons of war
09/20/01: What a real war looks like
09/17/01: America's war song
09/12/01: It is worse than Pearl Harbor
09/11/01: Out of the fire and back into the frying pan
09/05/01: The UN Conference of Racists
08/28/01: Waging war on profits and lives
08/20/01: The Bizarro-World War
08/08/01: The death toll of environmentalism
07/31/01: Where does America stand?
07/25/01: Barbarians at the G8
07/17/01: The carrot and the carrot
07/11/01: The real Brave New World
07/03/01: The child-manipulators
06/19/01: The scientist trap
06/11/01: The National Academy of Dubious Science