In This Review

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism
By Paul Berman
216 pp, W. W. Norton, 2003

Berman, one of America's leading public intellectuals, has written the first significant ideological contribution to the United States' war on terror. This short and controversial survey introduces readers to the historical and intellectual links between the fascism of fanatical Islamist terrorism today and the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century. Assembling evidence to show that the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood were steeped in the antiliberal ideologies that shaped so much of twentieth-century history, Berman argues that the West faces yet another challenge from a pathologically irrational, blood-drunk ideology of hatred and reaction not unlike the Bolshevik and fascist outbreaks of evil. Looking back to anticommunist classics such as The God That Failed, in which leading ex-communists tell their stories of increasing disillusion, Berman attempts to reconstitute the tradition of Cold War liberalism in the context of the war on terror. The book's criticism of the Bush administration and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is scathing, but for Berman, Bush's shortcomings only go to show that the war on terror is too important to be left to conservatives alone. Berman's uncompromising attack on the Islamist death cult will not win him any friends on the Upper West Side, and his exposure of the moral failings and logical contradictions of many of Israel's fashionable critics will further alienate him from what remains of the organized American left, but this book will be remembered as an important contribution to the effort to understand the war on terror. It is not perfect, but it deserves, even demands, to be read.