With the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the nearly coinciding death of Ronald Reagan, Americans have been compelled to reflect on the past, seeing rocky, bloody eras fall into the clean arc of history that appears only in a flash of hindsight.
Looking back on Nazism and communism, we see the seamless succession and demise of totalitarian threats once poised to rob the West of its liberties. In this sweeping history lesson, it becomes clearer still that the rise of Islamism -- or Islamic totalitarianism, or Islamic radicalism, or Islamofascism (we haven't yet settled on a term) -- has now succeeded these vanquished foes. Whatever it is called, this ideology is now the principle menace to freedoms treasured by 21st-century Western civilization, a secular society still rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition.
Totalitarian Islam, however, is totalitarianism with a difference. Unlike both Nazism and communism, it is not godless. I can't help wondering what Ronald Reagan would have done had Marx and Engels been deemed prophets of God. What would he have said had the Communist Manifesto been regarded as a holy book?
Communists always glowed with the zeal of religious fanatics, but communism, of course, is explicitly opposed to religion. Still, imagine that Lenin's tomb had been built as a holy shrine for sacred relics, not a ghoulish mausoleum for a moldering corpse: Would the history of the Cold War have been any different? Would Ronald Reagan have dared to define a religious faith in communism as the evil that launched the empire?
I ask this unanswerable question having just read a brief essay by Islam expert Robert Spencer, author of "Islam Unveiled" (Encounter, 2003) and "Onward, Muslim Soldiers" (Regnery, 2003). Writing in frontpagemag.com, Spencer compares totalitarian foes immediately past and present -- communists and jihadists -- to lament that our age lacks a calls-it-like-he-sees-it leader such as Ronald Reagan, someone to flip the conventional wisdom that once denied the evils inherent in communism and now denies the evils inherent in totalitarian Islam.
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