He opposed the war in Iraq partly because he believes Saddam Hussein was ``a tyrant in his autumn, a phantom of 20th century history, while, back there in Karachi, tomorrow's barbarous configurations were being concocted.'' Levy considers himself ``of the left,'' but only because, he unhelpfully explains, of ``my sensibility.'' However, he calls himself ``anti-anti-American'' and argues that the most virulent and long-lived French anti-Americanism is on the political right.
The left's anti-Americanism, which Levy calls ``a routine of resentment,'' is a faded, almost perfunctory residue of a failed prophecy -- Marxist puerilities, the dated nature of which is not disguised by recasting the caricature of America in the vocabulary of anti-globalization. The right's anti-Americanism is more serious and passionate, for two reasons: It is an echo of fascism, which actually has more residual vitality than Marxism does. And the loathing of America, although morally obtuse, is at least a recoil against what America really is.
Anti-American French rightists, says Levy, disdain America as an ``inauthentic'' nation. They understand authenticity in tribal terms -- as a function of racial homogeneity reflected in cultural uniformity. Sound familiar? It should. It is an ingredient of fascism.
What G.K. Chesterton said (somewhat) in jest -- ``There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right; it is the ideal American who is all wrong'' -- some French and other European rightists say in ferocious earnest. And they are at least correct that America is what they despise -- multiracial, cosmopolitan, voluntary (i.e. peopled by immigrants) and unified not by blood but, as the 16th president said, by dedication to a proposition.
Levy, who regards the murder of Pearl as an epoch-defining event -- a ``micro World Trade Center'' -- bought a tape of the decapitation from one of the vendors who sell the videos near Pakistani mosques. That is but one chilling fact from Levy's impressive immersion in the milieu that produced the English-born Muslim who organized Pearl's kidnapping.
That man, Levy reports, ``was able to recite entire pages of 'Mein Kampf' by heart.'' Levy's book suggests that the Cold War may come to be remembered as a parenthesis in a much longer war against the remarkable resilience and insufficiently understood variousness of fascism.
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