Not so long ago, moral equivalence was the name of the favorite game in salons of the intellectual elites. They couldn't see the virtues of Western civilization. "Western civ," in fact, became a sneer. Ronald Reagan, who recognized an evil empire when he saw one, ended all that. He knew that men and women trapped behind the Iron Curtain wanted freedom just like us.
When I visited newspaper editors in Moscow during "glasnost," they told me how American conservatives like the Gipper gave them hope that freedom was possible for them, too. On a later visit, after the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet empire with it, it was the Reagan Revolution in America -- so they told me -- that clarified the differences between the two systems. So successful was the American challenge to the Soviet Union that the Committee for the Free World, founded to nurture that challenge and to promote democracy behind that Iron Curtain, closed down because the job was done.
But if the dream had not died, neither has the nightmare. The intellectual elites of the left, both here and in Britain and Europe, are resuscitating moral equivalence, this time promoting the idea that the values of the West are no better than the nostrums of the Islamists. Bernard Lewis, the distinguished scholar of the history of the Middle East, doesn't like the terms "left" and "right," but he applies them to Europeans of the left who encourage radical Muslims who spout anti-American slogans and the Europeans on the right who encourage Muslims who vow to destroy the Jews: "In Europe, their hatreds outweigh their loyalties."
Bruce Bawer makes this point in his book, "While Europe Slept: How Radicalism Is Destroying the West from Within." One of the most disgraceful developments of our time, he writes, "is that many Western intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the cold-blooded murder of one's own children in the name of honor." Young Europeans who wear Che Guevara T-shirts and Palestinian scarves, to identify with a "glamorous" revolution that exists only in their naive imaginations, are dangerously out of touch with the authentic peril in the world.