Bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza sat down with Townhall.com to discuss his recently released book, The Enemy At Home – The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, where he shows the connection between the cultural left’s attack on traditional American values and the growing hostility by Muslim extremists towards the United States.
Townhall.com: When did you first recognize the inherent connection between our “enemy at home” and our enemies abroad? And what ultimately compelled you to write this book?
DSOUZA: Initially I did not see the connection because, like a lot of other conservatives, I was trapped in Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” model. If you adopt this then there are only two sides: us and the Muslims. But when you realize that our side is divided into left and right, and their side is divided into traditional Muslims and radical Muslims, then the equations change. The Islamic radicals and the American left are polar opposites in the kind of society they want. One wants sharia and the other wants a libertine society with abortion on demand and gay marriage. And yet, the two have a common interest in defeating Bush’s war on terror.
This book grew out of a study that I began after 9/11 on the Islamic thinkers who are shaping radical opinion in the Muslim world. I realized that what these people were saying was entirely different than the motives ascribed to them by both the American right and the American left.
TH: How do you distinguish the “cultural left” from the Democratic Party and liberals in general? Who are the most influential and most damaging leaders within this movement?
DSOUZA: By the cultural left I mean the left wing of the Democratic Party. I am referring to people like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, George Soros, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and Cindy Sheehan. I also want to include various left-wing organizations such as the ACLU, moveon.org and so-called human rights groups like Human Rights Watch. There are also some Republicans who take a left-wing stance on foreign policy and social issues, and so they too fall into this camp.
TH: Why is the cultural left so reluctant to fight the terrorists and export “a more liberal set of values, such as self-government, minority rights, and religious tolerance?” How have cultural relativism and multiculturalism affected this reluctance?
DSOUZA: It might seem at first glance that the cultural left should be in the forefront to fight radical Islam. The reason is that Bin Laden and the Islamic radicals are so illiberal. They despise women’s rights and gay rights. I think we all know what they would do with Hillary Clinton or Barney Frank. Even so, the cultural left has shown itself extremely reluctant to support Bush’s war on terror. They aren’t just against the Iraq war, they are against the Patriot Act, and the telephone surveillance program, and the invasion of Afghanistan, and the sanctions proposals against Iran’s nuclear program. In short, they want Bush’s war on terror to fail. And this means that they want the Islamic radicals to succeed.
Why? The reason actually has nothing to do with cultural relativism or multiculturalism. It has everything to do with domestic politics. Basically the left hates Bush more than it hates Bin Laden. Bin Laden is a foreign threat, but Bush is a domestic threat. In the last couple of decades the left-wing agenda has become increasingly dominated by social and sexual concerns. So who threatens abortion rights in America? Not Bin Laden, Bush. Who is blocking gay marriage? Not Al Qaeda, Bush’s court appointees. While Bin Laden wants sharia in Baghdad, Bush and the religious right are, in the leftist view, trying to impose sharia in Boston. Consequently the left is quite willing to ally with the lesser evil, the Islamic radicals, in order to defeat the greater evil, Bush and the conservatives.
TH: What is wrong with the conservative attitude towards September 11 and the War on Terror? What illusions have stood in the way of victory?
DSOUZA: Somewhat like the mosquito at the nudist colony, I’m not sure where to begin. The right is still trying to find “liberals” in the Muslim world. News flash: there aren’t any. Not enough to count. The right has also been trying for several years now to convince the liberals and the left that Bin Laden and the Iranians don’t really like them. I think the left already knows this. Yet we have not seen a crowd of leftists rushing over to our side. Obviously the left is pursuing a different strategy.
Even the conceptual conservative underpinning of the war on terror is suspect. The Islamic radicals aren’t enemies of modernity. They aren’t against science, they aren’t against capitalism, and today they aren’t even against democracy. Why should they be? When you have free elections in the Muslim world, the Islamic radicals have a good chance of winning. Look at Hamas. Look at the success of the Muslim Brotherhood candidates in the Egyptian parliamentary elections. And while Bush goes around calling for democracy, do you think he would for one minute entertain the thought of allowing a free election in Saudi Arabia, an election the Bin Laden guys might win.
TH: What does the cultural left seek to gain from an American withdrawal from Iraq and a losing the War in general?
DSOUZA: The same thing that the left gained from Vietnam. We say America lost the Vietnam war, and this is true, but the left won the Vietnam war. The left wanted America to accept humiliation and withdraw, and America accepted humiliation and withdrew. Not only was this a stunning foreign policy victory for the left, disabling America from seriously intervening abroad for almost a generation, but Vietnam also paid other dividends. A whole generation of liberal Democrats, the so-called Class of 1974, swept into Congress. Moreover, the antiwar movement greatly fortified the counterculture. It strengthened the feminist movement, the gay rights movement, and the sexual revolution. So Vietnam was not only a foreign policy success but also a political success and a cultural success.
TH: What does the military war against the terrorists abroad have in common with the cultural war with the left at home? Why is it that we cannot win the war against Islamic radicalism without first defeating the cultural left?
DSOUZA: Consider the war in Iraq. This war is tough going in Iraq. But it is even tougher going in America. The war is being lost not on the streets of Baghdad but right here in America. It is the cultural left that is doing Bin Laden’s work for him. There is no way that Bin Laden could persuade America to give up on the war on terror and get out of Iraq and the Middle East. Fortunately for Bin Laden he has a whole political movement in the United States that is dedicated to exactly this objective. So how can Bush expect to win over there when he is losing over here? In Vietnam the military won the Tet Offensive, but here in America it was portrayed in the media as a humiliating defeat. In fact, Tet became a symbol of American failure. So Bush had better wake up to the fact that he is facing two enemies, an enemy abroad and an enemy at home
TH: In The Enemy At Home, you deny the now-familiar claim that radical Islamists hate us because of our freedom and you argue that their hatred is “not a product of ignorance but of familiarity.” How do these conclusions change the way we fight this war of two fronts?
DSOUZA: My concern is not so much with the radical Muslims as with the traditional Muslims. The radical Muslims we have to fight. There is no alternative. But we have to persuade traditional Muslims. Why? Because traditional Islam is the recruiting pool for radical Islam. It’s not good if we kill a hundred Islamic radicals and 200 traditional Muslims sign up the next day. So we have to address traditional Muslim concerns about America. The radicals are telling them that America is a fount of global atheism, that America fosters family breakdown, that American values corrupt the innocence of children. I think it is foolish to dismiss these concerns entirely, because there is a grain of truth to them. Not all of America is like this, but it is the America that has been promoted by the cultural left, and it is the America that most Muslims see through the images of our popular culture. I think America could improve its image among people in traditional cultures, including Muslim cultures, if we showed them “the other America”: the people who go to work every day and look after their families and abide by traditional values and go to church on Sunday. Many foreigners have no idea that this America even exists.
TH: Why shouldn’t Americans immediately dismiss Islamic criticism of our culture in your newly-defined “clash of civilizations” between liberal and conservative values?
DSOUZA: Right after 9/11 there was a tendency to come together as a national tribe and write off any criticism of America and focus on destroying the enemy. That was an understandable and healthy response. But the moment of national unity hardly lasted. Pretty soon the country was divided in exactly the same way it was before 9/11. In fact, Bush’s Iraq war became a rallying cry for the opposition. So to go around today talking about a “clash of civilizations” between America and Islam is pure foolishness. What common culture unites Bush and Michael Moore? I would suggest that, in terms of core values, Bush has more in common with Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, than he does with Michael Moore. Traditional Jews, Muslims and Christians differ theologically but morally they are very similar. So when the American left allies with the radical Muslims, the most sensible response is for American conservatives to find common ground with traditional Muslims.
TH: What is the best advice you can offer concerned conservatives who want to win the fight against both radical Islam and the cultural left? How can conservative citizens best combat these two enemies?
DSOUZA: People often come up to me after my lecture and say, “I am a student” or “I’m a citizen” and “What can I do to fight the war on terror?” My answer is: fight the left at home. It is the left, the enemy at home, that is fighting to weaken the resolve of the American people and thus undermine Bush’s chance to win the war on terror. I conclude my book “The Enemy at Home” with several specific suggestions for how conservatives can thwart the left both here in America and abroad.
The Enemy At Home – The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 is available at local booksellers and Amazon.com.