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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective into history
This book is a thoughtful, thorough and insightful study of totalitarian thought. Berman writes convincingly of his opinions and thoughts on totalitarian and how it is related to the Islamist movement that is raging through the Middle East. He writes about how the current Islamist movement came to being and why. He tells of the reasons why bin Laden is fighting the war...
Published on July 15 2004 by Busy Mom

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3.0 out of 5 stars Logic, Emotionalism and Totalitarianism
This book is a rather strange, but quick read, that is much like a rice cake, plain, not much substance and unfortunately not satisfying.
Mr. Berman tries to be a good leftist throughout most of the book, he makes broad sweeping statements that most everything that the left has done is good, and most everything the right has done is bad. Mr Berman has a 'through the...
Published on April 19 2004 by Enigma


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective into history, July 15 2004
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Paperback)
This book is a thoughtful, thorough and insightful study of totalitarian thought. Berman writes convincingly of his opinions and thoughts on totalitarian and how it is related to the Islamist movement that is raging through the Middle East. He writes about how the current Islamist movement came to being and why. He tells of the reasons why bin Laden is fighting the war against us ~~ not because we're greedy corporate Americans but because we are a threat to his and his people's vision of utopia. He also delves into the Israel and Palestine's problems. He also explains the history behind communism, facism, and socialism. Berman also talks about Western Europe and their ideas on democracy as well as United Nation's ineptness in dealing with different problems.
This is perhaps one of the most rewarding reading I've done lately. I don't know much about Islam and what causes Muslims to declare a jihad against Westerners. Then again, I don't know much about the history of the last fifty years or so. And this book has whetted my appetite to know more and how liberalism is related to the current events going on today, even with the Bush's administration. It is also a great way to learn more about the Islamist movement that is going on in the Middle Eastern countries as well as Arabic countries. It is an eye-opener for me and it does help me understand current events better.
This is one book that I will definitely pass onto my friends and family. I think everyone who is curious about world affairs and likes essay-type writing, will enjoy this book. It will provoke thought and conversation among your friends and family. It will help you see the world in a different light, even if you don't agree with the author's perspective. But he makes his arguments in a convincing way ~~ and the book is easy to read, very well-written and with thoughtful, concise reasoning behind every word.
7-15-04
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4.0 out of 5 stars Short, to the point, and excellent, May 31 2004
By 
Squab (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Paperback)
This book is a wonderful short tour of twentieth century totalitarian ideology and its similarities to current Muslim extremists. It traces the flow of ideas in Europe, especially Germany, to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, and on to Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda, The Taliban, and Iran.
Berman's successful identification of this common thread of ideas reveals that dictators of today and the recent past in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan are using Islam as a stepping stone to power in the same way that the Nazis used race and the Communists used class - they all ruthlessly killed their enemies and quieted dissent at any cost. According to Berman, the real object is power, and the real problem is totalitarianism - whatever form it may take. His solution to this totalitarian monster is classical liberalism and the free exchange of ideas.
Does he explain every detail of exactly how the ideas change as they flow? No, and this is not because his understanding is simplistic. His intended audience is an educated audience, which is at the very least moderately familiar with the history and philosophy discussed.
It is a short book, and in some places incomplete. For instance, totalitarianism did not begin in the twentieth century - see the Inquisition and the slaughter of the Cathars, and on and on back into history - it did however, seem to become larger and more terrifying after the rise of 19th century liberalism and the great disaster of World War I. However, this does not take away from its central thesis about totalitarianism, and that our defeat of it abroad will make us safer at home. Petty squabbling (no pun intended) over ideological and political toes stepped on cannot and do not take away from this powerful central argument.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and insightful arguments, May 19 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
Ah, if only more liberals wrote like this. Berman emphasizes and elaborates on issues other lefties will not simply because it would mean identifying with American (liberal) society and principles, and that just simply wouldn't do for some (i.e. Noam Chomsky).
Berman's analysis of totalitarian roots shines new light on just what the United States is dealing with in fanatical Islam, comparing elements of terrorism with the cults of death inherent in German nationalism, Spanis facism and Soviet communism. One of his central arguments is that the United States has too many influential intellectuals who simply refuse to believe terrorism is an irrational act and would rather excuse it as "understandable" and an act of freedom. He offers a persuasive argument that the world is not governed by logic and that a cult of death has more to do with nihilsm and fanatical, irrational belief than it does in anything else. He sights the French socialists prior to Hitler's occupation as the embodiment of such naivete. Also, he shows how U.S. economic hegemony and foreign policy are not central to the terrorists' rage. Rather, it is secular culture we live in, and the separation of church and state and the way we live without God overseeing everything in between--that's what makes us infidels. Indeed, the central anxiety of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyption Islamist philosopher who influenced Saudi Wahhabism, is the temptation that western, liberal ideas of government and culture will influence his and other Arabs thinking and pull them away from what they ultimately strive for.
This book has changed my thinking drastically in some areas. I have tried to remain optimistic about Dubya over the past year, but Berman's no nonsense analysis of Bush and how he has carried out this war are so spot on they cannot be ignored. His Bush criticisms are new and fresh, and aren't blatantly ideological and partisan like every other Bush-basing book floating around on Barnes and Noble's New Non-Fiction shelf.
Berman's point is that America does have a role in promoting liberal and democratic societies througout the Middle East. It's just that Bush does not have the intellectual background, nor the character, to frame the debate as it should be. Instead of selling the war based on fear, it should've been sold for humanitarian and moral reasons.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Sophomoric, May 16 2004
By 
L. F Sherman "dikw" (Wiscasset, ME United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
Despite a fair summary of Qutb and a few critical comments about Sharon, Berman defends aggressive attacks on the "enemy". The book and thesis are essentially sophomoric simplification that seems to have impressed (from plaudits printed inside) numerous other unqualified readers who know the subject no better. It meets emotional needs for some but adds no depth of understanding..
The thesis is a defense of aggression based on little more that Pop Psychology about totalitarianism and "suicidal" violence - referring to Camus but lacking his broader understanding. Broad categories and labels are grotesquely inaccurate lumping Islamic Fundamentalists together and describing them as Fascist and Totalitarian. There is considerable diversity in the real world with some ready to participate in elections, and most who are not terrorists. Many are concerned almost exclusively with their own homelands. In the case of Iraq a secular, anti Fundamentalist, enemy of Al Qaeda was the US target. Consider too that there are proportionally probably more Christian Fundamentalists in the US than Muslim ones outside Saudi and Afghanistan. The history (including questionable conclusions describing the fall of France to the Nazis as solely from "liberal/socialist" lack of backbone) and psychology (sex, suicide, and totalitarianism are a syndrome) are not valid. They do, however, serve as propaganda demonizing Muslims in support of US and Israeli state counter terror. Again they provide a reason to avoid looking at the real issues and grievances resulting from those policies or the essential source of terror training and broad contacts from the CIA and ISI trained alumni of the Afghan-US war against the Soviets in Central Asia. (These are the folks whose leaders trained in the US and who were called, like the Contras, "the moral equivalent of our founding Fathers" by Reagan!) At least Berman's book it is not quite the insult to one's intelligence as explaining 9-11 by "they are jealous of our freedoms" but it is just as muddled thinking and equally motivated by propaganda rather than serious analysis - just this time for a book rather than a sound bite.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A worthless, dishonest book from an apologist for Israel., May 7 2004
By 
R. M. Aarons (San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Paperback)
Here's a typical example of why Berman's book is not just politically reactionary, but worthless: There's a nine-page put-down of Noam Chomsky, primarily for the latter's response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but also for other things Chomsky has said, on topics ranging from Cambodia to linguistics. And in these nine pages, there's not a single actual quote from Chomsky! (By the way, since Berman's book not only contains no footnotes but no index either, I'll tell you that the anti-Chomsky screed starts on page 144.)

Most of Berman's other attacks on leftists also contain either no quotes or short quotes (usually not even full sentences) without citations that would allow the reader to locate the context of the quote.

Berman does extensively quote certain Islamist writers (though again without citations). This makes me think that he knows that Islamist ideas (or at least the ones he quotes) will, unlike leftist ideas, not appeal to those he is trying to win over to his position, which is essentially support of Western capitalism in general and Israel in particular.

Those who are looking for a balanced refutation of both Islamism and its Western imperialist pseudo-opposition would be much better served by starting with Tariq Ali's "The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity" (ISBN 185984457X).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Logic, Emotionalism and Totalitarianism, April 19 2004
By 
Enigma "Cheers" (Constantly Moving) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
This book is a rather strange, but quick read, that is much like a rice cake, plain, not much substance and unfortunately not satisfying.
Mr. Berman tries to be a good leftist throughout most of the book, he makes broad sweeping statements that most everything that the left has done is good, and most everything the right has done is bad. Mr Berman has a 'through the looking glass' perspective of programs. If it works it was obviously a liberal idea and if it fails it was a conservative idea. For example he rallies along the false notion that Hitler was a right wing conservative, yeah right. Lets see, he was the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI) and all one has to do is read Hitler's speeches to find out that he was a totalitarian socialist.
The substance of the book though is the inescapable fact that there can be no peace with an ideological entity that believes you are evil and they have an edict to kill you. What is shocking to this reader is the naiveté that those on the left, especially the author posses. He shows just how immersed he is in his circles of left-ism that he and many others like him have left reality. Mr. Berman was shocked that 9/11 would happen, as a matter of fact he has the temerity to say that nobody imagined such an event. This viewpoint only shows the ignorance of the intelligentsia of the left, for there were many books, articles, and the plethora of attacks on the Unites States that preceded this act proved the threat that radical Islam posed for the world. Of course, the radical appeasement minded left pooh-poohed this notion and implied that this was the conservative ramblings of the war-mongering right.
In the end Mr. Bearman gets it partially right, radical totalitarian Islam and the standard chamberlain-esque approach of appeasement does not work. Therefore at least this liberal writer has figured out that Islam with its goal of conquering the world is a dangerous construct. The two problems that Mr. Bearman never addresses are just how to convince others on the left that this form of totalitarianism is bad while their brand is good. And appeasement has never and will never work against a despotic dictator. Perhaps Mr. Bearman will continue to ponder these questions and come up with the answer. One can only hope so.
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1.0 out of 5 stars This is totally bogus. This war is imperialism oil war, Feb. 9 2004
By 
Juan Cruz (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
This book is totally out of line, the author seems to me too extremist and biased with his statist and reactionary view. Even the government admits that there are no dangerous weapons in Iraq, the so called WMDs war is not about religion fundamentalism or to fight religion-terrorism but about oil. Another of the author's labeling is to equally label all progressive movements as terrorists. He places all communists and leftists along the line with criminals, fascists, nazis, and extremists. This is a Ronald Reagan, Churchill, Mussolini type of statist and reactionary language used by neo-cons think-tanks to destroy opposite views. We have to point out that religion have always been used by empires and states to rule people. Religion and religious language is used by governmnets to fool and opiate the masses into wars and the government agendas. Another wrong point i see is that there was no physical evidence of the link between the events of 9-11, Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden. The author bases himself on absolute blind faith instead of sound arguments backed by credible evidence, he even bashes the award winning literary professor Noam Chomsky. So do your self a favor, don't believe the corporate-media, the reactionary writters and think for yourself first, question the authorities and what they tell you through the media, books, etc.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good analysis .. what to do about it lacking, Jan. 9 2004
By 
N. Wallach (Pittsburgh, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
Terror and Liberalism is a very interesting book. The author starts out by citing his leftist credentials in a chapter attacking Nixon, Kissinger, and George Bush (the elder) for their treatment of Iraq in the first Iraqi war. Then he goes to provide an analysis of the rise of a series of nihilistic popular mass movements that are a direct attack against the liberalism of the western civilizations. In this series he places Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and the current version: Islamism.
The book provides a chilling description of how easy it is for liberals to fall under the sway of such movements by pointing out the ominous parallels between France's descent into supporting the Nazis during World War II and Europe's currenct descent into blaming Israel for the Islamist problem.
Whilst the book's analysis is first rate and is measured in tone and backed up by formidable research, I was left a bit dissatisfied. The vast majority of the book is taken up with the analysis but I would have liked to have seen, and expected, some sort of reasoned approach to a solution. And that, is sadly lacking in this book. There are a few paragraphs that airily talk about having a "third way" but not anywhere near the substance of how to create it to combat the current evil.
So, that is why I slightly downrated this book. However, it is a very thought-provoking read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars *Terror and Liberalism*: A Great Book for the Century, Sept. 28 2003
By 
Sam Condon (Triangle, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
Paul Berman's *Terror and Liberalism* might very well be the first "great" book of the 21st Century, since it's probably the first book that really captures what the 20th Century was about, and what we have carried over into the 21st as unfinished business. But the book may not get the attention it deserves, because it isn't a very scholarly work. It manages to discuss totalitarianism without referencing Hannah Arendt even once, and it doesn't have so much as a minimal Index. What it has, instead, is a coherent thesis. Consider the following passage:
"He [Albert Camus] had noticed a modern impulse to rebel, which had come out of the French Revolution and the nineteenth century and had very quickly, in the name of an ideal, mutated into a cult of death. And the ideal was always the same, though each movement gave it a different name. It was not skepticism and doubt. It was the ideal of submission. (p. 46)"
This is an enormous insight, and to be frank it does not appear with such clarity in Arendt's work. Her explanation, that loneliness has become an "everyday experience," seems grossly inadequate. Surely the notion that it's all a matter of loneliness appeals to a sense of profound irony, but couldn't we all just get a puppy? This was the payoff for all that scholarly zeal and industry?
Moreover, Arendt never makes the connection between terror as an organizing principle for a 20th Century form of government, and terrorism as a strategy of totalitarian movements that are out of power. And so she did, in fact, miss something important.
And of course even if Arendt had not completely missed the seeding of the Middle East with the totalitarian ideas of the Nazis and the Stalinist,s she never would have guessed that Islam itself could become the excuse for such a movement. She, herself, had been a product of the German Counter-enlightenment. Her mentor, Martin Heidegger, made a vain bid to become the philosopher of National Socialism, and would have succeeded had not the Nazis been too clever. So she has no excuse for missing the role that the Counter-enlightenment plays the writings of the Ba'ath founder, Michael Aflaq, and the Islamist founder, Sayyid Qutb.
So if Berman lacks some background, he does manage to get to the heart of a matter that deflected more scholarly minds. And he stands as the first to make this leap. Even today people don't appear to see the connection between Jurgen Habermas' "Lifeworld vs. System World" typology, inherited from Husserl and Heidegger, and the philosophy of Qutb, which simply maps the same concepts into the religious framework of Islam. The insight that man had become alienated from his own nature, whether through the "false consciousness" of Marx or by our "deluded faith in the power of reason," makes virtually the same diagnosis as Qutb. So it's not really that surprising for Arendt to identify loneliness (alienation) as the culprit. Of course, it had to be. There is not such a great distance, philosophically, between Qutb's "hideous schizophrenia" of modern life, and the nostalgic longing for the "Lebenswelt" that drives much of modern European philosophy.
Liberalism did not evolve as a cure for the condition of man. It evolved as a cure for the tendency of mankind to become dogmatic. Hence it looks nothing like a cure for mankind's inherent ills. It doesn't regard mankind as "alienated" from himself. One side sees the human condition as tragically fragmented, and seeks a remedy in unity. The other sees the longing for a remedy as the problem, a compulsion to worry the patient to death.
Berman reflects this insight in his critique of Noam Chomsky, whom he views as "the last of the 19th Century rationalists." But this analysis, though informative, doesn't quite capture the slipperiness of Chomsky, whose philosophy is ultimately counter-rational. While Chomsky does, in fact, tend to see the world in the simplistic terms of a "greed vs. freedom" dialectic, his main problem is that he really has no program for calamity. Berman is probably more clear about totalitarianism than liberalism, which may be why his great book ultimately reaches a sort of impasse.
Why is it the Americans who recognize the necessity? Why is the American faith that the sovereignty of others means security for themselves so exceptional? Why are the Americans so uniquely disinterested in perfecting mankind? Perhaps we need to be as canny as those Germans were, about communicating the antidote to their philosophies of "revolutionary nationalism and totalitarianism?"
Ultimately Berman gets it. The problem lies in the habit of wishful thinking that afflicts most of America's historical allies, and some of its own deluded clan. Without any capacity to confront calamity the natural tendency is to deny it. Pretend it doesn't exist, or is an exaggeration and you need not change your worldview, or your mind. (But you may be obligated to hate the bearer of bad news.) Thus Chomsky's obsessive unwillingness to be impressed by 9/11, an attitude also affected by Michael Moore, and by Derrida and Habermas recently. And it's only this resistance to the horns of the dilemma that represents the impasse. How could there be any problem that can't be resolved by a trick of the tongue or the eye? Oh, I mean by revealing the tricks, of course. It was all just a trick of the eye that day in early September. Don't be alarmed.
But thanks to Berman's eloquence we are able to see such pretense for what it is. We are at last able to perceive clearly the continuity of the beast that replaced chattel slavery as the world's consummate evil, and is destined to one day join it on the ash heap. It is alarming. But not beyond us.
...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of madness, Sept. 5 2003
This review is from: Terror And Liberalism (Hardcover)
Terror and Liberalism
It seems like most every generation of progressives undergoes a brutal test of faith. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 was too much for many; Khrushchev's 1956 speech denouncing Stalin and his invasion of Hungary the same year were the last straw for others. For the present crop, 9/11 is in the process of separating the lockstep lefties from the genuine friends of humanity. Which way will Paul Berman, the author of _Terror and Liberalism_, break?
It is refreshing to hear an unequivocal condemnation of both Islamist terrorism and progressive anti-semitism from a non-silly Leftist. The first time I ever encountered the writings of Paul Berman was in the late Eighties, during his jousts in _The New Republic_ with David Horowitz and Peter Collier, over the latter duo's book _Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties_. Now here comes this book, which hardly seems like the work of the same thinker. I haven't been paying too much attention to him in the past decade, so I probably missed a lot of changes in these eventful times.
The tone of the book verges on the sonorous in passages, as if he were half-consciously minding the cadeneces of his sentences. There are some errors of fact-it was Army Rangers and not Marines who were attacked in Mogadishu, and Arab terrorists have never excluded Israeli civilians from their range of targets--which are not serious barriers to following his points.
Unlike some other recent writers who have attempted to answer the question, "Why do they hate us?", Berman looks not to clashing civilizations, or to Islam's commands to wage perpetual holy war, but to a single Egyptian scholar, Sayyid Qutb. After taking a tour through the 19th century anarchists, the 20th century totalitarian systems, and Albert Camus' parsing of those movements, Berman trace's Qutb's influence in the pan-arabist movement, and thence in the modern Islamic terrorist organizations. (The tyrant-hero of Berman's generation of Sixties radicals, Fidel Castro, does not figure here, nor does the mercifully truncated Sandinista regime. Irrelevant to his thesis, or too close to home?)
The main body of the book is devoted to asserting that the modern jihad is a mass pathology, as were those previous movements. Rational onlookers can rarely believe the madness unfolding before their eyes, and so proceed to make excuses for the madmen. This is why progressive voices ululated ever louder against Israel the more grievously Israel suffered from suicide bombings. There are several fine passages in these sections illustrating this phenomenon, and are the book's main value, to me.

He rolls a gutter ball in the final part, calling for a revival of the post-WWII "Third Way" of the European non-Communist Left, and how it headed off deeper Communist inroads into Western European nations. Yeah, the "Third Way", together with umpty-bajillion dollars from the American Marshal Plan, and a half-century of costly military commitment from the United States (which was borne in spite of all the insults, free-loading and ingratitude from the allies from time to time), did just that. "As we go ploughing along" as the fly said to the ox...
He also gives in to Bush-bashing at the end. And the mock-moral aura of internationalism finally proves too much to resist, too. But when the allies would rather cozy up to Saddam, and transnational progressives are fist-pumping over the massacre of Israeli civilians, just how big a sin is Bush's cultural tone-deafness? If moral dryrot has eaten out the heart of Europe, it's hardly Dubya's fault for not further abasing ourselves, trying to get into their good graces. Especially after what we've suffered! Let them examine themselves. Let *them* grow spines!
But this non sequitur ending to this informative book need not stop anyone from profiting from Berman's readings and insights. It's obvious that, unlike so many other progressive cheerleaders for terrorism, he is in full possession of a living soul, and that 9/11 was no 1939 for him.
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