November 2, 2002

DAVID BROOKS WRITES about Baathism, a rather repellent ideology that has gotten less attention than it deserves. (Funny that the left is so uninterested in this variant of fascism.) Excerpt:

Aflaq’s writings were vague and pathetic whenever he tried to address concrete situations, but he did apparently have a gift for painting glorious pictures of future triumph, which appealed to those with a nagging sense of national humiliation. Like a lot of intellectuals of the middle of the twentieth century, Aflaq also spent time theorizing about the revolutionary process. The Baath saw themselves as strugglers, as people engaged in a permanent revolution aimed at uniting them with the inner perfection that is Arabism. The Baath party, Aflaq felt, embodying the transcendent Arab spirit, needed to be ruthless against those who did not share its beliefs. Moreover, it was through this combat, or struggle, that the Baath could achieve Arab perfection. As Aflaq wrote:

“In this struggle we retain our love for all. When we are cruel to others, we know that our cruelty is in order to bring them back to their true selves, of which they are ignorant. Their potential will, which has not been clarified yet, is with us, even when their swords are drawn against us.”

Struggle necessarily involves sacrifice, he emphasized, but amidst fiery conflict and bloodshed, each person “is forced to return to himself, to sink into his depths, to discover himself anew after experience and pain. At that point the true unity will be realized, and this is a new kind of unity different from political unity; it creates the unity of spirit among the individuals of the nation.”

Ah, yes, we’ve heard this sort of thing before. Interestingly, any warblogger who suggested that the current struggle, and the behavior of Iraq and its allies therein, represents the “perfection” of the Arab character would be denounced as a racist. Or, worse, an “Orientalist.”

UPDATE: Innocents Abroad has some comments.

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