Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Militant Religions

More sophisticated maximal realists took Marxism-Leninism seriously as a militant secular religion. Dean Acheson, reflecting on the late 1940s and early 1950s, wrote that “the threat to Western Europe seemed to me singularly like that which Islam had posed several centuries before, with its combination of ideological zeal and fighting power.” In the 1950s, the British political scientist Martin Wright made the same comparison. “The Jacobins of the French Revolution, and the Communists (on a parallel with Islam), divided the world into Dar-al-Islam and Dar-al-Harb” – that is, the “Abode of Peace” and the “Abode of War.” Bertrand Russell (who became a bitter critic of the Cold War in his old age) had written as early as 1921: “Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam… Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.” In this connection, it is worth noting that the term “cold war” – guerra fría – was first used in the thirteenth century in connection with the low-level border war in Spain between the rival religious civilizations of Latin Christendom and Islam.

Michael Lind, in Vietnam: The Necessary War (1999)

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