NO END TO WAR:Terrorism in the 21st Century

NO END TO WAR:Terrorism in the 21st Century

Martin Walker

By Walter Laqueur. Continuum 288 pp. $24.95

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years. But none of this proves that the citizens of the United States and every other successful democracy need to subscribe to Transcendent Idealism. The Bush administration will be happy to think they should. The citizens of the free societies of old Europe will say, "Pas du tout."

—Mark Silk



THE NEW ANTI-CATHOLICISM: The Last Acceptable Prejudice.

By Philip Jenkins. Oxford Univ. Press. 258 pp. $27

What might the United States look like without the Catholic Church to kick around? If not for parochial schools and the Papacy’s dogmatic rejection of artificial contraception to rail against, public schools and abortion on demand likely wouldn’t exist in their current forms. Were it not for the Catholic Church, perhaps, Americans would still be British subjects; Britain’s reluctant decision to recognize the Catholic religion in Quebec helped sow seeds of unrest among the colonists, unrest that led to the Revolutionary War.

According to Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religion at Pennsylvania State University, anti-Catholicism is nearly as American as apple pie. The New Anti-Catholicism grew out of his response to the crisis over pedophilic priests, which has figured so prominently in recent headlines. The author of Pedophiles and Priests (1996), Jenkins watched with a sort of bemused horror as much of the media coverage in 2002 "slid" beyond the current scandals "into much more dubious attacks on the Church as a whole."

Most of the familiar anti-Catholic tropes were trotted out: priests as sexually frustrated perverts who prey upon the young, bishops as calculating Machiavels, lay Catholics as subservient sheep, too timid to raise a fuss until The Boston Globe began exposing some of the most horrific offenders. Newspaper cartoonists and late-night talk shows adopted the basic formula Priest = Child Molester. Some priests reportedly stopped wearing their religious garb in public to avoid the glares and spittle.

Jenkins argues that the reaction was hysterical. According to the available evidence, "sexual misconduct [by clergy] appears to be spread fairly evenly across denominations," its incidence rate hovering somewhere between two and three percent among the cleric population. Further, many of the cases that have been labeled pedophilia were actually relationships between priests and young people well above the age of consent. But anti-Catholic attitudes are too ingrained to be displaced by facts. "Of course bishops hate women and gays, priests molest children, and the Church supported the Holocaust: everybody knows that," Jenkins writes. These prejudices are so pervasive "that they are scarcely even recognized as prejudices."

The book’s survey of anti-Catholicism in America is brief but convincing. From the Know-Nothing movement of the 19th century to the iconoclastic gay rights protests of the 1980s and ’90s, critics of the Catholic Church have demonstrated a remarkable ability to overlook any truth, any scrap of goodness, that the church might offer. In the last chapter, Jenkins urges reporters, entertainers, and professors to give the Catholic Church a fair shake, but he doesn’t expect the call to be heeded. Even if a hypothetical Vatican III were to edge Rome closer to modern liberal Protestantism, he writes, the "indestructible" prejudice would simply mutate: "Its strength lies in its flexibility, its capacity to adapt to almost any circumstances." Quite a depressing thought.

—Jeremy Lott



Contemporary Affairs


NO END TO WAR:
Terrorism in the 21st Century.

By Walter Laqueur. Continuum. 288 pp. $24.95


The first great merit of Walter Laqueur’s characteristically judicious book on the new terrorism is its comprehensiveness. For cool and clear-eyed analysis of the differences between the narcoterrorists of Colombia and traditional national terrorists such as the

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Irish Republican Army (IRA), and of the gap between them and the fanatics of Al Qaeda, there is no better guide.

Laqueur, one of the leading and most experienced academic experts on terrorism, keeps his sense of perspective and proportion. In a brisk review of the last 150 years of terrorism, he stresses that "its political effects in contrast to the publicity it received were small." In some circumstances, terrorists succeeded in highlighting authentic injustices, as with America’s own John Brown in the pre-Civil War years, but usually they provoked police or political reactions that defeated them. "The more successful terrorism was in destabilizing society, the more effective the mobilization of the antiterrorist forces which led to the downfall of the militants."

Turning to the new jihad-based terrorism of Al Qaeda, Laqueur provides an excellent study of the roots of contemporary Islamic terrorism, although some with knowledge of the religious currents within the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale might question his stress on its Egyptian origins. But he makes the useful point that, unlike the old Communist International, the new Islamic terror network can make use of spaces like mosques that in democratic societies are outside the supervision of the security services.

It is refreshing, amid so much overheated prose about the menace of Islam and clashes of civilizations, to see the phenomenon analyzed by a penetrating and informed intelligence. Yet there is no squeamishness about his controversial conclusion, which is that the civilized world has to recognize that not all terrorists are rational actors who can be bought off by negotiation or appeasement. Some are stark, staring mad.

Since 1945, the world has grown grimly accustomed to terrorists with a clearly defined and negotiable aim—an independent Vietnam or Algeria, a united Ireland, a Palestinian state. But there is a new cleavage between those terrorists, such as Yasir Arafat and the IRA’s Gerry Adams, who have sought to bomb their way to the peace table, or at least to a negotiated political solution, and the new implacables, such as the suicide bombers of 9/11, who want to blow up the peace table along with everything else.

Moreover, the new terrorism has the apocalyptic prospect of obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Laqueur assumes that at some point their use is almost inevitable, however good our security. Costly publichealth precautions are going to become increasingly familiar, along with regular training and exercise drills, public awareness programs, and surveillance measures that will test our civil liberties.

A system of global security cooperation will be required to monitor and block the movements, finances, and communications of the terrorists. There is simply no alternative to such a strategy, which will require the United States to seek allies and partners and international legitimacy. Recent talk to the contrary is so much hollow bluster.

—Martin Walker




DEMOCRACY AND THE NEWS.

By Herbert J. Gans. Oxford Univ. Press. 168 pp. $26

American newspapers, much as we love to complain about them, are thicker, richer, and more conscientiously factual than their counterparts elsewhere. Most of the largest European dailies would kill for a newsroom the size of, say, The San Francisco Chronicle’s, and few could even imagine a world of 21 percent profit margins—the U.S. industry average, even during the recessionary doldrums of 2002.

Despite these achievements, Columbia University sociologist Herbert Gans worries that American newspapers have degenerated to the point that they may require taxpayer subsidies. The author of Deciding What’s News (1979) and other works, Gans believes that the American dream has foundered, and that journalism is at or near the root of the problem. His critique of democracy is essentially Naderite: Corporations and other nonhuman entities exercise disproportionate power, alienating half of the voting-age population and separating rich from poor.

Gans pins his extended essay on what he calls "Journalism’s Theory of Democracy," a four-part doctrine: "(1) The journalist’s role


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