The Corner

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Cultural Civil War


The West in the midst of a cultural civil war.  Those who deny that the culture war even exists are mistaken.  Not only does the culture war exist, it is pervasive.  In fact, the culture war is the most important driver of politics in the West.  Differences over the war on terror are not something separate from the culture war.  On the contrary, our differences over how to handle Islamist terror are the very heart of the culture war.  While there are plenty of important exceptions, on the whole, differences over the war signal two broadly different stances on a wide range of other cultural issues.

Deep and bitter division over war policy is everywhere in the West right now.  For pure, powerful, and radically opposed expressions of the two views in Britain, compare Max Hastings in the Guardian with Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph.  Israel seems to Americans like a tough, united, determined, and hawkish society.  Israel is relatively united now, but until recently has been rent by the very same cultural divisions seen elsewhere in the West.  Consider the powerful piece by Ari Shavit (linked over at David Frum’s blog).  For Europe’s culture war, consider the Belgian government’s persecution of The Brussels Journal. (See my post below.)

Americans see Israel as united and tough, when in fact it has been divided and weakened by the usual cultural battles.   Avi Shalit’s column idealizes British resolve, but we see the divisions in Britain today.  The British treat Americans as warlike cowboys, but we know our own divisions well.  In short, the West as a whole is bitterly divided and undecided about how to handle the threat coming in from various quarter of the Muslim world at this critical moment.  We can’t even agree about how to name and characterize the threat.