The left has never adapted to the transition from nationalistic wars to ideological wars. It took the left a while to grasp that the Nazis were a fundamentally different foe than [sic] the Kaiser and that pretending that World War 2 was another war for the benefit of colonialists and arms dealers was the behavior of deluded lunatics. And yet much of the left insisted on approaching the war in just that fashion, and had Hitler not attacked Stalin, it might have remained stuck there.
From my own observations, what the Left refused to acknowledge was that it was Hitler's Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Soviet Russia that behaved like unrepentant imperialists and colonialists, invading and conquering other nations for all the loot they could lay hands on. It was the consistent kneejerk evasion of that fact which demoted the Left from a noisy avante- garde to a commune of deluded lunatics. Greenfield goes on to remark:
The Cold War was even worse. The left never came to terms with Communism. From the Moscow Trials to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the moderate left slowly disavowed the USSR but refused to see it as anything more than a clumsy dictatorship. The only way that the left could reject the USSR was by overlooking its ideology and treating it as another backward Russian tyranny being needlessly provoked and pushed around by Western Europe and the United States.
The rise of Islam, however, presented the Left with another conundrum it could not handle.
Communism was…a red virus floating around the world, embedding its ideas into organizations and using those organizations to take over nations.
Islam is even more untethered than Communism, loosely originating from powerful oil nations, but able to spring up anywhere in the world. Its proponents have even less use for the nation state than the Communists. What they want is a Caliphate ruled under Islamic law, a single unit of human organization extending across nations, regions and eventually the world.
The Left, instead of confronting Islam as a rival ideology, has preferred to stick with the devils it knows, imperialists and the running dogs of capitalists. Greenfield notes:
The left is incapable of engaging with Islamism as an ideology, instead it reduces the conflict to a struggle between colonial and anti-colonial forces, showing once again that the left’s worldview is usually at least fifty years out of date.
Fifty years out of date, or fourteen centuries?
Their response to the Clash of Civilizations has been to include Islamists in the global rainbow coalition of minorities, gays and gender theorists, indigent third world farmers, transsexuals, artists and poets, sex workers and terrorists; without considering what the Islamists were or how they would fit into this charmed circle.
Here is another take on just how clueless the Left is about its competitor for power.
Project a hypothetical triumph of Islam over the world, and how its itinerant ally, the Left, would be treated. Not very well. Consider the Left's global rainbow coalition of "minorities, gays and gender theorists, indigent third world farmers, transsexuals, artists and poets, and sex workers." Islam, committed to doctrinal purity and eager to cleanse the world in literal conformance with that doctrine, would act to extinguish every member of that rainbow coalition, including those not mentioned by Greenfield: feminists, gun-owners, free-speech advocates, cartoonists who offend Islam, atheists, agnostics, apostates, followers of other religions, libertarians, anti-government advocates, Constitutionalists, First Amendment champions, and so on. Rightly or not, they'd all be lumped together in Islam's holding pen until they can be prosecuted, tried and walked to the chopping block or gallows. Leaving the Left what?
Nothing, not a single victim of capitalism or colonialism. The Left will wonder what happened to its dialectical materialism, or claim that these are not the progressive forces it had predicted would pacify the world and leave it warless and in peaceful harmony. They might complain, if they dared to, that a gatecrasher hijacked their future. The more perceptive Leftists might then grasp just what Islam meant when it claimed it was just a "religion of peace." They would understand that it won't be a world in which they'd be expected to pray five times a day to godless icons of Marx, Lenin, Engels, Mao, and Stalin, but instead to Allah and Mohammad.
They would understand that Islam isn't interested in peacefully coexisting with other faiths and ideologies, "interfaith dialogue" to the contrary notwithstanding. They would grasp that Islam is as totalitarian as anything conceived by George Orwell and would play no favorites, not even with loyal Party members.
All they would see would be piles of victims of Islam, not of capitalism or of colonialism. The Left acts now as the janissaries of Islam, as ideologues and Sturmabteilung of another totalitarian system, for the moment tolerated and drafted into Islam's cause to swell the numbers of Islam's brigades and to handle the rough stuff in protests and demonstrations and clashes with the targets of the day. And when Islam's battles are won, the Left will act surprised when the executioners knock on their door and escort its members to killing fields that resemble Pol Pot's and to camps modeled on Auschwitz. They would be slaughtered by the bushel in the name of Allah, because they worshipped false gods or no gods and proposed a godless global government.
The humbler and more cowardly of them will submit to Islam. All others would be terminated. Some of their women and pretty boys would be whisked away to stock the numerous new harems that would be established, and which would not be limited to the palaces of Saudi Arabia and Dubai and Qatar and Cairo. They would pop up in New York City and Peoria and Buenos Aires and London and Vienna and San Francisco. Name your city or town.
That would be the character of the world under a global caliphate. The Left would find itself in the inconvenient and embarrassing position of the garage mechanic, George Wilson, in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In it, Wilson is told that it was Jay Gatsby who struck his wife in a hit-and-run outside his garage, not his airhead paramour, Daisy Buchanan. So Gatsby catches the mechanic's bullets. Wilson then shoots himself. Daisy gets off scot-free. While the literati may treat Daisy as a useless "ornament" of capitalism, in fact, Daisy is Islam.
Gatsby was F. Scott Fitzgerald's conception of unregulated capitalism, married somehow to gangsters and crime, while Wilson's grungy garage was symbolic of the underside of capitalism. Poor, exploited, put-upon George. But it was clueless Daisy Buchanan who killed the woman. Leftist literati may understand Fitzgerald's novel, but their ideological muchachos do not.
Intellectually honest Leftists will follow George Wilson's example. Less honest ones will adapt.
Greenfield concludes his masterly column thus:
The left dwells in an intellectual bubble of its own making. It transforms that bubble into an elaborate place, furnishing the space until it resembles a miniature world, but a bubble is not a world, it can only ever be a bubble. Trapped inside the bubble, the left cannot realize that the world is going backward, not forward, that the 21st century is really the 7th century and that the future is the past.
The Islamists understand this quite well. The left cannot.
I think Greenfield gives the Left too much credit for being clueless. I think his is a misplaced generosity. I am convinced that the Left's ignorance of the true nature of Islam is a front refined and tailored over recent decades, ever since Islam and jihad began making headlines, disguising something much more insidious. Down deep, in the remotest, darkest corner of the soul of every Leftist, collectivist, statist, and community organizer, is a seething glop of malice for freedom which he wishes to exterminate, come what may, never mind how, and don’t ask him about it if you don't want to see him froth at the mouth and threaten you with physical violence. If the extermination is performed by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, or Cass Sunstein, or any other exponent of totalitarianism, it won’t matter to him, just as long as the murder is committed.
And if it's performed by Islam, so be it. He will be content, even if it means he will need to buy himself a prayer rug or pay jizya from his paltry income and show up at Islamic rallies as a loyal infidel. All else – the protests, the books, the lectures, the posters – is guff and practiced posturing to him. He works to create the image of a champion of the underdogs, whoever and wherever they might be, when, in truth, he would just rather shoot the mangy mutts.
And what is the root of that seething glop of malice? An unquenchable, malevolent envy of every individual who has ever achieved independence and happiness without the Leftist's assistance or advice or guidance, an envy of the incalculable wealth produced by what little capitalism has been permitted to exist in any given nation's mixed economy or welfare state. This envy is coupled with an intimate but repressed knowledge and certitude that the kind of ideal communist or socialist state envisioned by him can produce nothing but poverty, misery, a state of stagnation sustained by force and deception and lies, and the suffocation of the able and the brightest.
Of individuals better than he. All tyrants and would-be tyrants nurture an inferiority complex. The only way they can compensate for it is the use of force and as much power over people as they can muster.
Islam would also produce that kind of existence, and the Left must know it, if only secretly and not spoken about among themselves, and certainly not to the gullible hoi polloi, in another kind of "gentleman's agreement." The Left's ideology and Islam's ideology are compatible in practice, differing only in details and object.
After all, what should it matter to the Left to whose ideology the hoi polloi swear an extorted obsequious obedience? Barack Obama's, or Mohammad Morsi's?
The Leftist won't care which, just as long as they concede defeat and subservience to the State or to the Caliphate.