Your September 5 editorial (“Calling evil by name”) correctly characterized ISIS’ murder of Steven Sotloff as “pure evil.” However, what part of human history makes it, as you wrote, “impossible to understand how such evil can existâ€¦”? We live in the shadow of the Holocaust, Stalin’s “Great Purge,” which killed millions of his countrymen, the genocidal, machete slaughter by the Rwandan Hutus of 800,000 Tutsis, the annihilation by the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime of millions of Cambodians, the unspeakable tortures committed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Uganda’s Idi Amin against their countrymen, and so many, many other atrocities.
I find it impossible to understand why so many find it impossible to understand how such evil can exist. I find it impossible to understand why so many seem to think that we can tame human bestial proclivities by recognizing their legitimate grievances.
Dialogue and compromise are indeed the only path to peace and justice – when both sides share the same values, when the goal of both sides is, indeed, peace and justice. The grievances of mass genocidalists like ISIS, and would-be mass genocidalists like Hamas and Iran are, however, mere pretexts for their openly stated goals to conquer and to dominate, the same goals that have driven much of humanity throughout history.
The fundamental and ironic flaw of progressive thinking is that while insisting that it celebrates diversity, it in fact rejects the possibility that other cultures have different values; it denies that there are many nations that reject Western culture’s celebration of the individual right to dignity and free choice. Hence, Secretary Kerry’s description of Russia’s meddling in Ukraine as “19th century behavior.” The fact is that in the 21st century, much of the world is still engaging in such behavior. And if Western culture does not stand up for its values, not least by refusing to tolerate intolerance and by standing with Israel, the Kurds, Tibet, and the beleaguered Middle Eastern and Nigerian Christians, I shudder to think what 22nd century behavior will look like.