The "Non-Belonger" Speaks

Here's an interview with Richard Pipes at FrontPage. Interesting tidbits on Iraq:

The threat of Islamism is quite different from that posed by the USSR -- both less menacing in that its adherents are much weaker, and more so in that they are fanatics with whom it is impossible to negotiate. History indicates, however, that in the long run all terrorist movements are defeated by firm action and police penetration of their structures.
FP: Expand a bit on what you mean by “police penetration” and how this would work with a terror group like al Qaeda.
Pipes: By "police penetration" I mean planting agents in the terrorist organizations. They can forestall terrorist acts. Their presence also sows suspicions and demoralizes. The Israelis have developed excellent methods to this end and have a lot to teach us.

I honor Pipes for his contributions to Reagan's foreign policy, but one aspect of his thinking that has always irritated me is his tendency to see Lenin & Stalin more as Russians then as Communists. That strikes me as an unworthy position --and a Leftist one, to boot. It wasn't Marxism that was so terrible, in this line of thinking, it was Marxism in the hands of those brutish Russians. That's the same argument Buckley's making now about Iraq. "Those people" can't handle democracy.

FP: In your scholarship, you have emphasized the traditional authoritarian character within Russian political culture and how, therefore, communist tyranny was in continuity with the Russian past, rather than an aberration or break from it. Why has Russia historically been so addicted to authoritarianism and so reflexively opposed to liberal Western notions?
I come from Russia and I have always been mesmerized by my people’s peculiar inability to think in terms of individualism. The boundaries between what is your business and others’ business are extremely blurry. And there is a very eerie need to believe that some kind of stern father figure is in charge out there somewhere, and that he is thinking of you. It was not just communism that created these instincts and characteristics. Could you give an insight here?
Pipes: The Russian penchant for authoritarianism is also too complicated a subject to be discussed in this format. I have given it a great deal of thought. My general conclusion is that it stems from the traditional absence in Russia of firm civil rights
which has the effect of Russians mistrusting each other and looking to the government to protect them from their fellow-citizens.

Bah! It is creed, not race or ethnicity that determines whether a people is prepared to be free. I think the phenomenon they're not considering is Orthodoxy, which has never yet found its way to separate Church & State. The Orthodox suffer in a smaller way from the same difficulty Islam faces. When political authority wields also God's authority, it's difficult to form a national character that values independence and the primacy of the individual.