Robert Conquest, Being “Non-Judgmental,” and Jihadism


Ukraine’s Medal of Iaroslav Mudryi (grand prince of Kiev, from 1019 to 1054) bestowed on Hoover research fellow Robert Conquest (center) by Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, June, 2006


Robert Conquest, from the Preface to the 40th Anniversary Edition of The Great Terror, September, 2007, p. xxiv, his seminal indictment of Soviet Communist state tyranny under Stalin, observed:


One of the strangest notions put forward about Stalinism [substitute Jihadism] is that, in the interests of “objectivity” we must be—wait for it—“non-judgmental.” But to ignore, or downplay, the realities of Soviet [substitute Islamic] history is itself a judgment, and a very misleading one. Let me conclude with Patrick Henry saying in 1775, “I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.” The corollary is that misreading of the past incapacitates us as regards our understanding of the future—and of the present too.


I have indicated above, in brackets, where one could readily substitute Jihadism for Stalinism, and Islamic for Soviet.


This past August, in commemoration of Solzhenitsyn’s passing, Roger Kimball described the following anecdote related by Kingsley Amis, about the reception of Professor Conquest’s landmark study, which “for many years,” was “ignored where possible or dismissed as propaganda.” As Amis notes,


Then, in 1988, favourable references to it began to appear in the Soviet media. . . . [A]n American publisher suggested a new edition of the book.


“What about a new title Bob? We won’t pretend it’s a new book , but a new title would be good. . . .


Bob answered in terms that get a lot of his character into small compass. “Well, perhaps, I Told You So, You Fucking Fools. How’s that?”


We are in crying need of Conquest’s intellectual courage, and brutal honesty when it comes to addressing the contemporary scourge of resurgent Jihadism.

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