In Box

Philosophy in America

Part philosopher, part sex symbol, Bernard-Henri Lévy is a uniquely French character. After spending the last few years investigating the international jihadi movement in Pakistan, Lévy crossed the Atlantic to retrace Alexis de Toqueville’s journey through America. FP asked him what he’s learned on his travels. Foreign Policy: Do you think there is anywhere in ...

Part philosopher, part sex symbol, Bernard-Henri Lévy is a uniquely French character. After spending the last few years investigating the international jihadi movement in Pakistan, Lévy crossed the Atlantic to retrace Alexis de Toqueville's journey through America. FP asked him what he's learned on his travels.

Foreign Policy: Do you think there is anywhere in the world where the left remains a vibrant and progressive force?

Bernard-Henri Lévy: I don’t know, but I do know that that place is not America.… There is such vibrancy, strength, and imagination on the right and not the slightest equivalent on the left. For someone who sees you with foreign eyes, this is one of the most dramatic paradoxes…. The American left has lost the battle of ideas. They have this very strange idea that in order to win [it], you have to first win the fundraising battle. But this is crazy: Money never made ideas.

Part philosopher, part sex symbol, Bernard-Henri Lévy is a uniquely French character. After spending the last few years investigating the international jihadi movement in Pakistan, Lévy crossed the Atlantic to retrace Alexis de Toqueville’s journey through America. FP asked him what he’s learned on his travels.

Foreign Policy: Do you think there is anywhere in the world where the left remains a vibrant and progressive force?

Bernard-Henri Lévy: I don’t know, but I do know that that place is not America.… There is such vibrancy, strength, and imagination on the right and not the slightest equivalent on the left. For someone who sees you with foreign eyes, this is one of the most dramatic paradoxes…. The American left has lost the battle of ideas. They have this very strange idea that in order to win [it], you have to first win the fundraising battle. But this is crazy: Money never made ideas.

FP: You accuse the Pakistani state of direct involvement in journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder. How should the West deal with Pakistan?

BHL: For me, the privileged status of Pakistan in American foreign policy is a mystery. America made some huge mistakes in Afghanistan, maybe with Saudi Arabia. I hope America is not committing a much greater mistake today with Pakistan. I said this to Condoleezza Rice when she came to Paris. She was so fluent, so kind, so willing to answer [questions]. The only moment when she kept completely silent — did not utter one word — was when I asked this.

FP: Do you think that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf knows where Osama bin Laden is?

BHL: I think that Musharraf, or at least his intelligence service, knows where every single high-ranking member of al Qaeda is.

FP: Do you think there will be more riots in France?

BHL: These riots were overestimated by the American press. It was not the end of the world. The government managed the crisis in a rather clever way. No dead, no tragedy, much better, by the way, than the way America handled [the Los Angeles] riots. Will it happen again? I think so. It is the beginning, I fear.

FP: What most concerned you on your trip?

BHL: The intelligent design movement frightened me. So many people who are not stupid, but who really believe. This young guy I met at the Grand Canyon, telling me that the canyon was the place of the [flood], of Noah’s Ark, and so on. That is frightening.

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