To Appease or Not to Appease?

In Poland, supposedly a Catholic country, there is a radio program and daily newspaper owned by "Radio Maria," both public voices of a charismatic, xenophobic, and fundamentalist priest who loathes our liberal society. His values, ideas, purposes--everything he espouses--constitute an assault on all that liberalism stands for. He would destroy our democracy without hesitation.

What should we Poles do about this enemy within? What, indeed, can liberals everywhere do to confront their enemies, internal and external?

Liberals, being people of good will, find it hard to conceive of implacable enemies. Tolerant liberals assume that tolerance exists in others. But Osama bin Laden's deeds remind us that some enemies cannot be appeased. So how are we to distinguish implacable enemies from run-of-the-mill adversaries, and how are we do deal with them?

Philosophers of a liberal bent are of only limited use here. Michael Walzer, for example, speaks about what he calls "thin" and "thick" loyalty. Liberals find it relatively easy to agree on the level of "thin" solidarity. For example, we understand people who are fighting for their freedom, and can agree with what they mean by freedom. What is harder to find, suggests Walzer, is solidarity on the "thick" level--those times when we must take into account conflicting values. Better, says Walzer, to expect only the thin sort of loyalty and solidarity.