Posted on: 2008-04-02 00:59:48
Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, George Weigel, Doubleday, 208 pages
by Stuart Reid
Some years ago—before it banned jokes—the New Yorker carried a cartoon showing a pollster interviewing a man at the door of his house. The man is saying, “Put me down as right-wing, lunatic fringe.” George Weigel calls us the “Unhinged Right.” Like our friends on the “Unhinged Left,” we just don’t get it. We don’t recognize a war when we see one, let alone a war that will continue “for generations” (at least). We are in denial. We “distort the debate.”
Quite how we distort the debate Weigel does not say. He does not address our arguments—other than to suggest that some of us are a bit hung up on immigration—but then why should he? He is not writing for lunatics. He is writing for the sane folk of the Hinged Right, the people who said the Iraq war would be a cakewalk, a slam dunk, over in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. His target audience will not be disappointed. In support of his stand, Weigel quotes the usual suspects: Victor Davis Hanson, Melanie Phillips, Winston Churchill, Walter Laqueur, Max Boot, Adam Garfinkle, Richard John Neuhaus, David Gelertner, Mark Steyn, and Bernard Lewis. (“Bernard Lewis is, as usual, a wise guide here…”)
But let’s not snigger. If there are stretches of Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism that are about as subtle and convincing as Fess Parker at the Alamo, there are also passages that are really rather good. Weigel is in the mood for love, or at least for interreligious dialogue. He advocates a public policy, to quote the jacket, that “meets the challenge of jihadism forthrightly while creating the conditions for a less threatening, more mutually enriching encounter between Islam and the West.” When you are losing a war, you sue for peace. Not that Weigel admits that the war is being lost, of course, but he and his neocon pals know that they must come up with a new narrative to justify their support for military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They don’t dwell on the failures and crimes of the past six and a half years—for example, the slaughter of scores of thousands of innocents, the strengthening of militant Islam, the irreparable damage to Anglo-American prestige, the creation of vast numbers of Christian refugees—but Weigel, at least, concedes that “errors” have been made. The responsibility for those errors rests not with George W. Bush or Tony Blair but with incompetent bureaucrats, feckless allies, poor intelligence, bogus data about civilian casualties, inadequate funding, endless stabs in the back from al-Jazeera, and the “holiday from history” of the Clinton years. Blame everyone except the perps. In Weigel’s estimation, however, there was never any error about the enemy. The war was imperative. According to Weigel, the West faces an existential threat from militant Islam, which is inspired not by genuine grievances but by hatred of freedom and a desire for world domination.
Appeasement is not an option. It never is with intransigent evil. (“The lessons of the 1930s remain salient…”) You know the drill.