Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Review: Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism

I am very happy to welcome Steven Riddle from Flos Carmeli as a guest blogger. I am a longtime admirer of Steven's clear thinking, analysis, charity, and, above all, his honesty, with himself as well with others. We see a good example of that honesty and clarity in the review below.

Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism

I'm disinclined to trust Mr. Weigel, largely because of his position on Iraq which I interpret to be "a just war is any war that I decide is just." But that evaluation in itself may be unjust. In his new book, Mr. Weigel continues to maintain that the Iraq war is a just war. He provides no evidence for this in the book, but then, that's not the book's purpose. So I start my review by saying that I was skeptical upon taking up the book and constantly challenging propositions as I read it. Nevertheless, I found myself persuaded to at least consider the points being made in greater detail. The book won me over and encouraged me to look again at what I held to be true.

The purpose of the book is to expose some thoughts about the present world situation and who the "enemy" is. The arguments made are clear, succinct, and compelling--reasonable articulations of the state and nature of "this present darkness." In fact, I found his arguments so compelling and so instructive that any interest I may have had in Mr. Paul as a candidate was driven out of my head. Not that Ron Paul is wrong on everything, but his pseudo-Washingtonian isolationism is deeply troubling. I would liken his policy to those of Neville Chamberlain--not exactly because Mr. Chamberlain was into appeasement, Mr. Paul seems to be heavily dedicated to capitulation. But I suppose that is an argument for another time.

In fifteen short articles, Mr. Weigel lays out a clear sense of what the present battle is about, how it must be fought, and how much depends upon winning and winning in the right way. An image that lingers with me from the book is the Churchill Poster with bulldog finger pointing at the viewer and the bald statement, "Deserve to Win." And, regardless of what the detractors and apologists for the left have to say, we do deserve to win--what we value and what we cherish are deeply human and humane values (when we're not busy supporting waterboarding and other atrocities). In fact, one of the points I took away from the book is related to this and encapsulated below.
from Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism
George Weigel

If, for example, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and agnostics ( as well as Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other religions) could agree that there are certain moral truths "built into" the world, built into us, and built into the dynamics of human striving--moral truths that we can know, by careful reflection to be true--then we would have the first build blocks of a philosophical foundation on which to construct, together, free and just societies that respect religious conviction. We would have, in other words, a rational, interreligious "grammar" and vocabulary with which to engage each other on questions of what is, in fact, the meaning of freedom, justice, and other aspects of the good.
This is a profound articulation of a primary truth, one that I've been trying to share with a very good friend for a very long time. We understand it as natural law--Mr. Weigel does not so call it here, and I think he does well not to do so, the term seems to confuse those not familiar with its technical meaning in philosophy.

The book is filled with small insights like this. Nothing radical, nothing monumental in each moment, but building to a strong sense of moral integrity. While I might take Mr. Weigel on his views regarding Iraq, by virtue of the thoughtfulness of this book, I find that I may need to spend more time with what he has to say about the matter and really evaluate it and understand it.

One other observation that is most welcome at this time is Mr. Weigel's unstinting support for research into and development of alternative energy resources particularly for transportation. When I first learned about Wahhabism and its centrality to Saudi Islam, and coupled that with the fact that we continually finance our own destruction through the energy dollars we pour into that nation, I concluded that something needed to be done. It's good to have the support of someone who is more thoughtful and less reactive that I tend to be.

In sum, the book is short, the thoughts are large, the writing is clear and well done, and the reader is amply rewarded for the investment of an hour or two with the book. Highly recommended, even if one stands in the camp opposite that of Mr. Weigel. His heavy reliance on Bernard Lewis helped to clinch the value of this work for me. That and his reasonable, moderated, equable tone go a long way toward making the arguments at least palatable enough to consider in greater detail. A nice, short introductory handbook to the nature of our present crisis.

1 comment:

Meg said...

...we do deserve to win--what we value and what we cherish are deeply human and humane values...

Dear Steven,
Thank you for an informative review. I have to ask though -- who are the "we" you refer to? Americans? Westerners? Christians? Iraqis? Muslims? The Roman Catholic Church?

Is the book addressed to a specific audience?

Thank you.