Smart Bombs

Ann Applegarth recommends Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, by George Weigel.



By George Weigel

Doubleday, 2007

195 pages, $18.95

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In Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, George Weigel recalls Pope Benedict XVI’s sober reminder to the West that if irrational faith poses one grave threat to the human future, so, too, does a loss of faith in reason.

“If the West loses its faith in the human capacity to know the truth of anything with certainty,” Weigel writes, “it will have disarmed itself intellectually, culturally and morally, unable to give an account of its commitments to civility, tolerance, the free society and democratic self-government.” He argues that faith and reason — and faith in reason — will enable liberty to prevail.

The dangers of irrational faith are clear. Just ponder 9/11. Jihadism is the ideology that lends a moral imperative to Muslim terrorists in their global struggle to destroy everything we hold dear.

“There are more things we cannot not know,” Weigel writes. “My purpose here is to identify what we should have learned since September 11, 2001: about the enemy, about us — and about what must be done.”

Weigel is unquestionably qualified to call Americans to action. He has spent 25 years exploring and commenting on issues of religion, morality and politics. While packing the meat of many sources into a few pages is a tour de force, another 50 pages would have been welcome in so essential a book.

Weigel has sifted Islam’s rich history, culture and theology to get at the absolute core of Muslim thought, so that the modern Western mind can understand the jihadists’ motives. He then presents ideas for more fruitful political and interreligious dialogue between the West and Islam — strategies different from the current “tolerance” that leads to erosion of liberty and true security.

Weigel doesn’t hesitate to criticize mistakes made by the U.S. government and the liberal Western media in dealing with the jihadist threat. He bewails the absurdity of the “current, one-size-fits-all airport screening,” our “addiction to instant gratification and immediate success,” and the “denial displayed by both the Unhinged Left and the Unhinged Right in the face of the new things of the post-9/11 world.”

Among his recommendations for combating jihadism are developing new fuels and vehicles with increased fuel efficiency, improving training for those who officially represent the U.S. abroad, eliminating nuclear weapons, countering jihadist propaganda on the Internet, ceasing to finance those who attack us, and forming a bipartisan domestic political coalition of those who understand global jihadism.

Weigel challenges Americans to sacrifice and patience, encouraging us to live our lives “against a moral horizon of responsibility that is wider and deeper than the quest for personal satisfactions.” We might also pray that President Bush’s successor will — as Weigel hopes — see the inherited burden of American leadership in this ongoing battle as an opportunity for “national self-renewal” and “to serve freedom’s cause and the cause of life throughout the world.”

Ann Applegarth writes

from Roswell, New Mexico.