Meeting the Jihadist Threat

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 17, 2008

It isn’t fashionable to say so, but an important element within Islam is radically committed to the complete destruction of non-Islamic societies, the “Christian” West in general, and the United States (“Satan”) in particular. It is time to think seriously about our civilization, what values it enshrines (or ought to enshrine), and why it is worth defending.

This vital thesis is ably expounded by George Weigel in his late-2007 book Faith, Reason and the War against Jihadism: A Call to Action. Weigel is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, and author of the definitive Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. His new book is a clear and succinct statement of the case for defending our civilization against a real and present danger.

Faith, Reason and the War against Jihadism is relatively brief. It consists of 15 specific “lessons” divided into three major parts: Understanding the Enemy, Rethinking Realism, and Deserving Victory. In the first part, Weigel argues that the great human questions are fundamentally theological, that Islam is nothing like Christianity and Judaism, that Jihadism is the motive for a multi-front war currently being waged against us, and that we need to understand how Jihadists read history and politics through their theology so that we can understand what we are up against, describe it forthrightly, and resist it accordingly.

In the second part, Weigel addresses what passes for political “realism” in high-level circles of international policy, such as the State Department. At the highest levels, the presumption is that all societies will evolve away from religious belief into secular materialism, and so our diplomats and strategists literally have no clue as to how to understand and resist radical Islam. Weigel calls for a new realism that takes wickedness seriously, commits itself to policies which promote the evolution of responsible government in the Middle East, and understands that the deterrence of mutually assured destruction that worked in the Cold War will not work against a culture which yearns for martyrdom.

Finally, in the third part, “Deserving Victory”, the author challenges the current tendency toward self-destruction in many areas of Western culture today. He points out that cultural self-confidence is essential to victory; that tactics of cultural appeasement must be rejected; that we must defund Jihadism by becoming far less dependent on oil; that we need to build a new political coalition of people who understand the values of Western culture and believe in defending them; and that there is no escape from U.S. leadership in this enterprise.

George Weigel is a scholar, and occasionally he expresses himself in scholarly vocabulary which obscures rather than enhances his case. (An “existential threat” is a serious danger to Weigel, but it is unlikely to alarm the man in the street.) Apart from this minor flaw, however, the purpose of the book is very clear, and it reads very quickly. Its fifteen lessons need to be learned thoroughly by all those who wish to understand and effectively meet a very great and very immediate challenge—not only to the achievements of Western civilization, but to our very lives.

[George Weigel, Faith, Reason and the War against Jihadism: A Call to Action (Doubleday, New York: 2007) 200pp hardcover, $18.95 ($12.89 on Amazon).]

Purchase: Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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