I am a long time admirer of George Weigel, and have been following many of his insightful articles in "First Things" and "Commentary," and hence I was very excited to get a hold of his latest book "Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism." From his earlier works like "The Cube and the Cathedral" I have come to expect a highly critical and well argued, incisive, prose and this book does not disappoint. The arguments and the prose in this latest book have been streamlined, each one of the points that Weigel is trying to get across gets its own chapter, and the proposed action plan is likewise precisely delineated. The points that Weigel is making are broken down in 15 "lessons" which are:
1. The great human questions, including the great questions of public life, are ultimately theological. 2. To speak of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as "three Abrahamic faiths," "the three religions of the Book," or the "three monotheism" obscures rather than illuminates. These familiar tropes ought to be retired. 3. Jihadims is the enemy in the multifront war that has been declared upon us. 4. Jihadism has a complex intellectual history, the chief points of which must be grasped in order to understand the nature of the threat it poses to the West. 5. Jihadists read history and politics through the prism of their own theological convictions, not through the lens of western assumptions about the progressive dynamic of history. 6. It is not "Islamophobic" to note the historical connection between conquest and Muslim expansion, or between contemporary Jihadism and terrorism. Truth-telling is the essential prerequisite to genuine interreligious dialogue, which can only be based on the claims of reason. 7.Read more ›
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124 of 134 people found the following review helpful
Required reading on the subject26 Dec 2007
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I recently read Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action by the Pope's biographer George Weigel which will go on sale on Dec 26 of this year. George Weigel is certainly in the camp of those who think the Iraq War is just, but this book is not about the defense of this. Just war theory is hardly brought up and the discussion on Iraq and is mainly focused on just how badly the administration messed up post-war planning, that is if they had any real planning to deal with the situation in the first place.
There is good reason that George Weigel throughout the book refers to the Pope's Regensburg address that caused so much controversy, but for the wrong reasons. The Pope's address is almost a blueprint for this book and Weigel's contention that Jihadism is primarily caused by bad theology due to false idea that God is not even bound to reason. The Pope's critique was also focused on the Western world where there has been a loss of faith in reason and the ability to know what is true resulting in a deep and blinding skepticism.
Reading this book really helped me to focus and think about the problems of global Jihadism and how best to respond to it. In the West the idea of Jihad terrorism is mainly seen as a problem due to root causes such as poverty and other environmental factors. It is easy to understand this worldview since it results from a worldview that already does not take theology seriously in the first place. They can't see that other might take theology (no matter how badly distorted) seriously.
George Weigel lays out many factors in the Islamic culture that leads to Jihadism in the first part of the book called "Understanding the enemy." These factors are not going to be solved by reducing poverty in parts of the Middle East or by retreating back to our borders and having a foreign policy that just looks on at the rest of the world. I always found it rather silly to think that it was America helping out Muslims in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Somalia, etc as being a major rallying call against the United States. Israel is a bone of contention, but it is not just the U.S. that is supporting Israel. It is the view that Islam cannot fail and see history through this lens. The sections of Weigel's book are divided as lessons and the title of one lesson is "Jihadists read history and politics through their prism of their distinctive theological convictions, not through the lens of western assumptions of the progressive dynamic of history." Islamists see the stagnation of their culture and look for who to blame for it. The number of patents coming from predominantly Islamic cultures is so small that it hardly registers compared to countries like the United States, and in Asia and Europe. Part of the Islamist's critique of the Western world and its decadence is certainly true, but there response is even more evil than what they are suppose to be offended at. This produces the ironies such as the 9/11 hijackers visiting strip clubs before their attack on America for its decadence. Introspection just does not seem to be a part of much of the Islamic culture since it's Golden Age and decision to shut down philosophers who were contradicting it.
The second main part of the book deals with "Rethinking Realism" and why this is so important to the war against Jihad. The problems we faced in Iraq after major combat was over shows just how bad the problem is when we don't see the world as it is. In many ways this has always been a problem when we don't seriously label things as to what they are. President Reagan was attacked in the media and around the world when he called the U.S.S.R an "Evil Empire." Here was an actual case of speaking "truth to power" and people didn't like it because it identified a reality that just couldn't be brushed under the rug. Again a Chapter title sums this up well "Genuine realism in foreign policy takes wickedness seriously, yet avoids premature closure in its thinking about possibilities of positive change in world politics."
The third and final sections entails "Deserving Victory" which addresses cultural self-confidence, the false idea of tolerance, changing our energy policy to help defund Jihadism, and that there is no escape from U.S. leadership. Whoever become our next president is going to have to deal with these problems, yet I don't have much confidence that whoever it is much good will be done in these directions. A serious energy policy is quite unlikely in a partisan climate that has become so heated on this subject.
Weigel's Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action is a serious overview of the problem of Jihadism and what can be done about it and I would seriously recommend it to anyone who wants to read on the topic.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Answers the question: "What do we do now"?9 Jan 2008
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For people who have read Bernard Lewis, Victor Davis Hanson, and Robert Spencer, they might ask what does George Weigel have to say that hasn't already been said? The answer is "a great deal". This is a book that is helpful in identifying what parts of the conventional wisdom are wrong and why. It is logically organized into "lessons" (1) The great human questions, include the great questions of public life are ultimately theological. (These lessons are not assumed but explained and carefully argued). (10) In the war against global jihadism, deterrence strategies are unlikely to be effective, because is almost impossible to deter those who are committed to their own martyrdom. (14) Victory in the war against global jihadism requires a new domestic political coalition that is proof against the confusions caused by the Unhinged Left and the Unhinged Right. It is up to the United States to defend the West, and every American voter should be educated by this book and how it can be done.
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Read this book, then buy two copies for your friends2 Jan 2008
Ian R. Colle
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This book should be required reading for all of the presidential candidates. In this short book, able to be completed in one sitting if you're diligent, Weigel accurately describes the roots of the present war against jihadism. During this crucial election year, this book helps to frame the issue that should be at the core of the decision-making process for all voters. Buy this book, give it away to your friends and request that your local library buys a copy. I can not overstate the importance of this little book.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Re-examining the War on Terror12 Jan 2008
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George Weigel sees a problem with the War on Terror as we are currently conducting it. Too many people in the United States and Europe (especially the leaders) fail to understand the true motives and ideas that drive the jihadists and this leads us to make tactical mistakes. George Weigel has written this book in an attempt to help us understand what the War on Terror is really all about and how we can win it.
There are fifteen chapters in the book with each one dedicated to a single lesson that the West must learn if we are to successfully defeat the jihadists. These fifteen chapters are divided into three parts: Understanding the Enemy, Rethinking Realism, and Deserving Victory. Weigel's prose in clear as usual and in each chapter the reader is treated to a thoughtful blend of philosophy, political theory, and politics. There are a handful of problems with the book (e.g. his creation of the "unhinged right" seems like an artificial and weak construction thrown in just to provide political balance to his "unhinged left") but overall the book is a useful guide to understanding the struggle America must face if we are to prevail in the War on Terror.
Everyone in America who is unsure about the nature and desires of our enemies should read this book.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Thank you Mr. Weigel20 Jan 2008
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This book is an expansion of a lecture, so it is more like an essay. Brevity does not necessarily mean simplistic. (I'm not sure Mr. McLachlan in Calif. actually read it - everything he said should be addressed was, in fact.) I found it excellent and I wish it could be required reading in churches and schools throughout the U.S.