Some Very Necessary Reading
Now Weigel has written Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism, and after an hour with it this afternoon, I know it belongs on that shelf of essential books on the war which I referenced in the past. Two paragraphs from the introduction:
The war in which we now find ourselves began before 9/11. We did not recognize its opening shots for what they were when fatwas authorizing the murder of all Americans were issued from caves in the Hindu Kush, or when American embassies were bombed in East Africa, or when, in the port of Aden, the USS Cole had a huge hole blown in its side by al Qaeda operatives who had rigged themselves into human torpedoes. The war is now being fought on multiple fronts, with more likely to come. Many are interconnected: There is an Afghan front, an Iraqi front, an Iranian front, a Lebanese/Syrian front, a Gaza front, a Somali front, a North Africa/Maghreb front, a Sudanese front, a Southeast Asian front, an intelligence front, a financial-flows front, an economic front, an energy front, and a homeland security front. These are all fields of fire –some kinetic, others of a different sort– in the same global war, and they must be understood as such. Al Qaeda attacks on the United States and American diplomatic and military assets were, for example, planned in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. Places unknown to the vast majority of Americans are know among the most evil places on earth, as one U.S. Special Forces officer puts it; what happens in locales previously unknown save in the most recondite geography bees –North Waziristan– has direct effects on our armed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. What is being plotted in such places could have devastating effects on the homeland.
Bernard Lewis, the English-speaking world’s pre-eminent scholar of the history of Islam, was reflecting on all of this and noted the difference between our times and the days when he worked for British intelligence, during the darkest period of World War II. Then, he told the Wall Street Journal, “we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues. It is different today. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy. Not knowing, and worse, not wanting to know, is lethal. That was proven beyond any doubt on 9/11; any similar events in the future will provide an exclamation point to what we should have grasped by now.
His short “Third Lesson,” that “Jihadism is the enemy in the multifront war that been declared upon us,” should end the long-running debate over what to call this conflict, and his examination of the theology of the jihadists is a necessary submersion for anyone serious about war. It is a relatively short but wonderfully written book, and you should get it. Send one to a member of the media.
I mentioned in a post last night the book I am currently listening to, The Nuclear Jihadist, by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. You really need to read this as well to understand why the crisis in Pakistan is so troubling. The book not only charts the rise of A.Q. Khan and his nuclear network, but also provides an introduction into the history and politics of Pakistan as well as U.S. foreign policy towards the country which will make the current events much more understandable.
I have been hunting for good Pakistan-centric blogs the past few days, and thus far think All Things Pakistan is the best, though I welcome pointers via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other titles on the shelf:
And Bernard Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam