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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Fight of Our Lives (book review)

The Fight of Our Lives: Knowing the Enemy, Speaking the Truth, and Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam
by William J. Bennett, Seth Leibsohn
© 2011 by William J. Bennett, Seth Leibsohn
Published by Thomas Nelson

This short book (208 pages, approximately 150 of which are reading material) outlines the events surrounding the wars currently being waged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in defense of our own country.  It is both a history lesson and a call to action.  The premise is, as the subtitle suggests, that we are both in a war and, as a country, we have softened our approach to winning it.  As this review is being written on the tenth anniversary of the attack of September 11th, it is fitting to review the challenges we face in a country that has changed dramatically since 2001.

Bennett and Liebsohn certainly represent the more conservative end of the social and political spectrum in the United States.  Yet, despite this bias, they are objective in their presentation of the criticism and correction they offer.  The complacency regarding the struggle of political, religious, and social segments of American society is criticized regardless of which administration is in office – and this, in the context of Bennett having served in both the Regan and Bush administrations.  This summary of events leading up to September 11th 2001 and the subsequent acts that have left people dead and wounded need to stay fresh in our minds.  The parallels of how, as a country, we react to those around us are striking as we look back in history.  Bennett and Liebsohn take us there.

Yet the book is also a call to change that is beyond the scope of where influence in religious and civil affairs will typically end.  At what point do we, as individuals, compromise what we believe and how we practice that belief?  The authors call for reformation in Islam, for the ending of what is termed “radical Islam”, also termed as fundamental or doctrinal Islam.  Indeed, just as polygamy in some doctrines is against the laws of the country and against what is believed to the be the good of the people, so must killing “infidels” in the name of a false god be punished according to the laws of the land.  Can it be eradicated?  It cannot.  Should it be reformed?  Perhaps it should or, better yet, abandoned.  However, is it the place for non-Muslims to dictate the need for reformation or abandonment?  It is not, if change is to come from within – from the heart.

The book is both an alert and a reference piece.  Twenty pages of notes and ten pages of index demonstrate the work that went into supporting the premise of the authors.  Of note, two quotes from the book that are not from the authors are particularly worth citing.  The first is from Tony Blair from the autobiography of his political life where he said: “In the mind-set that is modern Islam, there is one spectrum, not several.  At the furthest end of the spectrum are the extremists who advocate terrorism to further their goal of an Islamic state.” He goes on to identify others along the breadth of this spectrum that “in a curious and dangerous way buy into bits of their world view.   This group stretches uncomfortably far into the middle of the spectrum.”  It is this fact, that a broad group of adherents agree with those who resort to violence, that Bennett and Liebsohn find disturbing.

The second quote is from another era, from one who saw the impact of a different group of extremists: the National Socialists of 20th century Germany.  C.S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, wrote: “We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful.”  The compromise and accommodation we see for those who follow doctrines that hurt others and rend society is disturbing.  Where do we, as a country, draw the line?  This book proposes a course.


Disclosure of Material Connection:  This book was received for free from the publisher but a positive review was not required.  The opinions expressed are my own.  This disclosure is in accordance with the United States Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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