How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror
by Reza Aslan
Random House, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4000-6672-8 173 pages, +55 pages notes
This is a harsh book. It is also a perceptive look at the unproductive tendency of elements of the three great Abrahamaic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and the latecomer, Islam, to develop apocalyptic views that demonize the "Other" and cling to the "Tribe".
If you think that your tribe is immune to this, think again. Nationalism requires unity, and unity, writes Ernest Renan, is "always effected by means of brutality". Aslan also quotes Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who wrote
"It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist". Well, it is straight out of the Old Testament- Smite the people of Canaan and Moab, kill man woman and child. If they are not around to argue, their is not going to be any argument about whose land it is.
Aslan also quotes american "Christian Zionists" such as John Hagee, Evangelicals who favor Israel because they hope that the apocalypse may break out in the region, leading to the rapture. And he is clear in his criticism of Jihadism, the self-destructive effort of Muslims to "purify" their religion into a form that focuses on the primitive essence- pointless and foolish, a dead end that ignores the real needs of the Muslim world for an end to corruption, to rule by decree, and to the seemingly endless obsession with Israel.
Speaking of Cosmic War, how do you win one of those, a war in which your tribe becomes the only good people in the universe, and the Other becomes the personification of depravity? You refuse to play the game. You defend yourself, when required. But you decline to use the word "crusade" in a speech. You decline to speak of the bad acts of members of the other group as if those acts are ultimate evidence that they are the spawn of Satan. For Aslan, the policies of the Bush administration were a dead end that strengthened Jihadism by increasing its appeal to Muslim youth. He suggests that the USA must reformulate the idealogy, focusing not on a cosmic war between good and evil, but rather an "earthly contest between the advocates of freedom and the agents of oppression" as he puts it. But this challenge, he plainly states, is just beginning.
And the USA, he plainly feels, is still the indispensable nation in this effort.