Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured
to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which
they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to
maturity without being stolen or their children sold into
slavery by a victorious foe....They forget that in time of
danger, in the face of the enemy, they must trust and
confide in each other, or perish....They forget, in short,
that there has ever been a category of human experience
called the enemy.
"That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very
concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and
political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't
done enough for yet. Or perhaps there had been a
misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something
that we could correct....
"Our first task is therefore to try to grasp what the
concept of the enemy really means. The enemy is someone who
is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is
true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his
reason, and not ours."
So begins Civilization and Its Enemies, an extraordinary
tour de force by America's "reigning philosopher of 9/11,"
Lee Harris. What Francis Fukuyama did for the end of the
Cold War, Lee Harris has now done for the next great
conflict: the war between the civilized world and the
international terrorists who wish to destroy it. Each major
turning point in our history has produced one great thinker
who has been able to step back from petty disagreements and
see the bigger picture -- and Lee Harris has emerged as
that man for our time. He is the one who has helped make
sense of the terrorists' fantasies and who forces us most
strongly to confront the fact that our enemy -- for the
first time in centuries -- refuses to play by any of our
rules, or to think in any of our categories.
We are all naturally reluctant to face a true enemy. Most
of us cannot give up the myth that tolerance is the
greatest of virtues and that we can somehow convert the
enemy to our beliefs. Yet, as Harris's brilliant tour
through the stages of civilization demonstrates, from
Sparta to the French Revolution to the present,
civilization depends upon brute force, properly wielded by
a sovereign. Today, only America can play the role of
sovereign on the world stage, by the use of force when
Lee Harris's articles have been hailed by thinkers from
across the spectrum. His message is an enduring one that
will change the way readers think -- about the war with
Iraq, about terrorism, and about our future.