So how does one win a cosmic war against extremism? The United States has tried several approaches. Torture didn’t work, as we’ve seen in the memos released by the Obama administration in the past week. Neither did amassing a “coalition of the willing.” The surge provided a morale boost, but few would argue that it fundamentally altered the nature of the war on terror. Reza Aslan has an answer to this eponymous question, and it’s a bit of a cop-out: “by refusing to fight one.” A cosmic war, by his definition, is one framed as a fight between good and evil, whose consequences are of greater import than the territory on which they are fought. Religion, he argues, is a stronger force now than it has been in a century—both sides in the war on terror infuse their rhetoric with religious fervor. Yet the key to victory is to abandon the messianic thrust of our campaign and acknowledge a battle between decent people with legitimate interests. It’s not a novel argument, but it’s framed well and written with conviction.
ASLAN READS MONDAY AT 7 P.M. AT Busboys and poets, 5015 connecticut ave. NW. free. (202) 364-1919.