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 necessary.
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.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
December 31, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Civilization and Its Enemies by Lee Harris
One good thing about working on cold cases was that no one dragged your ass out of bed at three in the morning to look at a still-warm body. The only warm bodies in cold cases were the investigators , and occasionally there was some reasonable doubt about that. Today everybody was cold, but that was due to the weather, which wasn t likely to change any time soon. The sky over Manhattan was dull gray, thick, and impermeable. The air held so much moisture, her skin felt wet as she walked to 137 Centre Street from the subway.
The police surgeon had given Jane Bauer, forty years old and newly promoted to detective first grade, the OK to return to work from sick report after the holidays. He suggested workouts at the gym and walking to work to get the muscles back into condition, but it was too cold to follow the second directive. She had returned last week to a desk full of paperwork and an office almost crackling with incipient spasms of electricity. Her partners dis- liked each other she smiled at her understatement of the situation and she was actually relieved to find them both alive and sniping when she first set foot in the office.
Morning, Detective, Annie, the police administrative aide, said, brushing past her on the run.
Gordon Defino was hanging his coat on the hook when she entered the office. New case this morning, he said.
About time. Another day of paper pushing and I might ask for a transfer.
Sean MacHovec, as expected, crossed the threshold at exactly eight forty-five, the start of the 935 tour, nine to five in ordinary speech. How the hell does he do it Jane wondered. They exchanged good mornings.
Annie says we get a new case today. Old enough to smell bad. Coffee
Defino grunted. Jane articulated a syllable. MacHovec, happy to have an excuse to leave the office, departed.
Nothing changes, Defino said.
Defino gave a grudging grin. Sharpens your sense of humor.
MacHovec with coffee and Annie with nothing in hand arrived simultaneously.
You re wanted in the whip s office pronto, Annie said. She looked at all of them but let her eyes rest on MacHovec, whom she hated. MacHovec returned her message and stare with a grin that told her he outranked her and she served him, regardless.
They took their Styrofoam cups and ambled over to Captain Graves s office. He leaned over the desk to shake Jane s hand.