A Sage in Christendom

By FOUAD AJAMI, Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2006; Page A14

For Bernard Lewis, there is something now of the closing of a circle. As a young man, he had been on His Majesty’s service during the Second World War, working for British intelligence between 1940 and 1945. The young medievalist had been pressed into modern government work, and that experience had given him his taste for contemporary political affairs. This new war is something of a return to his beginnings. For an immensely gregarious man of unfailing wit and personal optimism, a darkness runs through his view of the future of the Western democracies. “In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues,” he told me when I pressed him for a reading of the struggle against Islamic radicalism. “In our island, we knew we would prevail, that the Americans would be drawn into the fight. It is different today. We don’t know who we are, we don’t know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy.”

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