“A bastard kind of Christianity, but a living kind; with a heart-life in it;
not dead, chopping barren logic merely.”
Since September 11, 2001, there have been many articles and several books purporting to explain what led up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Intelligence and military analyses, many of them useful, vie for attention with political tracts, many of them rather less useful—and most, bizarrely enough, tend to conclude that war against Saddam Hussein (a secular Arab nationalist, loathed by radical Muslims, who has never been linked to the September 11 attacks) is the only way to bring radical Muslims to heel. Such sage statesmanship has proved its utility before—notably in Vietnam.
Although the author, probably Britain’s best-known conservative intellectual, was clearly impelled to write by the events of that ghastly September morning, The West and the Rest is both better written and more ambitious than other works “inspired” by that day. Despite the book’s disconcertingly dismissive title and its modest length, this is a richly rewarding work, filled with profundity and felicitous phraseology, with occasional dips into near-poetry—“a landscape that had worn its Biblical aspect for centuries, with star-spangled nights above stone-built...