The use of the word “evil” continues to surface, in remembering Ronald Reagan’s pronouncements on the Soviet Union and in characterizing our current enemies in the war on terror, particularly in the tactics they employ, such as beheadings of innocents. New Yorker columnist Hendrik Hertzberg would like us to believe that this term as Reagan used it is a political one, meaning simply “bad” behavior subject to correction, and not a true description of the condition of fallen human nature. He is misguided. Evil is a religious distinction, and the concept of evil is one wing of the age-old Manichean struggle within the human soul, which happens to be playing out in extremely violent ways in the Middle East. If we can’t talk about evil in this context, we will never have the moral clarity to win this war on global terrorism. Ronald Reagan understood this, notwithstanding his son Ron’s comment that he never wore “religion on his sleeve”. George Bush understands this. And so does Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who said that Reagan would understand the parallels between the Cold War and the war on terror because he would have recognized the parallels of evil involved and that our adversaries in both conflicts did not respect the God-given right to human freedom. Anyone who has any pretensions about leading this country had better understand this. Yes, there is much to do in getting at the psychological roots of the hatred that drove 9-11, but this is a fight to the death between two irreconcilable forces, and one of them is evil. The capacity and willingness to understand and to make this moral distinction are as much the battlegrounds of this war as those of actual combat, as well as critical points of contention in this election year, which is fast becoming a referendum on the nature of radical Islam. No victory, no peace.
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