How appropriate that the 100th birthday of historian Bernard Lewis should be marked in your pages by his prescient writings on the Middle East almost a decade ago (Notable and Quotable, May 31). Mr. Lewis had warned of ineffectual responses by the United States to growing attacks by Islamic radicals, believing we consistently misread their purpose and persistence. His deep understanding of the sweep of history reminded the West of 14 centuries of conflict with Islam, in which Islam's ascendancy for a millennia is not forgotten, but to be reclaimed. The past is very much alive in the present, fueled by a rage at the lack of power in world affairs. A fusion of religion and state is a nasty brew, wherever it surfaces.
The late, great Johns Hopkins Prof. Fouad Ajami quoted Lewis in these pages in 2006 on the problem we face today: "In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues. . . . 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."
That last point is the point.