How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror

Hardcover (Print)
Rent from
(Save 59%)
Est. Return Date: 07/03/2015
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 92%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (32) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $30.00   
  • Used (31) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

2009-04-21 Hardcover First Edition New in New jacket 2009 Stated First Edition, w/full number line. Hardcover w/new dust jacket. As new, mint condition. From The Civil War Book ... Shop-As close as your computer; as dependable as old Abe. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Sunbury, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by


A cosmic war is a religious war. It is a battle not between armies or nations, but between the forces of good and evil, a war in which God is believed to be directly engaged on behalf of one side against the other.

The hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, thought they were fighting a cosmic war. According to award-winning writer and scholar of religions Reza Aslan, by infusing the United States War on Terror with the same kind of religiously polarizing rhetoric and Manichean worldview, is also fighting a cosmic war–a war that can’t be won.

How to Win a Cosmic War is both an in-depth study of the ideology fueling al-Qa‘ida, the Taliban, and like-minded militants throughout the Muslim world, and an exploration of religious violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Surveying the global scene from Israel to Iraq and from New York to the Netherlands, Aslan argues that religion is a stronger force today than it has been in a century. At a time when religion and politics are increasingly sharing the same vocabulary and functioning in the same sphere, Aslan writes that we must strip the conflicts of our world–in particular, the War on Terror–of their religious connotations and address the earthly grievances that always lie behind the cosmic impulse.

How do you win a cosmic war? By refusing to fight in one.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Tobias Grey
… Aslan's new book -- his second, after the bestselling No God but God, about the origins and evolution of Islam -- provides more than just historical precedent; it also offers a very persuasive argument for the best way to counter jihadism and its many splinter groups, such as al-Qaeda.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

This book offers an informed critique of good-and-evil dualisms on both sides in the war on terror. Terrorists and their opponents share an "us against them" conception of reality that vilifies the enemy as irredeemable and suited only for destruction. Political estrangement and isolation nurture the cosmic dualism inherent in violent jihadist ideologies, argues Aslan (creative writing, Univ. of California at Riverside; No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam). But a similar dualism lies behind ill-founded American responses to terrorism. In quick, informative surveys, Aslan takes readers through the origins of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, zealotry in ancient Jewish and contemporary (evangelical Christian and Zionist) forms, the history of Islamic jihadist distortions of Islamic teaching, and the repressive postcolonial governments that nurture such radical ideologs. But Aslan is hopeful: radical groups moderate their ideologies when they are drawn into the political process, and a new U.S. administration may adopt a more enlightened foreign policy. Aslan's suggestions are simple but not simplistic. Recommended for all readers interested in viewing the war on terror from this alternative perspective.
—Steve Young

Kirkus Reviews
An eloquent plea for defanging terrorism with rights for Muslims, both in the West and the Middle East. Iranian-born Aslan (Creative Writing/Univ. of California; No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, 2005) offers an attention-grabbing proposition: George W. Bush got something right in the Middle East. The former president correctly said that only by extending democratic freedoms to oppressed Muslims in the Middle East could we quell the appeal of terrorism. Yet Bush failed to back up his words, looking the other way in 2006 as Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, an American ally, crushed political opposition. This was a missed opportunity, the author declares, because Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood had proved itself willing to work within the parliamentary system rather than push for a theocracy. Aslan also cites Turkey, where the ruling moderate Islamist party, once given political participation, drew away popular support for extremists. Radical groups like Hamas can be given more governing authority only with restrictions, Aslan admits, though he doesn't spell those out. His main thesis is that the West errs in demonizing al-Qaeda and other jihadists as cosmic evildoers rather than an "international criminal conspiracy to be brought to justice." The author wisely notes that America's openness to religion has spared the United States the violence some Muslims have committed in secular Europe, where their religiosity is frowned upon, and he applauds recent British efforts to overturn the economic and racial discrimination faced by its Muslim community. Even readers who believe a fight with terror requires throwing some military punches will learn from Aslan'sendorsement of soft-power approaches. Author tour to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Los Angeles
From the Publisher
"In this provocative and engaging book, Reza Aslan shows why he is one of America's leading analysts of the confusing and frightening forces that confront us. It is Aslan's great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think."— Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

“‘Terror’ is never going to show up with a pen to sign a peace treaty ending the "War on Terror." The use of that phrase has created a black hole into which serious talk about serious topics—including, by all means, Islam but also Christianity and Judaism--has disappeared. Reza Aslan's elegant, incisive book breaks the spell cast by "the emperor's new talk" and signals that the conversation the world has been waiting for may at last be about to begin.”—Jack Miles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of God: A Biography

"Reza Aslan's is an indispensable voice with an urgently needed message. His book reaches across a world chasm that too many regard as unbridgeable - with balance, eloquence, and rare wisdom."—James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword and Practicing Catholic

“Reza Aslan’s How To Win A Cosmic War hovers confidently over a vast historical terrain, landing where it must to explore how common and terrible apocalyptic thinking is—how it plagues every religious tradition, every inspired nationalism, and cannot be defeated with brute force, upon which it thrives. A unique primer for pragmatic leaders whose patient enlightenment is the real antidote to terror.”—Bernard Avishai, author of The Hebrew Republic and The Tragedy of Zionism

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400066728
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, and senior fellow at the Orfalae Center for Global & International Studies at UC Santa Barbara. His first book, No god but God, has been translated into thirteen languages and was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Part One

The Geography of Identity

Chapter One

The Borderless Self

Ben-Gurion International Airport is a brash, beautiful, strikingly confident construction that, like much of Tel Aviv, looks as though it might have sprouted fully formed from the desert sands of the old Arab port city of Jaffa. Named after the surly general and chief architect of the state, the airport is a testament to Israel’s self-ascribed position as a bastion of social and technological advancement amid a sea of inchoate enemies. In fact, Ben-Gurion’s primary function seems to be to filter out those very enemies by tightly controlling access to the state. This is true of all international airports, I suppose, as anyone who has undergone the humiliation of being scanned, fingerprinted, and photographed to be allowed entry into the United States post-9/11 can attest. In the modern world, airports have become a kind of identity directory: the place where we are most determinately defined, registered, and catalogued before being apportioned into separate queues, each according to nationality.

Still, Israel has, for obvious reasons, taken this process to new and unprecedented heights. I am not two steps off the plane when I am immediately tagged and separated from the rush of passengers by a pimpled immigration officer in a knitted yarmulke.

“Passport, please,” he barks. “Why are you here?”

I cannot tell him the truth: I want to sneak into Gaza, which has been sealed off for months. In 2006, when Palestinians were offered their first taste of a free and fair election, they voted overwhelmingly for the religious nationalists of Hamas over the more secular yet seemingly inept politicians of Fatah, the party founded by Yasir Arafat in 1958. Despite having promised to allow the Palestinians self-determination, Israel, the United States, and the European powers quickly decided that Hamas, whose founding charter refuses to recognize the state of Israel and whose militant wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been responsible for countless Israeli military and civilian deaths, would not be allowed to govern. Gaza, the sliver of fallow land that has become Hamas’s de facto stronghold, was cut off from the outside world. International aid dried up and a plan was put in place to, as The New York Times put it, “starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections” to the point where new elections would have to be held. This resulted in a violent rift between Hamas and Fatah that split the Occupied Territories in two: the West Bank, governed by Fatah with the aid of Israel and the Western powers; and Gaza, ruled by Hamas and isolated from the rest of the world, a prison with one and a half million hungry, fuming inmates.

I wanted to visit the ruined village of Um al-Nasr, in northern Gaza, some miles away from lush Tel Aviv. A few months earlier, a number of villagers, including two toddlers, had drowned in what the press was calling a “sewage tsunami.” The deluge had been triggered by the collapse of a treatment facility just above the village that had been slowly and steadily leaking sewage. For months the villagers of Um al-Nasr had pleaded with Israeli authorities to allow the importation of the pumps, pipes, and filters necessary to stem the flow. But Israel, rattled by a ceaseless barrage of crudely constructed rockets launched daily from Gaza, some of which were—in the sort of grim irony that can exist only in such a place—constructed from old sewage pipes, refused. The villagers built an earthen embankment around what was fast becoming a giant lake of human waste. But the embankment would not hold. On the morning of March 27, 2007, while most of the villagers of Um al-Nasr slept, the embankment gave way. The village was inundated.

This is what we talk about when we talk about Gaza: that human beings—men, women, children—could literally drown in shit.

“Why are you here?”

“To visit the sites,” I say.

It is not a satisfactory answer, and I am taken into a windowless room, where the question is repeated, this time by a slightly older officer. An hour passes, and a third officer walks in with the same question. “Why are you here?”

Thereafter, the question is repeated—in the sterile immigration office; in a smaller, even more sterile office inside the first office; in an even smaller office inside that office; and later, at the immigration queue, at the baggage claim, at customs—until I come to think of “Why are you here?” as a form of greeting.

All of this is understandable. I resent none of it. Though I am a citizen of the United States, I was born in Iran and have spent a great deal of time in countries that do not even recognize Israel’s right to exist—countries that, were I to have an Israeli stamp on my passport, would not allow me to enter their borders, would maybe even cart me off to jail. Israel has every reason to be cautious, considering the battering it as has received at the hands of people who look just like me.

The problem is not with Israel. The problem is with me, with the sum of my identities. My citizenship is American; my nationality, Iranian; my ethnicity, Persian; my culture, Middle Eastern; my religion, Muslim; my gender, male. All the multiple signifiers of my identity—the things that make me who I am—are in one way or another viewed as a threat to the endless procession of perfectly pleasant, perfectly reasonable immigration officers whose task it is to maintain a safe distance between people like them and people like me.

Even so, throughout the entire exercise, I could not help but think of the famed French theorist Ernest Renan, who once defined the nation as “a group of people united in a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbors.” Nowhere is that sentiment borne out more fully or with more force than among the nations scattered along the broad horizon of the Middle East. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that the region in which nationalism arose so late, and so often through the will of others, is the region in which it is now being most unmistakably subsumed by the tide of globalization.

Globalization means many things to many people. Though the term itself is new, having entered our vocabulary only in the 1980s, the systemic social, economic, and cultural changes that the word conjures have been taking place for centuries. There is a compelling case to be made for considering the process of globalization to have begun when the first humans footslogged out of Africa in search of game and refuge and more temperate climates. The age of empires was in some ways the height of globalization; the Romans, Byzantines, Persians, and Mongols were able to cross-pollinate their trade, communication, and cultures across vast distances with fluidity and ease. The same could be said of the age of colonialism, in which the old imperial model of commercial relations among neighboring kingdoms was transformed into the more manageable, if less ethical, model of total economic domination of indigenous populations. And certainly no single force can be said to have had a greater impact on propelling globalization forward than religion, which has always sought to spread its message across the boundaries of borders, clans, and ethnicities. Simply put, globalization is not a new phenomenon.

In its contemporary usage, however, the term “globalization” refers to modern trends such as the expansion of international financial systems, the interconnectedness of national interests, the rise of global media and communication technologies like the Internet, the mass migration of peoples—all taking place across the boundaries of sovereign nation-states. The simplest definition of modern globalization belongs to the Danish political philosophers Hans-Henrik Holm and Georg Sørensen: “The intensification of economic, political, social and cultural relations across borders.” But I prefer the sociologist Roland Robertson’s view of globalization as “a concept that refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole” (italics mine).

Globalization, in other words, is not just about technological advancement and transnational relations. It is about one’s sense of self in a world that is increasingly being viewed as a single space. The world has not changed as much as we have. Our idea of the self has expanded. How we identify ourselves as part of a social collective, how we conceive of our public spaces, how we interact with like-minded individuals, how we determine our religious and political leaders, even how we think about categories of religion and politics—everything about how we define ourselves both as individuals and as members of a larger society is transformed in a globalized world because our sense of self is not constrained by territorial boundaries. And since the self is composed of multiple markers of identity—nationality, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and so on—if one of those starts to give way (say, nationality), it is only natural that another (religion, ethnicity) would come to fill the vacuum.

For most of the last century, secular nationalism—the political philosophy that places the nation-state at the center of collective identity—has been the dominant marker of identity in much of the world, even in the developing world, whose leaders tend to view the creation of a sturdy national identity as the first step in its economic and political advancement. Nationalism begins, of course, with the idea of the nation, but the nation is not always so easy to define.

A nation is “a community of common descent,” writes Anthony Smith, the foremost theorist on the subject; bound together by a set of shared values and traditions, myths and historical memories, and often linked to some ancestral homeland: “the place where ‘our’ sages, saints, and heroes lived, worked, prayed, and fought.” A state is the bureaucratic mechanism (i.e., government) necessary to organize and control a nation within territorial boundaries. A state has borders; it can be geographically defined. A nation is borderless; it is an “imagined community,” to borrow a much-borrowed phrase from Benedict Anderson. The only borders a nation has are those of inclusion and exclusion: who belongs and who does not.

In a state, membership is defined through citizenship. But membership in a nation requires some other measure of unity: the members must share the same traditions, speak the same language, worship the same god, or practice the same rituals. The modern state can be traced back only to the eighteenth century. But the nation has existed from the moment human populations began to organize themselves as families, clans, tribes, peoples. The Celts, the Aztecs, the Persians, the Jews, the Arabs—all laid claim to a degree of “nationhood,” all possessed a sense of community, and all maintained links to an ancestral homeland long before they were absorbed into various states.

Think of the nation as a grand historical narrative—both mythical and real—written in the memories of generation after generation of a people. The state is the cover and binding that harnesses that narrative, creating a readable book. Thus, when we speak of the nation-state, we refer to the relatively new idea that a nation—a community of common descent—can be contained within the territorial or bureaucratic boundaries of a state. And when we speak of secular nationalism, we mean the even newer idea that the members of a nation-state should be bound together not by religious or ethnic affiliation but through a social contract among free and equal citizens.

When the nation-state was an autonomous, territorially bounded entity governing a community of people who shared some measure of cultural homogeneity—as was the case throughout much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—secular nationalism thrived. But globalization has changed everything. The rise of cosmopolitan cities such as New York, Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Hong Kong; the surge in mass migration, dual nationalities, and hyphenated identities; the ceaseless flow of peoples across state borders; all of these have made achieving anything like cultural homogeneity within territorial boundaries almost impossible. The more the world becomes deterritorialized, the more nationalism loses its place as the primary marker of collective identity. Just as a narrative cannot be truly contained within the bindings of a book, so has globalization put the lie to the idea that a nation can be truly bound by the geography of a state.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A different perspective

    I thought this book was very compelling, and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more on the 'war on terror.' As a Muslim born in Iran and raised in America, Aslan offers an interesting perspective on many events taking place in the world today. He begins by tracing the historical roots of various religious clashes, such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and then explaining how they relate to today's news.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!

    Wonderful book. The author exams how the "War on Terror" isn't really a war on terror but a war between radicals who believe they are fighting for their god. Also describes how being an American citizen who was born in Iran and is muslim in America is after 9/11.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 25, 2009

    Save your money

    Mr. Aslan should have left out his left wing politics and then his book wouldn't have been too bad. You can learn as much from watching the news and reading the paper.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)