What's So Great About America

What's So Great About America

by Dinesh D'Souza


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621574026
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Publication date: 06/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 218
Sales rank: 563,688
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dinesh D'Souza is the former president of The King's College in New York City and author of the New York Times bestsellers America: Imagine a World Without Her , Obama's America , and The Roots of Obama's Rage. He is also a former White House domestic policy analyst and research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His other best-selling books include What's So Great About Christianity and Life After Death.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


America and Its Enemies

* * *

The cry that comes from the heart of the believer
overcomes everything, even the White House.

—Ayatollah Khomeini

Before the terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, crashed a plane into the Pentagon, and began their campaign to bring to America the horrors of the war-ravaged Middle East, life in the United States was placid and even a little boring. The dominant issue in politics was the Social Security lockbox, an especially curious subject of dispute since no such lockbox exists or has ever existed. For diversion and entertainment, Americans could follow the Gary Condit sex scandal or watch "reality TV" shows like Survivor. Newspapers devoted front-page reports to such issues as road rage, a man bitten by a shark, and the revelation that overage kids were playing Little League baseball. The biggest issue in the airline industry involved something called "economy class syndrome." Essentially this referred to rather obese people sitting in coach class and fretting that during long flights their legs became stiff.

    All this triviality and absurdity was swept aside by the hijackers. In an act of supreme chutzpah, coordination, and technical skill, nineteen men seized control of four commercial jet planes, crashed two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and rammed one into the shoulder of the Pentagon. The fourth plane did not find its target—possibly the White House or CampDavid—but crashed into the woods of Pennsylvania. In a single day of infamy—September 11, 2001—the terrorists had killed more than three thousand people.

    Not since Pearl Harbor, which provoked American entry into World War II, had America been directly attacked in this way by a foreign power. But even that was different. Pearl Harbor is in Hawaii, not on the American mainland. Moreover, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a military operation directed against the U.S. Navy. By contrast, the terrorists struck New York City, and most of the people they killed were civilians. One would have to go back more than a century, to the Civil War, to count such large numbers of American casualties on a single day. As for civilian casualties, the citizens of the United States had never endured such mayhem. Historian David McCullough called September 11, 2001, the worst day in America's history.

    Now, amidst our grief and sad memories, we find ourselves at war against the forces of terrorism. It is an overt war, such as we saw in the overthrow of the Taliban regime, as well as a covert war, with secret campaigns to identify and destroy enemy networks and cells. It is a war that has come home to America, as people cope with fears of further attacks, including those involving biological, chemical, and—God forbid—nuclear weapons. Moreover, this is a new kind of war against an enemy that refuses to identify himself. Our enemy is a terrorist regime that inhabits many countries, including the United States. It is made up of very strange people most of whose names we do not yet know and whose motives and inspiration remain unclear to us. And the enemy conducts its operations in the name of Islam, one of the world's great religions and a very old civilization that has somehow now become an incubator of fanaticism and terrorism.

* * *

Know your enemy, Clausewitz instructs us, and then you will be able to fight him. Despite our early success in Afghanistan, it is not clear that we understand our enemy very well. Indeed, America's incomprehension of the enemy became apparent in the days immediately following September 11, with the insistence of our leaders and pundits that the terrorists were "cowards" or "faceless cowards." President Bush first used this term, which was then repeated by many others. The reasoning is that the terrorists cravenly targeted women and children. But of course the terrorists did no such thing. They didn't really care who was on the hijacked planes or in the World Trade Center. As it happened, most of their victims were men. Their targets were the symbols of American capitalism and of the American government. One of them was the Pentagon, by any reckoning a military target. Usually we consider people who pick on women and children cowardly because they are trying to avoid harm to themselves. But in this case the terrorists went to their deaths with certainty and apparent equanimity. Like the Japanese kamikazes, the terrorists were certainly fanatical, but cowards they were not.

    A second enduring myth about the terrorists is that they were poor, miserable souls who performed these terrible actions because they were desperate or more likely insane. Several commentators argued that the terrorists are drawn from "the wretched of the earth." In this view, they strike out against the affluent West because they have nothing to live for. Television host Bill O'Reilly carried this logic even further. He could not consider the terrorists brave, O'Reilly said, because they labored under the illusion that they were going straight to heaven, where they would be attended by countless nubile virgins. This, in O'Reilly's view, was simply "nuts."

    But these theories do not square with the facts. Indeed, it is irrational and reckless to dismiss the terrorists in this way. O'Reilly's lunacy theory can be tested by releasing a bunch of mentally handicapped people from one of our asylums. Could they have pulled off what the terrorists did? Of course not. The unnerving reality is that the terrorists were educated people who knew how to fly planes. They had lived in the West and been exposed to the West. Some of them, like Muhammad Atta, were raised in secular households. Many came from well-off families. Indeed, the ringleader, Osama bin Laden, had a reported net worth of more than $100 million. Normally men with bin Laden's bank account can be found in Monaco or St. Tropez, sailing yachts with beautiful women on each arm. Bin Laden, by contrast, spent the past several years living in a cave in Afghanistan.

    What motivates such men? One vital clue is the diary composed by Muhammad Atta and circulated to the other terrorists prior to the attack. The FBI found it in Atta's apartment. Out of respect for Allah, it says, clean your body, shave off excess hair, wear cologne, and "tighten your shoes." Read the Koran and "pray through the night" in order to "purify your soul from all unclean things." Try and detach yourself from this world because "the time for play is over." Keep a steadfast mind because "anything that happens to you could never be avoided, and what did not happen to you could never have happened to you." On the morning of the attack, "pray the morning prayer" and "do not leave your apartment unless you have performed ablution." Pray as you enter the plane and recite verses from the Koran. Ask God to forgive your sins and to give you the victory. Clench your teeth as you prepare for the attack. Shout "Allahu Akbar." Strike your enemy above the neck, as the Koran instructs. Moreover, "if you slaughter, do not cause the discomfort of those you are killing, because this is one of the practices of the prophet, peace be upon him." Finally, "You should feel complete tranquility, because the time between you and your marriage in heaven is very short."

    These are not the instructions of cowards or lunatics, but of deeply religious Muslims. They were armed with an idea, and their colleagues have the weapons, the strategy, and the ruthlessness that are required to take on the United States and the West. It is a mistake to regard them as "suicides" in the traditional sense. A suicidal person is one who does not want to live. These men wanted to live, but they were prepared to give their life for something they deemed higher. This in itself is not contemptible or ridiculous; indeed, it raises the question of what we in America would be willing to give our lives for. No serious patriotism is possible that does not attempt to answer that question.

     It is difficult for those of us who live in a largely secular society to understand that people would willingly—even happily—give their lives for their faith. When a few people show such tendencies, we deem them extremists; when large numbers of people do, we convince ourselves that they have been brainwashed. They say they are acting in the name of Allah, but we insist that this is not their real motive; they are being manipulated by elites. They believe they are martyrs, but we pronounce that they are not really Muslims. President Bush even suggested that they were betraying their faith. British prime minister Tony Blair has said he regrets the term "Islamic terrorists" because the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists.

    True Islam, many pundits noted, is a religion of peace. As Nada El Sawy, an Arab-American, wrote in Newsweek, "Muslims who kill in the name of their beliefs are not true Muslims." Advocates of this position point out that the term jihad does not mean "holy war": it refers to a moral struggle to conquer the evil in oneself. So if Islam wasn't the driving force behind the attacks, what was? The New Yorker comfortingly concluded, "This is a conflict that pits all of civilized society against a comparatively small, essentially stateless band of murderous outlaws."

    These statements may have been made for the political purpose of isolating the terrorists and keeping together an alliance against terrorism that includes several Muslim countries. But they are profoundly misleading. Political unity is important, but so is mental clarity and honesty. If we misunderstand what is driving our enemy, then our strategy in fighting him is likely to be inadequate. Despite the early success of the U.S. military campaign, it is not clear that America has a well-conceived long-term strategy for getting rid of terrorism. Moreover, honesty, together with an informed sense of history, obliges us to admit that the things that we have been saying about Islam are half-truths, and dangerous half-truths at that.

    Tony Blair is right that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but it is equally a fact that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims. Indeed, most of the states that the U.S. government classifies as "terrorist" or "rogue" states, such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and the Sudan, fall within the Muslim world. While Americans insist that the terrorists are fringe figures—similar perhaps to our Ku Klux Klan—the evidence is that they enjoy considerable support in their part of the globe. Immediately following the attack, bin Laden became a folk hero in the Islamic world. The actions of the terrorists were cheered in Iraq, Libya, and among many supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In Gaza, for example, a poll showed that 78 percent of Palestinians supported the attacks. Another poll showed that 83 percent of Pakistanis sympathize with bin Laden's al Qaeda group and oppose the United States' military response. Even the governments of Muslim countries that are allied with the U.S. in the war against terrorism have proved very reluctant to involve themselves in the fighting. Nor have the leading authorities of any Muslim country condemned the terrorists as acting in violation of the principles of Islam.

    The reason for such waffling is that our allies know that terrorism and anti-Americanism have substantial support among the population in the Islamic world, even in so-called moderate Arab countries. Virtually the entire Muslim world has, over the past few decades, experienced a religious resurgence—what we may term the revival of Islamic fundamentalism. The authority of the fundamentalists is not confined to a few countries, such as Iran and the Sudan. Of the twenty-two nations of the Muslim world, none is exempt from fundamentalist influence. This movement is powerful enough, in numbers and in political intensity, to threaten the stability of countries allied with the United States, like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the leadership of those countries is constantly on the defensive against the militants; it is they—not the terrorists or the militants—who are under suspicion for betraying Islam.

    The terrorists and their supporters don't have to prove their bona fides. They do what they do in the name of jihad, a term that literally means "striving." Some Muslims, especially in the modern era, understand jihad as a form of internal warfare in the soul against sin. But the Koran itself urges Muslims to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them." In his classic work, The Muqaddimah, the influential Muslim writer Ibn Khaldun asserts, "In the Muslim community, holy war is a religious duty, because of the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." These passages convey how Muslims themselves have usually understood their religious mission. Historian Bernard Lewis writes that the traditional Islamic view, upheld by the vast majority of jurists and commentators, is that jihad usually refers to an armed struggle against infidels and apostates. Lewis writes:

In the Muslim worldview the basic division of mankind is into the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb). Ideally the House of Islam is conceived as a single community. The logic of Islamic law, however, does not recognize the permanent existence of any other polity outside Islam. In time, in the Muslim view, all mankind will accept Islam or submit to Islamic rule. A treaty of peace between the Muslim state and a non-Muslim state was thus in theory impossible. Such a truce, according to the jurists, could only be provisional. The name given by the Muslim jurists to this struggle is jihad.

The clear implication of Lewis's remarks is that the terrorists who profess the name of Allah and proclaim jihad are operating squarely within the Islamic tradition. Indeed, they are performing what Islam has typically held to be a religious duty. Of course it could be pointed out that there are millions of Muslims who do not agree with this view of Islam. They prefer what may be termed the "jihad of the heart" or perhaps the "jihad of the pen" to the "jihad of the sword." But traditionally Islam has embraced all these forms of jihad as legitimate, so that the only reasonable conclusion is that many Muslims today, both in the West and in the Islamic world, no longer profess Islam in its traditional sense. In a word, they are liberals, not in the Michael Dukakis connotation, but in the classic meaning of the term. From the point of view of the bin Ladens of the world, these people are apostates for diluting the faith and refusing to do battle against the infidels.

    I realize that terms like "apostate" and "infidel" sound harshly unfamiliar to the Western ear. There is something strange and antique about them, as if they belong to the world of our ancestors. And of course they do. A thousand years ago, during the time of the Crusades, the ancestors of the West understood their Islamic foe very well. Nobody spoke of "the West" at that time; they spoke of "Christendom." It was a time, one may say, when the Christians, too, had their jihad, and it was aimed at the reconquest of the Holy Land. For Christians, the crusades combined two traditional practices, pilgrimage and holy war. Kings and popes alike proclaimed that those who died in battle were martyrs for the faith and would go straight to heaven.


Excerpted from WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT AMERICA by Dinesh D'Souza. Copyright © 2002 by Dinesh D'Souza. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Preface: A Funeral Oration: Pericles' Dilemma, and Oursxi
Chapter 1Why They Hate Us: America and Its Enemies3
Chapter 2Two Cheers for Colonialism: How the West Prevailed37
Chapter 3Becoming American: Why the American Idea Is Unique69
Chapter 4The Reparations Fallacy: What African-Americans Owe America101
Chapter 5When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness: Freedom and Its Abuses133
Chapter 6America the Beautiful: What We're Fighting For161

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“D’Souza offers sharp and poignant observations on…freedom and opportunity.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A fast-paced, well-thought, and quietly deep assessment of America’s place in the world.”
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum

“The best discussion I’ve seen on the nature of the Islamic threat, and the best argument against racial reparations.”
Shelby Steele, author of the Content of Our Character

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What's So Great About America 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The two 'reviews' above from Publishers Weekly and Booknews are shameful and do not come remotely close to giving this book the thoughtful criticism it certainly deserves. Either these people did not read the book, sleepwalked through it, or simply read a page or two to get a vague idea of what it was about. The Publisher's Weekly review says, 'For the most part, D'Souza steers clear of criticizing his fellow conservatives, and when he does, as when he lectures them about the need to combine morality with freedom, he lacks specifics.' Excuse me, but he spent an entire chapter (over 30 pages, as well as a portion of the first chapter -- roughly a fifth of the book) criticizing cultural conservatives, and did make specific charges; had they actually read the book, they would have known better and avoided embarassing themselves. The Booknews review is even more vague. It says that one of the ideas in this book is that 'outsiders hate us because we are 'great and noble.'' Again, ridiculous; to attempt to sum up D'Souza's arguments so simply is to be ignorant of the thoughtful, philosophical debate and extraordinary amount of research and fact-finding that Mr. D'Souza put into this book (144 footnotes, to be exact). Going back to Publisher's Weekly's review, it says, 'In the end, reading D'Souza's book is similar to spending an hour listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio his fellow travelers will love it; readers on the left will love to hate it.' D'Souza sounding NOTHING like Rush, and his arguments are intended to appeal to left and right-wing Americans (and fans of America) alike. It sounds as though Publisher's Weekly simply looked at the title of this book and assumed it was a 'rah-rah,' flag-waiving read (the first line of PW's review says, 'It's easy to see the appeal of D'Souza's patriotic cheerleading...') Nothing can be further from the truth; if this is the kind of book you're looking for, look further. The truth is that it would prove difficult and perhaps impossible for any publishing company to dispute the facts and arguments that D'Souza lays out, which is another possible reason for their erroneous excuses for reviews. D'Souza makes great arguments against Islamic fundamentalism, multiculturalism and cultural relativism, moral relativism, cultural conservativism, and reparations for Native and black Americans. Those who are tired of hearing academics and college students badmouthing America left and right: this book is your ultimate defense. It presents multi-layered arguments that even the most elite, worldly scholars would be hard-pressed to counter. As Ben Stein said in his praise of the book: 'Buy it, and consider yourself lucky.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
D'Souza provides a perspective on America that most social scientists tend to venture away from. He focuses on the great aspects of our country. I believe that he offers beneficial and valid insight. I really enjoyed this book and I praise him for his work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This inspiring book should be required reading for all college students - and college professors. It is excellent. It has so many good points that I can't stop talking about it to my family and friends. It's so timely, so relevant. Do youself a favor and read it.
JosephGabriele More than 1 year ago
A stark and refreshing reminder of what it means to be American. This book details why America , though not perfect , should stand tall and proud against it's critics. Written by an immigrant it highlights how unique in world history this nation is and how it's freedoms make so many opportunities possible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and well researched book. Mr. D'Souza tackles a major contemporary issue 'America'. Mr D'Souza advances his arguments by looking at classic liberal ideology from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Mill, Jefferson, Madison, and Rousseau. His knowledge of American and World History is complete and demonstrated in this book. For those who are tired of the constant insult to America this is a great book. To those who hate America this is a must read.
blueberryNY More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has been battered and besieged by the literature of grievance and the politics of oppression will find D'Souza's discussion presents a refreshing change of perspective. May reason and truth prevail!
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
In the aftermath of 9/11 a lot of ink was spilt on trying to understand why America was attacked and how do America's enemies perceive this nation. Amidst all of the soul-searching a new theme had gradually emerged especially on the intellectual left: America was attacked because America is an awful country that has always been doing a lot of bad domestically and abroad. In words of one infamous preacher, America's chickens had come home to roost. And yet America to this day attracts more voluntary immigration than any other nation on Earth. One of those immigrants is Dinesh D'Souza, the author of this book. In that capacity he is one of the best people around to tell America what is so great about her, and to remind her many detractors that its greatest achievements are the true reasons why so many hate her. D'Souza is not an uncritical admirer of America, but someone who has truly lived an American dream and achieved a remarkable level of success in his professional life. Like many other immigrants from traditional cultures, he is also apprehensive about bringing up his kids in a country where there are no absolute and immutable social norms. But just like many others, he is also appreciative of living in a country that enables one to pursue one's dreams and not be restrained by the circumstances of one's birth. These are the enduring messages of the American way of life. So even though the book was written as a response to particular historical events and circumstances, it remains fresh and relevant for as long as the idea of American dream is fresh and relevant. And if history is any guide, this will remain true for many more years.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Dinesh D'Souza, who immigrated to America from India, has had great success in this country. He is both a bestselling author and a former White House policy analyst and he wants to tell the world exactly What's So Great About America. And please note that there is no question mark at the end of his book's title.If Dinesh D'Souza or his publisher were concerned with being politically correct, this book would never have seen the light of day. D'Souza is not interested in defending an idealized version of America. Rather, he describes the real America, both the good and the bad, and reminds American citizens that they should be proud of themselves and their country despite the peevish criticism that the United States receives from others who blame them and their country for everything that goes wrong in the world. Not surprisingly, America's harsh critics conveniently only tell one side of the story and never give the United States credit for any of the good things that happen around the world.Fair warning: what follows makes no attempt at being politically correct. It is D'Souza's blunt criticism of the "blame America first" crowd, and the Muslim world, in particular.D'Souza makes four main points in What's So Great About America:1. Much of the world hates the United States and her citizens.2. There is really not much that America can do about being hated because it comes with the territory.3. Modern American and Western society truly is the best that the world has to offer.4. Islamic society is striking out at the West in order to mask its own humiliating failures.The "blame America first" bunch, according to D'Souza is made up of three elements: leftist intellectuals largely located in Europe and the Third World, American multiculturalists who want us to believe that all cultures are equal, and Islamic fundamentalists. He contends that criticism from the intellectuals is largely a result of childish jealousy resulting from the fact that Europe's power and influence is a shadow of what it was a few decades ago. The unhappiness of Third World intellectuals is even more easily explained by the observation that, if they admitted how good America really is, they would at the same time be forced to also admit how bad their own countries are.American multiculturalists are another story. Their multiculturalism is largely based on simple anti-Americanism and a desire to apologize to the rest of the world for all that America does today or has ever done in the past. In their view, all cultures are equal, regardless of the fact that some primitive societies have accomplished little or nothing even up to the present day and others, such as Islamic society, have taken a giant step backward in the last three centuries.In D'Souza's view, it is Islamic fundamentalists who have the most legitimate reason for hating America because America is a strong threat to the Islamic world. But this threat does not come from either the American military or from America's solid support for Israel. It is the very idea of what America stands for that is such a threat to the Islamic way of life. The American way of life is one in which each citizen is free to shape his own life in ways that are entirely inner-directed and in which the government has no say. This concept is likely to win the hearts and minds of Muslims exposed to it and that threatens not only those in charge of Islamic society but the very sacredness of the Muslim home. Radical Islam sees this as the greatest threat that the Muslim world has faced since the days of Mohamed himself.For that reason, Islamic fundamentalist leadership wants to stop the spread of American ideals at any cost but, even if America agreed to cooperate with them, we do not have the power necessary to keep our ideals and our culture from crossing the borders of the Muslim world. We live in an age in which the flow of information, thanks largely to television, movies and the internet, takes on a life of its own. That fl
joshzeringue on LibraryThing 11 months ago
An excellent and intellectual read -despite the silly title. As an immigrant D'Souza offers many insights into American culture that native born citizens like myself are often too close to see. His book definitely increased my love of America. His insights into the nature of Islam and American racism -of the lack thereof- are pointed. In a brilliant apologia for classical liberalism, he argues that the beauty of America is the individual's ability to fashion his own destiny. Still, when attempting to prove that America is not as immoral as radical Muslims make her out to be, he ignores abortion in America. And ignoring wholesale genocide is a big problem. Also, he misunderstands the statist project of the Federalists and Abraham Lincoln and casts their goals in favorable light. He also ignores issues of constitutionalism when promoting the neoconservative project of American Empire. His examination of the Founders is one-dimensional and mythological.
andrewlovesoldbooks on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Interesting - an outsider's (D'Souza is from India) perspective on what makes America unique. The author is good cultural observer, and has a decent philosophic background.
enjoylearning More than 1 year ago
America: Imagine a World Without Her
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The experiment known as America has been the most breathtaking, powerful, inspiring, and influential in history of an experiment to ever be devised, no matter your political persuasions. It has been a force like none other, perhaps more than even China. D'Souza, a conservative to the core, expresses that brilliance that America has inspired with almost a religious devotion. Even though I am a moderate Democrat, I agree with many of his fundamental arguments on foreign policy and the redemptive platitudes of the West. His idea that Islam is in trouble would not be in vogue on many college campuses, but it clearly finds something different to offer in the American experiment. As he points out, most people have had racial and ethnocentrism in their history, especially the wise Chinese. The curious Anglo-Saxons, however, had the curiosity of the other and that is why they rule the world now. Accept his thesis on that. His chapter on Native Americans and African Americans was underwhelming, as he underestimates the racism of current society and the contributions of these two influential minority groups, which have been oppressed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book to use as reference after listening to it on CD. In the current climate of polarized political debate, Dinesh D¿Souza brings a solid, unemotional case to the literary arena ¿ that case being America/western culture has something of value. This book examines how the West/America fits in the CONTEXT of history. From that platform of context he delves into details and weaves them together to build his thesis. His writing style is cohesive and laden with profound material. Thankfully, his rare attempts at humor have a point. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you¿re conservative this book is a must. If you¿re a liberal, you¿ll find Dinesh at least likable in that he avoids inflammatory rhetoric. If you despise America, you're money is better spent on Edward Said or Noam Chomsky.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. D'Souza has the gift of language. He presents each concept so simply, clearly, and briefly that you can't wait to call a friend to say, 'hey, did you know that...' Unfortunately you have to put down the book to pick up the phone, so the friend will have to wait. Thanks, Mr. D'Souza, for this refreshing and uplifting book. If I had the means I would stock every school in America with this treasure. As for my bookshelf, it gets a place of honor beside the Patriot's Handbook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book. America is wonderful, and the jealous haters out there want to wipe us out, but if we remember our roots, ask God to protect us, and live right, no weapon formed against us shall prosper. Also recommended is A Guide to the Scriptures. Get it and let the inspiring scriptures ease your worrying.