In his new book Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin, Ira Chernus tackles the question of why U.S. foreign policy, aimed at building national security, has the paradoxical effect of making the country less safe and secure. His answer: The “war on terror” is based not on realistic appraisals of the causes of conflict, but rather on “stories” that neoconservative policymakers tell about human nature and a world divided between absolute good and absolute evil. The root of the stories is these policymakers’ terror of the social and cultural changes that swept through U.S. society in the 1960s. George W. Bush and the neoconservatives cast the agents of change not simply as political opponents, but as enemies or sinners acting with evil intent to destroy U.S. values and morals—that is, as “monsters” rather than human beings. The war on terror transfers that plot from a domestic to a foreign stage, making it more appealing even to those who reject the neoconservative agenda at home. Because it does not deal with the real causes of global conflict, it harms rather than helps the goal of greater national security.
“This book gets at the deeper stories about how we view the world and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it. It’s all the more important when we’re being told to embrace a future of perpetual war.”
-—Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen
"There is a great deal to praise here. The writing is clear, lively, engaging, and accessible. The analysis is smart, well informed, perceptive, and revealing. The topic is of great interest and importance. I'm very impressed by what Prof. Chernus has done."
—-Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of History of Religions, History of Culture, and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago
“Monsters to Destroy takes an incisive look at the stories we are told—-and tell ourselves-—about evil forces and American responses. Ira Chernus pushes beyond standard political rhetoric and media cliches to examine psychological mechanisms that freeze our concepts of the world. Monsters to Destroy offers a very helpful antidote to the venom that top U.S. officials have propagated since September 11, 2001."
—-Norman Solomon, author, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death
“Monsters to Destroy is a must-read for all those concerned about the reckless and dangerous role the United States now plays in the world and its interrelationship with religious conservative moralism on the home front. Ira Chernus puts forward a convincing and rather disturbing analysis of the lens through which President Bush sees the world and how he communicates what amounts to a simplistic morality tale to the American people. In doing so, Professor Chernus provides important answers to the questions as to why the Bush administration does what it does and how they get away with it.”
—-Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco
“Ira Chernus brings the discerning eye of an historian of religions to the dense and jarring tangle of national stories we tell about ourselves. Whether reflecting on ‘conservative moralism,’ or ‘liberal internationalism,’ Chernus asks his readers to step back, to think outside of what he considers the apocalyptic allure of stories that lead only to more violence. His is a clear, critical, important voice, and this a book worth engaging no matter what individual stories readers bring to it."
—-Edward T. Linenthal, editor of Journal of American History and author of The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory
PART I: Conservative Moralist Stories
Chapter 1: Neoconservative Stories: The ‘60s and the Cold War
Chapter 2: Neoconservative Stories: After the Cold War
Chapter 3: George W. Bush: The Character Story
Chapter 4: George W. Bush: The Faith Story
Chapter 5: George W. Bush: The Culture Story
Chapter 6: Conservative Moralism: The Quest for Certainty
PART II: The War on Terrorism Stories
Chapter 7: The Neoconservative Response to 9/11
Chapter 8: George W. Bush’s War on Terrorism Story
Chapter 9: The Neoconservative War on Terrorism Story
Chapter 10: The “Axis of Evil” and the Will of God
Chapter 11: The Freedom Story and the National Security Strategy of the United States
PART III: The Public Response
Chapter 12: Evangelical Christians and the Election of 2004
Chapter 13: The Liberal Internationalists
Chapter 14: The Public and the War on Terrorism
Conclusion: A Different Story