Diana West

"Today's stifling orthodoxy remains largely unchallenged," Spencer writes. "Not just liberal publications and spokesmen, but conservatives who claim to wear Reagan's mantle temporize and dissimulate about our current despotic antagonist in a way that the man himself would have found contemptible. Leaders and pundits must cling to fond fictions about Islam being a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists. They thus pass up the opportunity to call for worldwide reform of Islam."

In other words, "fond fictions" overwrite the urgent truth that Islam requires moderating and modernizing reform if ever it is to co-exist peacefully with Western democracies. The reform starts, Spencer explains, "by identifying the elements of Islam that give rise to violence and extremism." The place to begin is with the twin Islamic precepts of jihad, or holy war, and dhimmitude, the institutionalized inferiority of non-Muslims and women living under Muslim rule. Reform is doomed, however, if these elements are ignored, obscured and denied.

Alas, I can think of no political leader, and precious few historians and commentators, who have made this point. We hear "terrorism" and "murderous ideology" denounced, but we never hear "terrorism" and "murderous ideology" defined. We hear nothing about the religious roots of jihad's bloody violence that must be exposed if they are ever to wither. Ronald Reagan was never reluctant to define the "terrorism" and "murderous ideology" of his day as being specifically communist-driven manifestations of the "evil empire." I like to think he would have identified Islam's evil elements -- jihad and dhimmitude -- and provided a level-headed explanation of why domination and repression, whether serving a secular totalitarian state or a religious totalitarian movement, are forces America opposes.

A profound respect for religious freedom informs our tortured silence -- although "holy" justifications for terror attacks on civilians offered by mainstream Islamic authorities surely deserve no such respect. But there's another angle to consider. Ronald Reagan believed the United States could transform communism through freedom's triumph. The transformation of Islam is necessarily a Muslim affair.

This is all the more reason not to flinch, rhetorically speaking. As Spencer writes, "By vilifying and attempting to marginalize those who dare tell the truth about Islamic radicalism as Reagan did about Communism, today's intelligentsia provides ample cover to radical Islamic terrorists, allowing them to operate under the radar screen of media scrutiny and even law enforcement."

This isn't only terrifying; it's tragic. It's also downright un-Reaganesque.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).