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Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorby Anonymous
"[W]hether one agrees with this book or not, Anonymous's unsentimental critique deserves rigorous scrutiny and debate. Those looking for forceful dissent and a genuine alternative to the foreign-policy status quo should eschew the intellectually slippery Noam Chomsky, the sadly muddled Gore Vidal, and (most of all) the partisan hack Michael Moore — and instead examine the tough-minded neo-isolationism espoused in this book." Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
Though U.S. leaders try to convince the world of their success in fighting al Qaeda, one anonymous member of the U.S. intelligence community would like to inform the public that we are, in fact, losing the war on terror. Further, until U.S. leaders recognize the errant path they have irresponsibly chosen, he says, our enemies will only grow stronger. According to the author, the greatest danger for Americans confronting the Islamist threat is to believe — at the urging of U.S. leaders — that Muslims attack us for what we "are and what we think rather than for what we do.
Blustering political rhetoric "informs" the public that the Islamists are offended by the Western world's democratic freedoms, civil liberties, intermingling of genders, and separation of church and state. However, although aspects of the modern world may offend conservative Muslims, no Islamist leader has fomented jihad to destroy participatory democracy, for example, the national association of credit unions, or coed universities. Instead, a growing segment of the Islamic world strenuously disapproves of specific U.S. policies and their attendant military, political, and economic implications.
Capitalizing on growing anti-U.S. animosity, Osama bin Laden's genius lies not simply in calling for jihad, but in articulating a consistent and convincing case that Islam is under attack by America. Al Qaeda's public statements condemn America's protection of corrupt Muslim regimes, unqualified support for Israel, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a further litany of real-world grievances. Bin Laden's supporters thus identify their problem and believe their solution lies in war. Anonymous contends they will go to anylength, not to destroy our secular, democratic way of life, but to deter what they view as specific attacks on their lands, their communities, and their religion. Unless U.S. leaders recognize this fact and adjust their policies abroad accordingly, even moderate Muslims will join the bin Laden camp.
"It's unclear how, in an age when even office workers must sign confidentiality agreements, an alleged CIA Middle Eastern specialist has gotten permission to publish a sprawling, erudite book on the origins and present state of the 'war on terror.' His main point is that Arab antagonism to the West (and even non-fundamentalist Arab regimes' winking at terrorism) has its root in real grievances that have gone unaddressed by U.S. measures. The actions of the Saudis, and their U.S. supporters, come in for some hard criticism, as does the elevation of Northern Alliance warlords to de facto governors of Afghanistan. The author makes some challenging remarks regarding Israel ('Surely there can be no other historical example of a faraway, theocracy-in-all-but-name of only six million people that ultimately controls the extent and even the occurrence of an important portion of political discourse and national security debate in a country of 270-plus million people that prides itself on religious toleration, separation of church and state, and freedom of speech') while playing down the extent to which the Taliban itself was a corrupt theocratic regime. But his annotated compendia of battles and skirmishes won and lost by the U.S. and al-Qaeda are gripping, and his engagement with his subject has made him a pundit-in-demand. (Aug.) Forecast: This is more a book to shake up policy wonks with facts on the ground than for the general public, but it has already created a stir inside the Beltway and beyond. The book is the author's second; Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America was mostly ignored, but this time around, the Primary Colors approach (necessary to protect the author's identity) has led to much TV and print exposure (with voice and features disguised); expect media-based sales." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"For those Americans who had begun to doubt whether the [C.I.A.] could produce good analysis, Imperial Hubris clearly demonstrates otherwise....[A] powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it." Richard A. Clarke, The Washington Post
"[S]calding....Readers will doubtless contest some or many of the things Anonymous has to say, but he pulls few punches in this book and gives us a fascinating window on America's war with Al Qaeda..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Book News Annotation:
The author, an anonymous senior US intelligence official, maintains that contrary to official pronouncements, organizations such as al Qaeda are not fighting democratic systems of government, civil liberties, gender equality, or the separation of church and state. Some Islamic conservatives are offended by these aspects of western culture, but those who turn to violence are prompted by specific US policies that create American military, political, and economic strategies in the Islamic world. Those strategies convince many into believing their communities, lands, and religion are under attack. If US policies and rhetoric do not change, warns the author, the west will continue to lose the war on terror. Distributed by Books International.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
According to the author, the greatest danger for Americans confronting the Islamist threat is to believe — at the urging of U.S. leaders — that Muslims attack us for what we are and what we think rather than for what we do.
Though U.S. leaders try to convince the world of their success in fighting al Qaeda, one anonymous member of the U.S. intelligence community would like to inform the public that we are, in fact, losing the war on terror. Further, until U.S. leaders recognize the errant path they have irresponsibly chosen, he says, our enemies will only grow stronger.
About the Author
Anonymous is a senior U.S. civil servant with nearly two decades of experience in the U.S. intelligence community's work on Afghanistan and South Asia.
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