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My Brother, My Enemy: America and the Battle of Ideas Across the Islamic Worldby Philip Smucker
Synopses & Reviews
This kaleidoscopic tour behind the frontlines of the war of ideas assesses US efforts to persuade Muslims that Americans respect their rights and interests, while we fight wars and promote our interests. He draws on extensive travels in the Muslim world through interviews with a cross-section of the population including students, intellectuals, insurgents and politicians. For an American perspective, the author examines the threat of terrorism and the challenges of winning the peace through candid interviews with US military officers, diplomats, and regional experts. The author describes turmoil within the Islamic realm and our efforts to project "soft power" into a world that remains misunderstood. He assesses both our failures and successes in Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saharan Africa. In contrast to Western fearmongers who use hyperbolic rhetoric about "a clash of civilizations" and our war with "Islamic fascism," he asserts that such language targeting a would-be "enemy" has only aided and abetted al Qaedas recruiting drive and hardened attitudes against America among average Muslims. Several themes resonate through these interviews. One is that the Muslim world is looking for consistent engagement from the US, particularly in regard to Israeli-Palestinian peace. After decades of paying lip service to the ideal of peace in the Middle East, the author shows why it is crucial for the Obama Administration to push forcefully for a two-state solution. Another is that the US must discontinue its policy of backing authoritarian regimes that oppress their people. In the eyes of everyday Muslims, such tactics make a mockery of our claim to be the champion of individual liberty. Muslims, many of whom already support democratic change, will only be convinced of Americas good will, says the author if our actions speak louder than our words. Finally, the book makes the case that as long as Americans and Muslims view one another with blanket suspicions and as potential "enemies," neither side can hope to persuade his "brother" to see the world in another light. Though there are no silver bullets, pacification, development, and democratic progress should be approached through shifts in American foreign policy, he argues. This revealing, vividly told narrative by a daring and experienced journalist with firsthand knowledge of the events and people in conflict areas offers unforgettable insights into the Muslim worlds hopes and fears as well as our own crucial diplomatic overtures and military campaigns across the Islamic world.
"Reporting from insurgencies, war zones, and America's military, longtime journalist Smucker (Al Qaeda's Great Escape) analyzes the fraught relationship between the Arab world and the U.S. with an emphasis on how American foreign policy exacerbated Islamic extremism and, in particular, has radicalized young Muslims. Drawing on interviews with students, journalists, and soldiers on all sides, the author argues cogently that decades of wrongheaded American policy--propping up oppressive demagogues in the region and America's persistent failure to assertively pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace-- have been instrumental in sowing anti-U. S. animus, as has been the misguided response of the Bush administration to September 11: the invasion of the already beleaguered Afghanistan, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks; the demonizing of Islam; and America 'gloating' as Saddam was toppled. While Smucker allows that relations won't be warmed quickly, 'stubbornly continuing to fight without attempting to see through the eyes of our brothers and our enemies is a dead end.' He calls instead for foreign policy shifts to give 'soft power' and diplomacy a lead role in the efforts to eventually replace war and distrust with stability and cooperation. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
This work of reportage by independent journalist Smucker appears mainly aimed at countering the anti-Islamic hysteria connected to much of the rhetoric associated with discussions of terrorism threats and all too often disconnected from discussion of problematic US foreign policies that engender anger among Muslims. He draws on travels to Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and elsewhere in order to elucidate Muslim views towards the United States and US foreign policy through interviews with a broad spectrum of people in the Muslim world, as well as with US military officers, diplomats, and regional experts. In many civil society developments across the Muslim world he finds reason to hope for improved relations, but warns that the US must find a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, end its support for autocratic dictatorships, and cease going abroad "in search of monsters to destroy" if it truly wishes to move beyond rhetoric and actually reach out to the Muslim world in friendship and thereby lessen the threat from terrorism. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this kaleidoscopic tour behind the front lines of the war of ideas, a veteran investigative journalist examines U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, build nation states, and persuade Muslims that Americans to respect their rights and interests.
About the Author
Philip Smucker (Alexandria, VA) is an independent journalist, a documentary filmmaker, and author of the highly acclaimed Al-Qaedas Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terrors Tail, which broke the story of Osama bin Ladens escape. He has spent the last twenty-two years as an overseas reporter, covering conflicts across many countries including Haiti, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cambodia. He received three Pulitzer nominations for his reporting and has worked and written for many publications, including McClatchy Newspapers, the Atlantic Monthly, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Telegraph, Asia Times, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, and Time. He has appeared on national television and radio as an expert on the Islamic world, including on the Today show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, and The Diane Rehm Show.
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