Book review: Imperial Hubris : Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, by Anonymous
This disturbing book whose author has now identified himself as Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, claims that bin Laden is being effective at persuading Muslims to wage a defensive jihad against the U.S. by making straightforward arguments based on scripture and descriptions of U.S. actions toward Muslims that are close enough to the truth to convince many Muslims that it would be sinful not to fight the U.S. He is succeeding because he ignores such U.S. offenses as alcohol, gay rights, man-made law and nation-states, and focuses on U.S. meddling in the Mideast.
The book’s style detracts from its message, spending less effort on documenting his claims (which he claims can be confirmed by checking public info) than on repeating diatribes against politicians and others who have ignored his reports and pursued policies which he argues have mainly served to convince Muslims that bin Laden is correct that the U.S. is attacking Islam.
He appears to exaggerate, and I can’t find confirmation of his claims as easily as he claims, but I can’t find signs of major inaccuracies.
He says the only option is to crush the enemy the way Lincoln defeated the south:
Let me stress that we are not choosing between war and peace. America has a
war it cannot avoid and, at least for now, one that will grow more savage
no matter what we do.
Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With
killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. … Land mines,
moreover, must massively reintroduced to seal borders …
But he doesn’t present any clear explanation of why the U.S. shouldn’t give in to bin Laden’s demands. It wouldn’t be as easy as admitting defeat in Vietnam was (in addition to getting out of the Mideast, it would involve cutting all aid to Israel, and convincing Muslims that we aren’t supporting the Saudi government, etc.), he provides some fairly strong reasons to think they will stop fighting if it’s sufficiently clear they’re not being attacked.
He asks many of the questions that would need to considered in deciding whether such a withdrawal is better than escalating violence, but avoids any direct consideration of such a withdrawal. And in spite of his frequent complaints about people who meddle in Afghanistan while repeating the mistakes that the Soviets and British made there, he doesn’t present much of an argument that more ruthless policies would be sufficient to produce victory.
I’ve been puzzling over the widespread theories that much of U.S. Mideast policy has been caused by a desire for cheap oil. Most of these theories fail to explain why the oil companies who would be hurt by low oil prices are unable to stop it – they seem to represent a large special interest group which ought to buy more clout than their opponents. This book hints at a more plausible version where the Saudis are the ones in charge of the policy, and are able to extort U.S. support for their shaky regime by the threat of an oil shock that might plunge the U.S. into recession. Oh, and we may to reject the idea that the Iraqi invasion was part of any informed plan to get cheap oil (although there’s plenty of reason to think it was based on delusions, so it’s possible some of those delusions involved cheap oil).
I had been explaining this year’s surge in oil prices mainly on surging demand, especially from China, but now I’m worrying that the markets foresee the Saudi government being overthrown by theocrats who would demand much higher oil prices.