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America's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies Paperback – October 11, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
As founder and chairman of Stratfor Forecasting ("predictive, insightful global intelligence," its Web site states), Friedman is in the business of gathering information and predicting outcomes of global conflicts for businesses and governments. Following up on The Future of War, he assesses the causes, players and parameters of what he calls "the fourth global war"September 11th and its aftermathfrom the perspective of the company. Much of whats here will be familiar to readers of the 9/11 report or the reams of news coverage over the last three years. Yet Friedmans stock-taking exercise is compelling as a distillation of corporate intelligence, where the spin is less about maintaining the image of particular politicians or governments, and more about being right so that money can be made.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Friedman is right when he says that his book may be "vigorously attacked." His (quite reasonable) portrayal of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden as "skilled and dedicated men" is sure to anger readers looking for easy characterizations. But there is nothing easy about the post-September 11, 2001, world. Any study of the period immediately following the terrorist attacks inevitably raises more questions than it answers. What did the U.S. intelligence community know, and when did they know it? Was there sufficient advance knowledge to permit the U.S. government to defend itself against the attacks? Was President Bush misleading the world when he launched his search for weapons of mass destruction? And how, exactly, has Osama bin Laden managed to escape? Friedman answers what he can, suggests explanations for things that are murky, and gives us fistfuls of new ideas to consider. This isn't the definitive book on the subject, but it delivers a clearer, deeper, and subtler understanding of the post-9/11 world than we will ever get from listening to the cacophony of talking heads on television. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He starts by comparing the war to a game of chess where, to the unknowledgeable, there are many possible opening moves, but to the initiated there are only a few. This is a book of current events and recent history. It is, by design, more informative than inspirational. Friedman has an opinion, not always expressed in his Stratfor reports, but it is not obvious. He claims, in the foreword that he is trying to be cold and objective, rather than passionate, and while he is successful in maintaining objectivity, his passion or intensity comes through.
He challenges conventional wisdom with his allegations that Desert Storm was not about Iraq, but about Iran and her challenge to Saudi Arabia over who will be the leader of the Moslem world. In the West, he says the war was seen as a perfect example of modern statecraft with proper objectives and an exit strategy'. It had something for everyone. It appealed to three different groups, and to each within their own geopolitical constructs. For the `cold-warrior' perception of global politics the war was the proper defense of a Cold-War ally. For those who have a more Kissingerian realpolitik interpretation of the world saw the war as the proper containment of Iraq and of Saddam in balance of power terms. Finally the `End of History' post-modernists viewed the war as an expression of the multi-lateral `new world' working together against a rogue state. All of these views combined to make this a popular war in the West. Friedman says that what was not appreciated in this view was that the perception in the Moslem world was wholly different. In his opinion, the Islamic world saw this intervention as anti-Islamic rather than anti-Saddam and by supporting this use of `infidel' troops to pursue war against other Moslems the Saudis pushed the anti-Saudi fundamentalist factions over-the-top. These factions recruited disaffected, newly trained, mujahedin empowered by their successful pursuit of the anti-Soviet Afghan war to create the anti-western Al Qaeda organization. Al Qaeda is a working intelligence organization that pursues the goals of toppling the current Islamic regimes that they see as illegitimate, creating an uprising in the Moslem world and reestablishing the Caliphate. Friedman says that in spite of the errors we have made in the war, Al Qaeda has still failed to meet any of these objectives.
According to Friedman, in the Clinton administration foreign policy was more about doing good things to help deserving people, than about pursuing America's national interests. As the worlds only superpower, war was now optional, to be pursued or declined at our option, since no enemy had the power, it was assumed, to force us into war. The attack on 9/11 showed otherwise. Although the earlier attacks; in 1993 on the World Trade Center, and on the US Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut, the Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in Yemen were mostly declined by the Clinton Administration, the audience for the attacks was not the US, but the Moslem world. By failing to respond the US showed weakness and impotence while highlighting Al Qaeda's effectiveness. These attacks vanquished the hopelessness and powerless feeling in the `Arab street' and helped to create the current resurgence of aggressive militant Islam. Friedman compares this war to WWII. Although the traditional idea of war with a competing nation-state is diluted by the non-local or pan-Islamic nature of the Al Qaeda Islamo-fascism, it is still a war. The current conflict has many similarities to the ideological wars of national liberation against Marxism-Leninism, but the historical comparison and precedents in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 are, to him, obvious. The legalistic interpretation that war is simply crime, and the perpetrators of war, criminals is, to Friedman at least with historical perspective, nonsense. He posits that this view would have led FDR on December 7, 1941, to declare that we would hunt down the Japanese pilots who participated in the attack and subject them to judicial proceedings to determine their proportionate guilt and subsequent punishment. This is, as he maintains, absurd. It was, however, the position supported by the Clinton administration in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the current view of Harold Koh, dean of the Yale Law School among others. This view helped to justify the separation between the US Justice Department and the US intelligence gathering organizations In the US, the FBI is a police organization entrusted with the prosecution of crime. Intelligence organizations are involved in the collection of information in anticipation of and to prevent future action. According to Friedman, these functions are not compatible and many of our intelligence failures are the result of this misalignment of resources.
In Friedman's opinion, the only response for a nation who has received a surprise attack is to quickly go on the offensive. Political considerations are, at that time, more important than military ones and more modest goals are to be eschewed in favor of more robust ones even if less than ideal conditions are present for this action. This view resulted in the attack on Afghanistan that caught Al Qaeda and the Taliban by surprise since they didn't think we could respond quickly with more than limited air attacks. This show of force was also necessary to gain the allegiance or at least the attention of the various Afghan warlords whom we had largely abandoned after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and who had now made accommodation with or had direct ties to the Taliban. Although the Afghan campaign worked well and has resulted in the installation of Hamid Karzai as Afghan President, who is now a US ally rather than a Pakistani surrogate, it has not been so great a defeat for Al Qaeda that they lost standing or credibility in the Islamic world. To do this, and to further erase our image of weakness, we needed a greater show of force and determination. This had to be the invasion of Iraq.
The need for invasion was not unrelated to nuclear proliferation. We were worried about the control of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program as well as those in Iran and Iraq. While the State Department favored supporting centralized state control in Pakistan and Iran, they were opposed by the Defense Department which said that nuclear weapons or facilities in control of governments in whom we had no confidence was an intolerable situation. Defense said that 9/11 had created a situation where compromise was unacceptable and a military response was necessary. State was focused on the limits of our capability, Defense was focused on the threat, Defense won.
Friedman says our putative allies were torn. They understood that the US had to wage war on Al Qaeda and they were willing to help us track down Al Qaeda operatives. They were not willing, however, to help us invade Iraq and thereby (at least in their minds) shift the global balance of power. They opposed the Iraq invasion for the same reason we wanted it: it would make the US the preeminent power in the Middle East. That, combined with our control of the seas, would give us a global empire that was not in the interests of the so-called `Great Powers'. These nations feared that with Saudi Arabia and Iran surrounded, America would have more influence on oil production denying Russia the oil pricing advantage she currently enjoyed. France had been pursuing an essentially anti-American foreign policy since WWII seeing America as a threat to her national interests and her attempts to dominate Europe through her collaboration with a psychologically subordinate and submissive Germany. Friedman says that France thought 2003 was the perfect time to create a unified European foreign policy under guidance from Paris and Berlin with the help of Moscow. What they underestimated was the historical collective memory of Eastern Europe who remembered past treatment by Moscow, Paris, and Berlin and welcomed Rumsfeld's categorization of `New Europe'. The result was an increased influence in Europe for the US and embarrassment for France that some may call a victory for the Bush Administration.
Friedman ends the book with a scorecard of gains and failures. He regards the lack of understanding of how completely Iran had built political and administrative control in the Shiite community and through the efforts of Ahmed Chalibi as major failures, as well as the underestimation of the depth and quality of planning in Saddam's guerrilla war. On the success side, he says there has been no `toppling of regimes', no rising of the `Arab street', and virtually all Islamic regimes have increased their support for anti-Al Qaeda activity and are using their own intelligence services to achieve US anti-terrorist goals. The war has also succeeded in the Machiavellian objective of making the US hated and feared in the Arab world instead of hated and held in contempt, which Friedman calls a positive. In summation he says that the American people understand and can endure war, it is the American elite that project their own timidity and self-doubts onto the national character. He says that this is indeed a war, and probably a war `to the finish'. Friedman's book adds some specific new information along with focus and clarity to the continuing debate. It also reads easily and with Steven Coll's "Ghost Wars" provides a continuous detailed history of the latest chapter in the conduct of the `Great Game'. .
In fact, this is what drew me to the book. In the introduction he makes a point of saying, "This is not a passionate book. Passion is overrated." Instead, his book is a coldly (and very provocatively) analytical look at the strategic chess match between the U.S. and Al Qaeda since 9-11. There were quite a few things I hadn't seen reported before about the Afghan War (B-52's as sky writers -- who knew?). He sees the Iraq war as a strategic flanking move aimed at influencing Saudi Arabia. Deep strategic thinking underlies the U.S. strategy there, but of course it's too complex and ruthless to explain or sell to the American people, so we got WMD. But it makes good cold sense, and Friedman describes and analyzes this new angle quite convincingly.
He's a clean writer and an insightful thinker with access to a great deal of evidently fresh information. I like his lack of passion. The executives at MSNBC should take one of their screaming blowhards -- Joe Scarborough or Chris Matthews, take your pick -- and replace them with a real-deal analyst like Friedman. A voice of reason in an unreasoning time.
I had never heard of George Friedman before grabbing his book off the shelf and striking gold. This book is full of smart analysis delivered straight. And it may just make you optimistic about the long-term prospects for the war against Islamo-fascism.
Friedman begins his narrative with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a nightmare development that threatened to give the Soviets control of the Persian Gulf and to lead to America's expulsion from the Middle East. The Carter Administration recognized the strategic threat and began moving quickly to assemble an Islamist guerrilla force to bog down the Soviets in their own Vietnam. The US strategy was intensified by the Reagan Administration and ultimately proved successful, but it had the side effect of convincing the Islamists that they could, if they fought hard enough, topple a superpower. The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War did much to enrage the Islamists, convincing them that their best chance of re-establishing an Islamic caliphate lay in provoking a war with the United States.
Friedman's book explores the Byzantine details of American and Islamist Realpolitik in a fairly balanced way. He argues that the invasion of Iraq was not about WMDs or connections to Al Qaeda or even about oil, but was intended to show the Islamic world (and particularly Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) that the United States meant business and that those who didn't get with the program were going to be dealt with very harshly. The fact that the United States has substantial ground and air forces within easy striking distance of Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others, has no doubt been noticed by the leaders of those countries, dampening their enthusiasm for tolerating Al Qaeda.
The details of this Realpolitik are not pretty. To facilitate the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States obtained Russia's permission to base troops in the Islamic states of the former Soviet Union--in exchange for which, America agreed to mute its criticism of Russia's excesses in Chechnya. After Islamist terrorists attacked the Indian parliament in New Delhi, America secured Pakistan's reluctant cooperation in the War on Terror by making it clear that the United States wouldn't mind very much if India launched a nuclear attack on Pakistan (if America didn't launch one first). The book contains numerous other examples of why America, Iran and other countries behave in ways that are portrayed in the newspapers as peculiar, but are actually quite understandable when taken in context.
Although I think it is fair to say that Friedman is sympathetic with the Bush Administration's approach, he is not an apologist. He documents numerous strategic, tactical and intelligence failures in Iraq, not the least of which was the Administration's failure to appreciate the control that Iran exercised over Iraq's Shi'ite population. He is properly critical of the separation between the American political leadership and the soldiers: "A ruling class that sends the children of others to fight, but not their own, cannot sustain its power for very long" (339). And he concludes that, although the United States has the upper hand in the War on Terror, "the war now hangs in the balance. It is not clear who will win the war. Neither side is defeated. Neither side can give up." This is a balanced and sobering book, a must-read for anyone interested in what is really going on in the War on Terror.