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Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror First Edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 218 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1574888492
ISBN-10: 1574888498
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The war on terror has created near unanimity on many points, at least within the American press and political leadership. One essential point of agreement: al Qaeda specifically and radical Islamism in general are stirred by a hatred of modernity. Or as President George W. Bush has articulated repeatedly, they hate freedom. Nonsense, responds the nameless author of this work and 2003's Through Our Enemies' Eyes (the senior U.S. intelligence official's identity became an open secret by publication date). Indeed, he grimly and methodically discards common wisdom throughout this scathing and compelling take on counterterrorism. Imperial Hubris is not a book that will cheer Americans, regardless of their perspectives on the post-9/11 environment. We are, the author notes, losing the war on terror. Hawks will squirm as the author heaps contempt on U.S. missions in Afghanistan (too little, too late) and Iraq ("a sham causing more instability than it prevents"), but opponents of Bush administration policies may blanch at Anonymous' suggestion that what's needed is for the West to "proceed with relentless, brutal, and, yes, blood-soaked offensive military actions until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us." Quoting the at-all-cost likes of William Tecumseh Sherman and Curtis Lemay on one hand and contending that unrelenting military measures be accompanied by concessions to the ideology of the militants on the other are unlikely to curry widespread support from either side of the divide. And how will readers conditioned to references to Osama bin Laden as a deranged gangster or simple-minded fanatic with deep pockets digest the respect accorded "the most popular anti-American leader in the world today"? Imperial Hubris clearly wasn't written to win friends, though the author believes it's essential that his words influence people at the top. Whether it will is debatable, but that this blunt, forceful, urgently argued polemic recharges the discussion is a foregone conclusion. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574888498
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574888492
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Regardless of your political leanings, this book is worth a read. The author unflatteringly lays out how some of our actions are perceived by many muslims today. While much of the motivation for anti-US sentiment is logically flawed, we should strive to understand it.

While I disagree with the author's bleak predictions of democracy's future in Iraq and Afghanistan, his points are well researched and presented. I must note that he is an expert and I am not.

Bottom line, there is a reason these young men are being convinced to construct and place the roadside bombs that are killing troopers over here, and it's not because they hate baseball and apple pie. It is important for us to understand the motivation for their hatred if we are to effectively counter it. Leave partisan politics at the door and read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
"Anonymous" has certainly accomplished his stated goal of contributing to a debate in the U.S. over foreign policy. He was the head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit in the late '90s, was interviewed as "Mike" in Coll's book GHOST WARS (see my review), and is still a CIA analyst. Most of us by now have figured out that he is Mike Scheuer. Sun Tzu said "know yourself, know your enemy," and Scheuer's main goal in IMPERIAL HUBRIS is to share what he knows about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, arguing that the official view is totally and dangerously wrong. It seems to me that Scheuer is for the most part right on target with his critique. There is one major problem with his proposal for what to do about it, which I will address below.

Here is a list of Scheuer's main points:

1) Osama bin Laden (OBL) is neither an evil madman or just a criminal -- he is a highly competent, religiously motivated, charismatic leader who we had best take seriously.

2) Al Qaeda is not a terrorist organization, but is rather part of and attempting to lead a global Muslim insurgency.

3) OBL & Al Qaeda are not opposed to the U.S. because of "who we are," (ie, "we stand for freedom"), but because of what we do -- because of specific aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

4) The doctrine that informs OBL/Al Qaeda is that of DEFENSIVE JIHAD -- they see the Muslim world under attack by the U.S., and call upon scripture to support defensive military action by all faithful members of the "umma" (the universal body of Islam).

5) OBL has repeatedly stated five demands for changes in U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
"Anonymous" deserves a prize for writing this book, except that he wouldn't be anonymous after that.

The author brings an intelligence and tough-mindedness to the so-called War on Terror that we badly need, and that George W. Bush wants to avoid. Among this book's insights:

--In Osama bin Laden's worldview, there are good reasons for attacking Americans and their allies. A look at bin Laden's public statements can tell us why he feels this way;

--Many Muslims see the world as bin Laden sees it. Indeed, he is a hero in most of the Muslim world, the more so for having escaped capture for so long;

--Afghanistan ought to be the focus of our efforts, but instead it's a disaster waiting to happen. U.S. forces never defeated the Taliban, blew the best chance to capture bin Laden, and have imposed an alien form of government in Kabul that commands little support among the people;

--The Iraq war has made is less safe, by diverting resources and energies away from the fight against Al Quaeda; and

--When the U.S. tries to export democracy at gunpoint, we ignore our own long, hard struggle to achieve the freedoms that we have, and we ignore the nature of Islam in society, especially Mohammed as law-giver.

"Anonymous" tries to get inside the mind of bin Laden and his supporters. George W. Bush says that trying to understand "why they hate us" is a mistake, and that all we need to know is that terrorism is evil. I'll take knowledge over faith any day.
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Format: Hardcover
I wish every American had been required to read this book before the recent re-coronation of Dubya. "Anonymous" is now widely known to be Michael F. Scheuer, a longtime CIA veteran specializing in al Qaeda, bin Laden, and Islamic insurgencies. He lambastes both the Bush and Clinton administrations for their lies of ommission regarding terrorism, and he makes a pursuasive argument that our government has actually made things worse, not better. And Scheuer is no leftie dove. He repeatedly calls for the US to do one of two things: either change the foreign policies that give rise to militant Muslim responses, or go after the terrorists with every weapon we have.

The author explodes the ridiculous lie that Bush has been pushing since 9-11: that terrorists are insane, irrational murderers who only want to destroy the freedoms that Americans enjoy. This Big Lie, that an innocent America is a victim only because of its very goodness and success, has prevented Americans from confronting the true roots of Islamic hatred towards the US: the several streams of anti-Muslim foreign policy that have been flowing for decades. Everyone needs to read this book, so that we can, as citizens, demand an end to the unwinnable War on Terror. Americans must know the truth about Islamic militancy, so that we can demand sweeping policy change, the only hope of saving lives and avoiding future attakcs.
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