Imperial Hubris II
Over the weekend, I wrote a rather lengthy analysis of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, the first book by “Anonymous,” the senior intelligence officer whose second book, Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror, is due out in a few weeks.
Guesting at TPM, Spencer Ackerman has an interesting interview with Anonymous. Spencer makes an important correction of the widely-quoted Guardian account of the book, which portrays the author as
animated in no small measure by “contempt for the Bush White House and its policies.” That’s a bit wide of the mark. Does the book exhibit contempt for the administration’s policies? Certainly. It also takes a dim view of the White House’s conception of what motivates al-Qaeda and how to fight it. But in the book and in an interview, Anonymous doesn’t traffic in Bush-bashing. He has much harsher words to say about the leadership of the intelligence community, whom he faults for bending too far to the predispositions of the policymakers they serve.
ANONYMOUS: The intelligence community, and especially the CIA, serve the president. I think the mistakes that were made [in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terrorism broadly] were probably made by the intelligence community not having the balls to stand up and to say any number of things that were knowable. “Mr. President, the people we’re backing in Afghanistan will not be able to form a government and will ensure continued war and instability.” “Mr. President, if you attack Iraq you will be giving bin Laden a gift.” “Mr. President, we don’t have enough [intelligence] officers and people to run two wars at a time.” “Mr. President, all of the reporting about Iraqi WMD is coming from opposition politicians, and you have to take it with a massive grain of salt.?
I tend to blame, as I do in the book, a leadership generation in the intelligence community that is more interested in its next promotion and its career prospects than it is in talking about hard issues. Somebody needed to go and say, not just to Mr. Bush, but to Mr. Clinton, “Mr. President, this is a war about Islam. You can say all you want that it’s not a war about religion, but it is.” And it’s much more so now than in 1992, and still no one will say it.
Based on my reading of TOEE, I came to that conclusion as well.
I’m afraid that the title of the book, added to the rather interesting rhetorical approach that I critiqued in my previous post, will very much give the impression that this book is anti-American and, especially, anti-Bush foreign policy. It’s an excellent marketing strategy–there are so many books on the war out there at this point that one must generate buzz–but may wind up turning away readers from the Right and disappointing those on the Left. Indeed, the “understanding” tone he takes explaining why bin Laden is so revered is intended to demonstrate why we are in a brutal clash of civilizations.
Kevin Drum feared that Anonymous was calling for total war, so he e-mailed Abraham for confirmation. Based on his galley copy of the book, Abraham provides it:
So, what does it mean to be at war with Islam? First, it means we must accept this reality and act accordingly. Second, it means a U.S. policy status quo in the Muslim world ensures a gradually intensifying war for the foreseeable future, one that will be far more costly than we now imagine. Third, it means we will have to publicly address issues ? support for Israel, energy self-sufficiency, and the worldwide applicability of our democracy ? long neglected and certain to raise bitter, acrimonious debates that will decide whether the American way of life survives or shrinks to a crabbed, fearful, and barely recognizable form. (250)
Abraham follows up with a second post at TPM. There’s also more at Kevin’s, including some interesting commentary.
The reaction to this book will be quite interesting. His first book is still widely read mainly, for reasons I’ve alluded to, by Leftist policy wonks who oppose Bush’s handling of the war. While this book will certainly do that, it appears to be an attack based on being insufficiently hawkish. My guess is the Left won’t be too excited about the prescription, and especially his vehement rejection of Wilsonian principles. Nor will much of the Right.
I’ve been promised a copy of the book when it comes off the presses in a couple of weeks and will write a more extensive review of it for publication elsewhere, which I’ll share here as well. Stay tuned.
Update: Matt Yglesias: “I’m enough of a knee-jerk partisan that when I heard an anonymous important government official guy was about to publish a book arguing that George W. Bush was screwing everything up, I just assumed I would love it.” As it turns out, not so much.
Other OTB posts relating to Anonymous and his books:
- Imperial Hubris
- Imperial Hubris III
- Imperial Hubris IV
- Iraqis Worked With al Qaeda
- Imperial Hubris Author ‘Anonymous’ No More