Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strategic Flaws (Book Review) "Imperial Hubris" Author: Michael Scheuer

Strategic Flaws (Book Review)
Reviewer: Amer Rizwan Khattak·

Book: Imperial Hubris
Why the West is Losing the War on Terror

Author: Michael Scheuer
Brassey’s, Inc., Washington D.C. 2004. Pages 307

It is not always easy to criticize the policies of the state when one is part and parcel of the machinery of same. Michael Scheuer (Anonymous) performs this job with utmost adroitness and devotion. He tries to kill two birds with a single stone by not only warding off the potential danger but also shaking the policy makers of their adolescence.

In starting the book, he takes to task the US intelligence agencies, which he believes, did little to avert the impending catastrophe before 9/11 though it has a number of reports suggesting that an attack may occur any time.

Those officers knew a run away train was coming at the United States, documented that fact, and then watched helplessly – or were banished from speaking out – as their senior delayed action, downplayed intelligence, ignored repeated warnings, and generally behaved as what they so manifestly are, America’s greatest generations – of moral cowards.

Again, when the attacks did occur, the US administration did not take action against the perpetrators briskly. This procrastination on the part of the US administration in attacking the Al Qaeda and Taliban gave their key leaders and the bulk of its force to take refuge in different places including in the tribal forces of Pakistan where they are already considered heroes for having helped the Afghans oust the much bigger Soviet bear and for braving the world’s sole super power i.e. The US. Once Taliban were routed with the help of the minority and futuristically less promising Northern Alliance, the US committed yet another mistake. i.e. it supported the non-representative people in Afghanistan who have not been the part and part of the forces that used to be dominant either before the US invasion of Afghanistan or before the collapse of the Communist regime in 1992. But the sordid drama does not end here. The US did not depute proper specialists for the Afghanistan. It has a number of specialists on Afghanistan who had worked closely with the Mujahidin forces during their struggle with the communist forces of Afghanistan and Soviet Union. However, working on ad hoc basis, they were cornered and non-specialists were consulted and made in charge of the Afghan affairs with the result that now the Afghan policy is in tatters.

The author argues that FBI is least equipped to cope with overseas operations. It should primarily focus on the internal law and order problems. Involving it in external operations would not only cause confusion and overlapping and leaks that prove to detrimental to American interests in the longer run. He attributes leaks in American intelligence either to the naiveté of the American intelligence officers or to their gaudiness for being more knowledgeable or even to avarice. However, all these types of leaks have adversely affected the US’ effort to root out the Al Qaeda factor.

A recurrent and very significant theme of this book is the writer’s candid analysis proving that the Americans are not hated and disliked for what they are or for their way of life but for their policies. He rebuts many a tall claims in this regard.

He goes deep into Quran and Hadith to prove that its teachings are replete with the precepts whereby every Muslims is enjoined upon to wage defensive Jihad when they are facing any injustice and when the non-Muslims are not letting them to lead their lives in accordance with Quran and Sunnah. Although there are several ways of waging Jihad but the Jihad of sword is the preferred mode. Osama bin Laden has successfully utilized these teachings plus the US’ free license to Israel at the expense of the beleaguered Palestinians. To add insult to injury, the US winking or acquiescence of the Indian, Russian, Philippian and Chinese governments’ ruthlessness vis-à-vis their Muslim minorities has provided OBL a befitting issue to exploit and to prove to the hapless Muslims that the US is spearheading a global concert that is hell bent upon exterminating the Muslims just to avenge the Christians’ defeat at the hands of Muslims in the crusades. Saladin is thereby worshiped as a great Muslim warrior hero who made the non Muslims to lick dust. So, the United States, and its policies and actions, are its only indispensable allies.

US, British and, other coalition forces are trying to govern apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq while simultaneously fighting Islamic insurgencies in each – a state of affairs our leaders call victory. In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, US forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Same bin Ladin has been trying to do with substantial but limited success since the early 1990s.

He discusses both the viewpoints about the personal character of OBL. One the one extreme are the US and Western writers who portray him to be a callous, blood-thirsty and maniac whereas on the other are his friends and relatives who have personally interacted with him, and have thereby have first-hand knowledge about him. The author reconciles both the positions i.e. West’s mad man and Islam’s hero by acknowledging that OBL has much love for the defence for faith, the life he lives, the heroic example he sets and the similarity of that example to other heroes in the pantheon of Islamic history. Nay the author also does not disagree with the western scholars who variously describe OBL as a soldier, a CEO, a pious scholar, a warrior, one with common people, and a product of globalization.

ü The author argues that the US is playing OBL’s game.

Whether in area of defence spending, travel, foreign policy, fiscal responsibility, domestic security, or citizen safety, we have supinely allowed “our designs to be crossed” to avoid the sacrifices to fight the war bin Laden has launched.

ü Democracy cannot be introduced over night. In the West, it developed as an evolutionary process.

· The Reviewer is pursuing his Ph-D Degree in the Department of International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

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