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.
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”?
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.