An astonishingly insightful book recently published by an American CIA agent with expertise in the Middle East and counterterrorism is beginning to make serious waves in Washington. I finished reading Imperial Hubris, by Anonymous, last week. The book is explosive in both its thesis and its conclusions. Given its controversial nature, I’m frankly shocked that he was able to pull it off.
While reading it, I recalled a slogan that I saw on the cover of a comic book decades ago which seemed to be extraordinarily topical:
Batman!! Because when criminals rule the streets in the light of day, then justice must prowl the night behind a mask.
The irony is that our political leaders have spent the past several years spouting the most ludicrous nonsense about the Middle East imaginable. They have mouthed numerous falsehoods, and have done so with an obnoxious aura of arrogant self-righteousness right under the glare of the TV cameras.
Meanwhile, a man (woman?) who wishes to speak common sense and brave truths must slink around behind a nom de plume, lest he become the target of a campaign of character assassination.
But such is the reality of America in this Late Imperial Era.
While an entire book of analysis and critique could be written concerning each of Anonymous’ chapters, I found two specific misconceptions identified therein to be of particular interest.
Government misconception #1: We are involved in a "war on terrorism"
Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, our leaders began to use this term to refer to our current conflict. After even a moment’s thought, it should be obvious that this is absurd. Terrorism is a tactic. While there are many sophisticated definitions of exactly what terrorism is, they all agree on the fact that it is not, in and of itself, a political ideology. It is merely a method by which militant followers of various ideologies can influence political decisions and outcomes in a manner they deem favorable.
As I recently heard one commentator note, during WW II our leaders did not say that we were involved in a war in Europe against blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg was merely a form of mobile warfare developed by the German Army to fight and win wars. To say that it was, itself, the enemy against whom we were fighting would have been absurd. And the American people would have immediately interpreted such assertions as being absurd. We were in a war against Nazi-dominated Germany…period.
America now finds itself, as exhaustively argued by Anonymous, locked in a war with militant Islam. That is the enemy against whom we fight. I happen to believe that this war is unnecessary and could have been avoided, but that is beside the point.
If our leadership is unwilling or unable to even properly define the enemy in this war, what is the probability that they will be able to see it through to a victorious conclusion?
And why are our leaders unwilling to name the enemy and the war in a straightforward manner?
The answer is, of course, political correctness. This bizarre ideology is the closest thing that our current political and economic elites have to an actual religion. Multiculturalism and tolerance are two of the supreme commandments of this religion, and our leaders are unwilling to breach them…even when our nation is embroiled in a bitter war and doing so might help focus our population on winning it.
But what does this say about the souls of our elites? They seem perfectly at ease with the idea of bombing, strafing, and blockading various Middle Eastern nations back to the Stone Age (Madeline Albright’s famous comment that our sanctions against Iraq were "worth it" even though they killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, comes to mind), but they are simultaneously unwilling to violate a rather petty taboo and name the enemy in a blunt and honest fashion.
I am reminded of Marlon Brando’s famous line in Apocalypse Now:
"They teach their pilots to drop fire on people from the sky, but they won’t let them write the word u2018f**k’ on the sides of their airplanes"
Furthermore, what does this say to our soldiers? They have been sent half way around the globe to fight several vicious wars, often at the cost of life and limb. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the leaders who sent them are unwilling to risk even the social and political repercussions of speaking frankly about the people our soldiers are fighting against.
Never has there been such a stark contrast between the men in the field and the political leadership making the decisions.
Government misconception #2: They hate us because of our wealth, freedom, democracy, etc.
Over the past week or so, I have engaged in an experiment to test this style of argumentation (I caution anyone against trying this at home due to the potentially dangerous consequences).
Specifically, whenever my wife has been peeved with me about something, I have utilized an analogous neoconservative response to determine this method’s effectiveness in addressing the situation.
Wife: You forgot to take our daughter to school this morning!!
Steve: You are just angry at me because I’m charming, witty, and brilliant…you’re jealous.
Wife: Why didn’t you take out the garbage last night? Now it’s piled up in the kitchen!!
Steve: It’s that jealousy rearing its ugly head again!! Can I help it if I’m charming, witty, and brilliant??
As one might suspect, this did not go over very well. If there ever was an argumentative style better designed to enrage another person, it is hard to imagine what it might be (by the end of the week, I was wearing football gear around the house to help minimize injuries).
Narcissism is never endearing.
As Anonymous notes exhaustively, the people of the Middle East do NOT hate us because of our success, our wealth, our culture, or our freedom. There are certain things about our society which offend them, but hardly to the extent that would provoke them to launch a catastrophic war against us. By analogy, most Muslims were offended by the atheism of the USSR, but they only launched a jihad against the Soviets after the invasion of Afghanistan.
But our elites cling stubbornly to this idea. Anonymous quotes former Iraq proconsul L. Paul Bremmer:
"There is no point in addressing the so-called root causes of [bin Laden's] terrorism…We are the root cause of his terrorism. He doesn’t like America. He doesn’t like our society. He doesn’t like what we stand for. He doesn’t like our values."
Anonymous proceeds to cite numerous polls which clearly show exactly why the Muslims are growing to despise America. These reasons have little or nothing to do with who we are and how we choose to run our society.
"Now bin Laden may and probably does dislike all the things Bremmer lists, but his hatred and war-making have nothing to do with our society, values, and ideas. Bin Laden hates us — and forgive me for this repetition — because of our policies and actions in the Muslim world."
"America is hated and attacked because Muslims believe they know precisely what the United States is doing in the Islamic world. They know partly because of bin Laden’s words, partly because of satellite television, but mostly because of the tangible reality of US policy. We are at war with an al Qaeda-led worldwide Islamist insurgency because of and to defend those policies, and not, as President Bush mistakenly has said, "to defend freedom and all that is good in the world."
This is the crux of the matter. Our government has pursued numerous questionable policies in the Middle East for quite some time. These policies include such things as interfering in various nations’ internal affairs to secure access to oil supplies and the propping-up of various corrupt, brutal, and unpopular regimes that serve as our lackeys. The people of the Middle East are well aware of our actions and have endured the negative repercussions for decades. They are now fed up with this and are turning decisively against America.
This dynamic has created a fertile field for evil fanatics like bin Laden to recruit militants for his deadly deeds.
After pondering this reality, a rather fundamental question arises:
Since it is obvious that our policies have fueled hatred against us in the Middle East, why do our leaders insist on explaining the genesis of the conflict with such lame slogans as "they hate us for our democracy"?
Try as I might, I can only find one answer:
Our leaders have been engaging in various Middle East policies at the behest of numerous special interest groups. They are aware that these policies are despised by the people of the Middle East. And, furthermore, they are aware that these policies are not really understood by, or in the best interest of, the broad swath of Middle America. They are, therefore, afraid to address these issues directly for fear that Middle America would demand the cessation of these policies as a mechanism to reach a reasonable agreement with our adversaries in the Middle East.
One can see this reality replicated in nearly ever facet of our society. Education festers because our policies serve the needs of unions and bureaucrats. Illegal immigration remains rampant due to the influence of big business and ethnic grievance lobbies. The military is forced to purchase various unwanted weapons systems because of the manipulations of arms manufacturers, etc. etc. etc.
But unlike these other areas, war involves killing and being killed. It is a moral atrocity that our government has led us into a war with the Islamic world, yet lacks the courage to either clearly define the enemy or to honestly discuss the policies that helped to precipitate the conflict.
America deserves better.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.