2005, updated version of Michael Scheuer's Imperial
Hubris is the most important book that has been written
to date about the war between the United States and the Islamists
led by Osama bin Laden. It provides perspectives on the conflict
that are completely missing in almost any other analysis of this
war. It is an absolute "must read" for anyone concerned
about the future of their world, that of their children and the
future world of their children's children.
For example, Scheuer puts the question of "Why do they hate
us?" into its proper historical context. The people of the
Soviet Union could have asked the same question about "the
mujahideen" who fought them so tenaciously and successfully
in Afghanistan two decades ago.
And perhaps the people of the Soviet Union heard from their leaders
at that time the same false explanations that Americans are being
told today by our leaders: "They hate us for who we are and
what we stand for." But the Europeanism, communism and even
the atheism of the Soviet people were never of any concern to the
ethnically and linguistically diverse Muslim insurgent groups that
defeated the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
The mujahideen hated the Soviet people because they had attacked
the three things Muslims love most – their faith, their brethren and
their land. These Muslims fought to keep the Soviet Union from usurping
Islam in Afghanistan, from killing fellow Muslims and from physically
destroying a Muslim country.
In other words, the mujahideen hated the Soviet people not for who
they were but for what they had done. Its current war against the
United States, Scheuer maintains, is the Afghan war of twenty years
ago "writ large."
Scheuer next asks the question "Is it possible that Muslims
perceive the U.S. actions in the Islamic world in a manner like
that with which they perceived the Soviet actions in Afghanistan?"
He then responds to his own question by saying that, "the objective
answer must be yes."
In the eyes of most Muslims, America invaded, now occupies and effectively
rules the Muslim states of Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States
has also continuously and invariably backed Israel's occupation
of Muslim Palestine.
America helped the United Nations create a new Christian state,
East Timor, in Muslim Indonesia. Yet such independence is taboo
for Muslim Kashmir, Muslim Chechnya and Muslim Bosnia. Furthermore,
U.S. policy supports "oppression and aggression by Hindu India
in Kashmir, Catholic Filipinos in Mindanao, Orthodox Christian Russians
in Chechnya and Chinese communists in Xinjiang Province." America
also supports "apostate" Islamic governments in Kuwait,
the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
The United States has imposed economic and military sanctions on
Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Iran
and Indonesia. These actions have led to the deaths of thousands
of Muslims, many if not most of whom were children.
In the case of Pakistan, the sanctions were imposed after that country
developed a nuclear weapon. Yet in two countries where Muslims are
in the minority – India and Israel – sanctions were never led or even
suggested by the United States when those nations developed similar
Osama bin Laden is seen by most Muslims as leading a defensive jihad
to rid the Islamic world of the United States and its allies, just
as he helped lead the same kind of insurgency against the Soviets
in Afghanistan. Although the United States is the focal point of
this jihad, bin Laden and his followers have never expressed a desire
to occupy and rule countries other than Islamic ones. In other words,
they are over here because we are over there.
When put into this context, Islamic attacks on America can no longer
be seen as acts of terrorism. They are acts of war and parts of
the long battle Islamic jihadists intend to wage against the United
States until they achieve their military and political objectives.
How long can such a battle be waged? Again, if the Afghan War against
the Soviet Union is a precursor, this war will be waged until one
side or the other is utterly defeated. The Soviets conduct in Afghanistan
was incredibly brutal. The number of Afghans killed, wounded or
exiled was enormous. Scheuer claims that, in proportionate terms,
the Soviets inflicted more damage in Afghanistan than the Germans
caused in the Soviet Union during World War II.
Yet the Soviet Union lost their war in Afghanistan. Islamic jihadists
were willing to do whatever it took and use any weapons made available
to them in order to defeat the outsiders who they saw attacking
their religion, brethren and land.
Why should Americans expect those who continue to be led by Osama
bin Laden – as well as his tens of thousands of new followers – to be
any less committed to defeating the United States? We should be
prepared for Islamic jihadists to do whatever it takes and use any
weapons made available to them (including nuclear weapons and other
instruments of mass destruction) to defeat America as they did the
Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
What, if anything, can be done about this horrendous situation?
Scheuer suggests two alternatives: America can change its failed
and counterproductive foreign policies or it must wage total war
on Osama bin Laden and his Muslim followers in Islamic countries
occupied by over a billion people. Since there is never any shortage
of Americans ready and willing to instigate and support the second
alternative, some of the rest of us might consider working to actualize
Scheuer's first choice.
W. Tofte [send him mail] is
the manager of the BWIA Private Investment Fund and the author of
Principled and Grow Rich: Your Guide to Investing Successfully in
Both Bull and Bear Markets. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa.