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Between the Lines

June 22, 2004

Our only option is total war?

The current Book of the Week is a tome called "Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror," penned by someone who goes by the nom de plume "Anonymous." That's because this person apparently is a senior intelligence official who continues to hold that job while going nuclear on the Bush administration's policies toward the Muslim world, particularly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which he thinks are disasters. The book will be in stores next month, but proofs are making the rounds in D.C. and unsurprisingly, given its content, the book is making some waves.

For instance, Anonymous argues in essence that a vote for Bush is a vote for Osama bin Laden, turning on its head the stuff you hear on right-wing radio and TV about a vote for Kerry being a vote for terrorism. His contention is that Bin Laden probably will try a major new terror attack on U.S. soil in hopes of boosting Bush's election prospects. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian's account:

"Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called 'Through Our Enemies' Eyes,' thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the U.S. could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

" 'I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now,' he said.

" 'One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president.' "

Yeah, well, more speculation. However, Anonymous is supposed to have been deeply involved in the search for Bin Laden, so his guess about this may be better than, say, mine.

But the really stark part of the book is its prescription for what we have to do to get out of the mess we're in (losing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and against terrorists in general, according to Anonymous). The only answer, he says, is total war:

"To secure as much of our way of life as possible, we will have to use military force in the way Americans used it on the fields of Virginia and Georgia, in France and on Pacific islands, and from skies over Tokyo and Dresden. Progress will be measured by the pace of killing …

"Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills--all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. … [S]uch actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows. Again, this sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world."

Spencer Ackerman, who is filling in for vacationing Joshua Marshall at Talking Points Memo, says Anoymous considers our wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq to be abject failures, leaving destruction on a colossal scale our only defense. Well, I'm just a lowly blogger, but I have a hard time seeing how bombing Muslim lands back to the stone age while the world watches is going to make us safer. Ackerman interviewed Anonymous on this point, but got little satisfaction:

ANONYMOUS: The war we need to conduct is simply to protect America. It's to stop the enemy, to have him cease and desist from attacking us. It is not--I hope it's not--to make them democratic, or to make them become libertarians or whatever, whereas the Indian intention in Kashmir is to install Hindu domination. The Chinese intention in western China is genocide: a silent genocide as they're doing in Tibet by inundating the Uighurs with Han Chinese. And the Russians are intent on doing what they tried to do in Afghanistan: to subject the population and eliminate whatever percentage of that population is necessary.

ACKERMAN: But isn’t it enough like those governments, or certainly like Russia in Chechnya, in that you’re calling for scorched-earth tactics? And isn't that at the heart of what the Islamic resistance in Chechnya views as Russia’s attempt to destroy Chechnya--and what in fact fuels the Islamicization of Chechnya?

ANONYMOUS: I think that's a good argument. My argument, I think, taken from the whole book, is that we've left ourselves with no option but the military option, and our application of military force against our foe, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, has not been particularly intimidating. They've ridden out two wars. They're on the offensive at the moment. What are we left with? If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it. …

At Political Animal, Kevin Drum notes that this is truly "a counsel of despair."


It's also worth noting that similar dire predictions about our future were in vogue when things went badly in Vietnam. We had to win that war or Communism would sweep victoriously across Southeast Asia. Well, we didn't and it didn't. The Middle East is certainly not Vietnam and there's a case to be made that failure there will have a very high price, hence the necessity to install a more competent administration than the one we've got. But there also has to be a way less devastating than Anonymous' Armageddon to make headway there.

One last thing to keep in mind: Anonymous is an intelligence official. They've been right about so much in the last couple of years, haven't they?

Posted by tbrown at 12:16 PM

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Our only option is total war?


Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Andrew Sullivan
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
Drudge Report
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online


Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

Brad DeLong

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