Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What Anonymous Really Meant to Say

The headlines and stories about Imperial Hubris, by good old Anonymous (must be related to me), focus on the Bush-bashing, of course:
Bush told he is playing into Bin Laden's hands

Al-Qaida may 'reward' American president with strike aimed at keeping him in office, senior intelligence man says

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday June 19, 2004
The Guardian

A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands.

Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer.
But Talking Points Memo (TPM) has interviewed Anonymous (links here and here). TPM's commentary and the Q and A with Anonymous tell quite a different story, and a much more compelling one. We get this from the first TPM post about Imperial Hubris:
Does the book exhibit contempt for the administration's policies? Certainly. It also takes a dim view of the White House's conception of what motivates al-Qaeda and how to fight it. But in the book and in an interview, Anonymous doesn't traffic in Bush-bashing. He has much harsher words to say about the leadership of the intelligence community, whom he faults for bending too far to the predispositions of the policymakers they serve.
ANONYMOUS: The intelligence community, and especially the CIA, serve the president....

I tend to blame, as I do in the book, a leadership generation in the intelligence community that is more interested in its next promotion and its career prospects than it is in talking about hard issues. Somebody needed to go and say, not just to Mr. Bush, but to Mr. Clinton, "Mr. President, this is a war about Islam. You can say all you want that it's not a war about religion, but it is." And it's much more so now than in 1992, and still no one will say it.
Things get even more interesting in the second post. We begin, again, with TPM's gloss on Imperial Hubris:
[W]e fail to understand that bin Laden doesn't hate us because of our freedom. Or, rather, while he does hate the licentiousness and modernity that the U.S. represents, it's not what compels him to declare war on us. Nor does an anti-modernist bent explain bin Laden's appeal across the Muslim world. Instead, it's what Anonymous identifies as six points bin Laden repeatedly cites in his communiqu├ęs:
I'll interrupt here to explain that I'm numbering Anonymous's rendition of bin Laden's six points, for later ease of reference.
"[1] U.S. support for Israel that keeps the Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall; [2] U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian peninsula; [3] U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; [4] U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants; [5] U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low; [6] U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments."
If that's what bin Laden and his fellow fanatics really want, then we're in for a fight to the finish -- I've never doubted it, but a lot of Americans still don't believe it. Why? Putting aside points 2, 3, 4, and 6, we're still left with point 1 (support for Israel, which cannot be acceptable to Muslim fanatics in any form) and point 5 (which is really about our access to Middle Eastern oil). Those are -- or should be -- non-negotiable U.S. objectives. Given that, let's cut to the chase and read what Anonymous thinks will happen. We begin with TPM quoting from Imperial Hubris:
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....

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.
But how can we avoid "failure" if "failure" comprises supporting Israel and securing access to Middle Eastern oil? Here's Anonymous, from the interview with TPM:
I think we should look somewhat at our relationship with Israel. Clearly we need an energy policy, not just in the United States but in the West, that makes us less dependent on oil out of the Gulf. For myself, I can't figure out what American interest we would have in Saudi Arabia if it wasn't for oil. If they all killed each other to their heart's content, it wouldn't affect America at all.
Such rich and helpful insights! In other words, we're not about to abandon Israel or Middle Eastern oil. That's why Anonymous actually makes sense when he says to TPM:
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....If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it....
Exactly. When your enemy makes non-negotiable demands, you don't surrender, you go for his throat.