George W. Bush’s man at the CIA, Porter Goss, is now purging the agency, an act prompted by the persistence of certain parties in the CIA in presenting the White House with “reality-based analysis.”  Since such analysis presented a road block to war plans, Goss was ordered to rid the agency of “disloyal” employees, meaning a number of intelligence professionals who simply wanted to tell the truth.  And the truth did not support the neoconservative plan for “World War IV”—a plan for invading and occupying a number of Middle Eastern states (beginning with Iraq), installing “democratic” (read: “pro-U.S.”) governments, and otherwise making the world safe for Israel.  Capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and destroying Al Qaeda were, in fact, never at the top of the neoconservative wish list.

The White House and Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense found a way to get around “reality-based analysis” by creating their own “intelligence” operation, the so-called Office of Special Plans (OSP) at the Pentagon.  The OSP reportedly hired scores of temporary “consultants”—including lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy analysts from pro-war Washington think tanks, few of whom possessed any intelligence experience—to sift through mountains of raw intelligence materials.  The OSP did not participate in exchanges between representatives of the U.S. intelligence community and did not vet the unfiltered information it passed on to the White House.  The OSP’s own highly questionable information was in turn used in the White House/Department of Defense campaign to goad intelligence analysts into recommending military action.

The neocon hawks’ amateur operation maintained ties to a similar unofficial group in Israel, which was reportedly charged with providing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with more alarming assessments of Iraq than Tel Aviv’s intelligence agencies were prepared to endorse.  The Israel-OSP connection is not surprising: Both Rumsfeld’s then undersecretary Douglas Feith and neoconservative hawk Richard Perle once served as advisors to former Likud Party boss Benjamin Netanyahu.  Israelis were reportedly able to visit the OSP without being cleared through normal Pentagon channels.

With the United States bogged down in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the neocons may now be targeting either Syria or Iran as the next object of “regime change,” even as the White House continues its CIA shake-up and carries out a reshuffling of the intelligence community.  Michael Scheuer, the author of two books on terrorism and Osama bin Laden (Through Our Enemies’ Eyes and Imperial Hubris) became a CIA purge victim earlier this year.  Scheuer, a 22-year agency veteran who once headed the task force assigned to track Bin Laden, apparently resigned under pressure; though he had been careful to report media contacts according to CIA ground rules, CNN reported that he had been threatened with “disciplinary action” by the new agency regime.

Imperial Hubris, Scheuer’s latest book, was published anonymously (though the author’s identity was revealed in media reports), after having been vetted for classified information before publication.  It contains, among other things, what have become common arguments made by critics of the “War on Terror”: that, under both the Clinton and the Bush administrations, senior officials made uninformed decisions that often undermined attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden, and that the war in Iraq is a diversion from the anti-Bin Laden effort—that it is, in fact, a gift to Osama bin Laden, boosting his image across the Islamic world as well as militant Islamic organizations’ recruiting efforts, a fact confirmed, ironically, by Porter Goss himself in recent congressional testimony.

What is uncommon about Scheuer’s book is its insider’s view of an ignorant and hubristic elite leading America into disaster and defeat.  Scheuer’s voice is that of a hard-nosed realist, a patriot weary of bureaucratic newspeak, slick careerists, and wars fought and policies pursued for the interests of Beltway lobbyists and countries other than our own.  The tone is harsh and unsparing; the criticism, relentless: Scheuer is a man on a mission.  Having spent ten years as an intelligence analyst myself, I am only amazed that Mike Scheuer survived in the CIA bureaucracy, which he skewers in this book, as long as he did.

Imperial Hubris has three major focal points of criticism: the culture of the Washington bureaucracy and that of the political, intelligence, and military elite; the conduct of the “War on Terror”; and the lack of a long-term plan to make America more secure and to deal effectively with the threat of militant Islam.

Careerism, political correctness, moral cowardice, disdain for expertise, arrogance, hubris: These are the characteristics of the Washington elite and of elite wannabes.  Any perceptive person who has spent any time at all in or around the vast labyrinth of bureaus, departments, offices, corporations, and lobbying groups that constitute the home ground of our rulers can readily recognize the real villains of Imperial Hubris.  Osama bin Laden and militant Islam may be the enemies we face, but the book’s culprits are those chiefly responsible for allowing the threat to assume the magnitude it has—and they are not members of Al Qaeda.

“I intend in this book,” Scheuer writes,

to show that there is not now, and never has been, a shortage of knowledge about the nature and immediacy of the bin Laden threat, but only a lack of courage to tell the truth about it fully, openly and with disregard for the career-related consequences of truth-telling.  Unfortunately, many in my generation of leaders find the task of doing their duty next to impossible.  The failure of many to perform their duty lies at the heart of why three thousand Americans perished on 11 September 2001.

Some, having tried to tell the truth, were punished by a system that claims it wants its bureaucracy to “think outside the box” but, in fact, hates and fears honesty, integrity, and expertise in all things apart from career advancement.  In the end, “you can lead jackasses to water, but you cannot make them drink.”

Instead of doing their duty, which would entail “facing reality,” our

hubris-soaked . . . leaders, elites, and media, locked behind an impenetrable wall of political correctness and moral cowardice, act as naïve and arrogant cheerleaders for the universal applicability of Western values and feckless military operations . . . while al Qaeda-led, anti-US hatred grows among Muslims, US leaders boast of being able to able to create democracy wherever they choose, ignoring history . . .

As a result, “it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.”  Scheuer goes on to make a convincing case that the character of public “leadership” as described above not only helped make the September 11 attacks possible but is leading this country into quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Bush administration has ignored Afghanistan’s bellicose history and is now engaged in the impossible task of turning her into a Western-style democracy.  Washington, having failed to “check the checkables”—that is, review the readily available mass of information and reservoir of expertise on Afghanistan—is now feeding the public happy talk about having supposedly destroyed Al Qaeda’s Afghan operation.  Since the United States had no plan on the shelf for attacking Al Qaeda (a case of near-criminal neglect as presented in Imperial Hubris), Al Qaeda fighters were able to disperse and live to fight another day, while Bin Laden made good his escape.  Afghanistan has not been anything less than a defeat, while the war there has only just begun to escalate, according to Scheuer.

If the Bush administration indeed has badly botched the Afghan operation, then what of the Iraqi campaign?  “On Iraq, I must candidly say that I abhor aggressive wars like the one we waged there . . . [it was] an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat,” writes Scheuer.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq was nothing less than “Osama bin Laden’s gift from America, one he has long and ardently desired, but never realistically expected.”  An Iraq without Saddam would “obviously become what political scientists call a ‘failed state’ . . . a land where al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like organizations would thrive.”  Bin Laden could only dream of such a gift—until March 2003, when his dream came true.  All he could have hoped for has come to pass.  The United States, having already stayed too long, is insistent on a non-Islamic government that would subordinate the long-dominant Sunnis.  Meanwhile, Arabs can see the destruction of the second holiest land in Islam, along with the prison torture scandal, on satellite TV and the internet.  Young Islamic men are rushing to Iraq in the name of jihad, even as Washington is faced with the problem of dealing with a newly elected leadership weighted toward Shiites with historic ties to Iran.  And all that is to say nothing of Kurdish aspirations in northern Iraq, where the establishment of a Kurdish state could provoke Turkish intervention.  Does this look like a “mission accomplished” to anyone apart from the deluded inhabitants of the Bush White House?

Scheuer slams our elites for getting Bin Laden wrong: He is no mere terrorist, is certainly not a madman, and is (in spite of all the White House’s “Islam is a religion of peace” claptrap) a revered figure among Muslims around the world, a man who has accomplished what other jihadists only dreamed of, by successfully uniting (with the help of the United States, Scheuer points out) a large segment of the Islamic world and making America the focus of his attention.  “All told,” writes Scheuer, Osama bin Laden is now “the most popular anti-American leader in the world today.  His name is legend from Houston to Zanzibar to Jakarta, and his face and sayings are emblazoned on T-shirts, CD’s, audio and video tapes, posters, photographs, cigarette lighters, and stationery across the earth.”  Bin Laden is the de facto leader of a worldwide Islamic insurgency.

Scheuer insists on using the term insurgency to describe the threat presented by Al Qaeda and related organizations, a threat which is global and strategic in nature.  A “War on Terror” is a losing battle against a tactic, while countering an insurgency with clear war aims is something the West—the United States, especially—can and must get a handle on.  Washington’s chosen strategy of dealing with this insurgency as if it had a “home address,” as Scheuer puts it, places the United States in the position of dealing with Al Qaeda as she might deal with a nation-state, one that can be defeated by invading and occupying territory.

Should the United States leave herself with only the military option (assuming Washington does not alter policies that have incited the Muslim world against America), then the war must be a total one, in Scheuer’s view—a conflict that will involve great numbers of casualties among Muslims, both insurgents and civilians, and also among U.S. military personnel.  The United States must target Al Qaeda insurgents, dig in her heels, and do the job with ground troops; American reliance on other forces to do the dirty work, as in Afghanistan, is flawed.  The anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, for example, was not especially interested in rooting out Al Qaeda, and the fact of its cooperation against the Taliban does not translate into a pro-American stance; in fact, U.S. troops may soon be fighting their former “allies,” as well as resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.

Scheuer has no illusions about the prospects for occupying or transforming Muslim states.  His war aim would be annihilating Al Qaeda forces—period.  While I agree that war with any foe should be fought ferociously, with every intention of destroying that foe, and that victories cannot be bloodless, Scheuer’s prescription for total war cannot be justified by the Christian Faith he professes.  Scheuer, at one point, cites Dresden as an example of the relentless warfare he considers necessary.  Did firebombing the population of Dresden serve any lawful military purpose?  Could such deliberate targeting of civilians ever be justified, even if it did?  The author himself acknowledges that “this sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable.”  And what of U.S. actions in Iraq?  Has not every example of such “bloody-mindedness” only fueled the insurgency?  I think Scheuer realizes that one could never kill enough to defeat the insurgency, once and for all.

The best long-term means to defuse Al Qaeda would be for the United States to amend her foreign policy, removing the chief motivation for an anti-American war.  No, Al Qaeda would not disappear overnight.  Muslims would remain hostile to the United States for some time; yet, as the author points out, Bin Laden himself has told us what fuels the Islamic insurgency.  American support for Israel is at the top of his list, and the “War on Terror” is only prolonged by the occupation of Muslim territories in the Middle East.  Militant Islam may despise and resent certain “Western values”—abortion, pornography, “gay marriage,” and the like—but attacks on U.S. soil are motivated primarily by American policies that in no way promote American interests.  The notion that Muslims hate America because she is democratic is preposterous, though satisfying to American self-righteousness.  As Scheuer points out, America’s iron-clad alliance with Israel serves “no vital US national interest,” while “binding the US Gulliver to the tiny Jewish state and its policies.”  American dependency on foreign sources of oil—and the power of the oil lobby in Washington that comes with it—has only increased our entanglement in the Middle East, a problem whose solution necessarily involves steps to lessen such dependency.  Such steps would link well with Scheuer’s further advice that Washington disengage from corrupt regimes widely hated in the Muslim world, especially Saudi Arabia.  Insurgencies flourish when they are supported by a mass of sympathetic civilians.  To defeat them, the causes of that support must be addressed.

Finally, Washington’s commitment to globalism—and to the role of the United States as global policeman—has to be challenged.  Citing George Washington’s warnings of the dangers of “entangling alliances” and other sage advice from the Founding Fathers, Scheuer challenges the assumption that “America owes more to others than to itself” (always the American elite’s default position on foreign affairs).  Scheuer sensibly concludes that the ethnic, tribal, and religious conflicts around the globe are not America’s business and, in any case, are beyond the capacity of any administration to understand.  Hubris may not be strong enough a word to describe an imperial elite that thinks it can run the whole world, even though America’s only “mandatory duty” is to “care for and defend itself.”

Imperial Hubris is a rapid-fire, plainspoken polemic stated with conviction and passion.  It is flawed by repetition and the author’s sometimes muddled prescriptions for dealing with a serious threat.  It is perhaps too much to expect one volume to deal with such a vast subject comprehensively, though one wonders if the book’s author has considered that the magnitude of the threat presented by Islamic violence would be diminished considerably if Washington overturned an immigration policy that has allowed an influx of potentially hostile peoples into this country.  It seems apparent that the really “vital”—meaning life-or-death—threat to the West is from immigration and changing demographics.  That said, Michael Scheuer’s tough-minded and honest book is a much-needed antidote to the shallow and often deceptive information doled out by our elites and by the American media.  Who will oppose the imperialists when all those like him in the U.S. security apparatus are silenced or purged?