Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.
In most of the wars we’ve fought, our leaders have understood our enemies and how to take them down. But in the current shootout – a continuation of the revolutionary fervor first ignited in Algeria in the 1960s, then fanned by the Iranian Revolution, a huge jihad victory against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Israel’s humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon and its interminable fight in Palestine culminating in 9-11 and our retaliatory invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – America’s leaders from both major parties and our military and intelligence establishments remain in deep denial and blindly continue to believe that because we’ve got the power, we shall overcome.
Ditto a large chunk of the American public that has sent me gigabytes of e-mail about how we should do a Goldwater on the bad guys and “bomb them back to the Stone Age” – when that’s where most of our 1.3 billion potential Islamic opponents already are. If ignorance is bliss, America might have cornered the market on happiness.
But unless we get real and bend our brains around what motivates our enemy, we will never prevail against the increasing millions of polarized Muslims who are becoming more united with every explosion of smart bombs and every Yankee occupation boot stumping across their turf.
It’s a commonly held belief among Muslims that the United States is grabbing their land in order to destroy their faith and their ancient way of life. Most believe that our unconditional support of repressive Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and other “friendly” Arab lands is all about keeping the people in chains and sucking up their oil on the cheap at a price that Joe and Jane Doe can pay at the U.S. pump without stroking out.
“Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us,” writes “Anonymous,” the author of “Imperial Hubris,” a critically important book that defines Osama and what’s driving his bombers. And the reasons don’t “have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”
A rationale that bin Laden – dressed in white robes topped by a golden cloak – repeated for our edification last week on global television. Both presidential candidates came back with canned sound bites, choosing to respond only to the medium, not the inconvenient message.
The author of “Imperial Hubris” is a CIA intelligence analyst who’s spent almost two decades “focused exclusively on terrorism, Islamic insurgencies and the state of affairs of South Asia – Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He is our top intelligence gun on Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the “dangers they pose and symbolize for the United States.”
“The war bin Laden is waging has everything to do with the tenants of the Islamic religion. He could not have his current – and increasing – level of success if Muslims did not believe their faith, brethren, resources and lands to be under attack by the United States and, more generally, the West.”
Years after the fall of Tehran and almost 38 months after 9-11, our leaders still don’t recognize the scope of the bin Laden threat and keep repeating the same mistakes so often that many of the folks we’re fighting are convinced we’re crazy.
As the author of “Imperial Hubris” puts it, “We have not yet begun to fight the kind of war needed to defeat the forces he [bin Laden] leads and inspires.”
Our Islamic enemy might not have the capability for a Stalingrad or Saigon, but according to the terrorist beheader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, our soldiers in Iraq are “easy and mouthwatering targets.”
History is peppered with examples of a numerically inferior insurgent opponent destroying a Goliath. Especially a Goliath who obviously learned nothing from the Vietnam experience.
Israeli historian Martin van Creveld, one of the world’s top insurgency experts, says: “If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak … [t]he problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself – the Israeli forces have not yet lost, but they are, as far as I can see, well on their way to losing.”
We have mindlessly waded into the same minefield and are getting clobbered daily. And we will never win over an enemy we refuse to understand.