Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. By Anonymous; published by Brassey’s Inc., (available from online retailers); 309 pages; $27.50.
If only the location of Osama bin Laden were as easy to discover as the identity of the “anonymous” author of Imperial Hubris, an insider’s view of the search for bin Laden and a critique of the overall war on terrorism. A new edition names Michael Scheuer, a counterterrorism expert from the CIA assigned to the bin Laden “team,” who quickly surfaced as the author, appearing on talk shows to defend his book’s controversial positions.
And controversial they are. The book is a bold attack on the U.S. antiterrorism and intelligence machinery, one that is likely to provoke strong reactions on one side or another. But the attack is always thought-provoking.
Who should know more about terrorism than a career intelligence analyst? Scheuer asserts that “we are losing the war on terror.” Reversing that course, he says, requires “relentless, brutal, and, yes, blood-soaked offensive military actions until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us.”
The United States underestimates the breadth of the Islamist movement, Scheuer asserts, noting that “ferocious, militaristic, and bin Laden-echoing” fatwas have been issued across the Islamic theological spectrum in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “It is impossible to understand the threat America faces until the intensity and pervasiveness of this hatred is recognized,” he writes.
Imperial Hubris offers a well-organized discussion of the problem of intelligence sharing, contending that agencies still don’t work well with one another despite claims of progress. Yet, surprisingly, since he was an intelligence agent, the author doesn’t probe the intelligence gap on the location of bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders.
The book is heavy on personal accounts of government ineptitude in policy making and opinions on the war on terrorism. At times it’s hard to grasp Scheuer’s reasoning. Still, anyone interested in an insider’s view of the intelligence community, including the failures of the CIA, the FBI, the White House, and the State Department, will want to read this provocative work.
Reviewer: Mark H. Beaudry, CPP, is senior security professional for IBM-SWG in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a member of ASIS International.