March 15, 2008


The Wrong War: MARCHING TOWARD HELL: America and Islam After Iraq By Michael Scheuer (DAVID RIEFF, 3/16/08, NY Times Book Review)

Unfortunately, Scheuer’s new book, “Marching Toward Hell,” grandiloquently and somewhat misleadingly subtitled “America and Islam After Iraq,” has all the weaknesses of his earlier works with almost none of their strengths. Scheuer appears to be frustrated by the fact that his analysis was not adopted by the Bush administration. Instead of thinking that this was due to honest disagreements or to legitimate policy constraints, Scheuer believes that darker forces are at play — stupidity at best, but possibly even treason, a charge Scheuer stops just short of making against the neoconservatives on a number of occasions.

“I argued in both books,” he writes, “that there was no inherent reason why U.S. presidents and others in the American governing elite could honestly misunderstand the motivations of our Islamist enemies and the centrality of U.S. foreign policy to that motivation and to mobilizing support for the Islamists in the modern world.”

From that entirely defensible contention Scheuer makes the astonishing leap to the view that America was betrayed by virtually the entire American policy elite — from the neoconservatives (who, he believes, are more loyal to Israel than to the United States) to George Soros, from the Bush administration and Senator John McCain to the 9/11 Commission, not to mention the Rev. Franklin Graham and Hillary Clinton. And yet that is Scheuer’s claim — one he fails to back up, let alone demonstrate conclusively. At times, he seems apprehensive about the effect his jeremiad may have on his readers. “I am the first to admit,” he concedes, “that this book is eclectic, impressionistic and at times idiosyncratic.”

If only that were its only problems. But in his anger and scorn, Scheuer takes his readers on a breathless ride across what for him is an apocalyptic landscape peopled by venal bureaucrats, craven politicians (Bill Clinton the one-world pseudo-European; George W. Bush the inept conventional thinker), closet Zionists and liberal internationalists (Clinton again, but also Amnesty International and other humanitarian organizations). Only the courageous if routinely traduced men and women of the intelligence services and the military, and a few courageous, lonely voices like himself, are still carrying on the good fight. These frontline warriors may have scored tactical victories, but for Scheuer the result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a continuing strategic disaster.

The reason that America is losing and losing badly, Scheuer insists, is the internationalism, Wilsonianism, one-worldism — Scheuer uses all these terms as epithets — that have infected the policy elite. For him, the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were inspired by the missionary urge to undertake democracy-building, not the cold pursuit of American interests, which pursuit Scheuer, seemingly deaf to its historical echoes, calls in one of his concluding chapters “America First.”

You can tell he worked in Intelligence because he has this backwards--if you were only going to do one or the other, fight a few whackos in caves or liberalize the Arab world, it's pretty clear which yields more long term benefits to America, not to mention to the Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2008 8:26 AM
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