Uniquely brilliant on jihad, glosses over the larger context,
This is a truly extraordinary book that is absolutely essential to understanding the radical jihadist threat confronting America and the West. While the author is sponsored by a pro-Israel and extreme right foundation (Jean “Authoritarians are not Totalitarians” Kirkpatrick is prominent there), I never-the-less credit him with having placed before us a superb piece of deep analysis that is steeped in historical, cultural, and linguistic nuances that are simply not available inside the U.S. Government.
The heart of the book is his coherent articulation of the three main forms of jihadist movement–Al Qaeda from Saudi-sponsored Wahabism, Iran and Hezbollah, and the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood. He introduces the term neo-Wahabi and on page 137 begins to discuss six strategies being developed against America: 1) Economic jihad or oil as a weapon; 2) Ideological jihad through the co-optation of the entire U.S. Middle Eastern studies establishment funded by the Saudis; 3) Political jihad or mollification of the public (see my review of Fog Facts); 4) Intelligence jihad, infiltrating not just American neighborhoods but providing the translators and interpreters that the FBI and CIA and DIA rely on; 5) Subversive jihad, behind our lines and using our laws to hide; and 6) Diplomatic jihad, controlling U.S. foreign policy and in particular using Saudi influence to dissuade Clinton from reacting to seven specific tests of America by the varied jihadists, from Khobar to two embassies to the Cole to the World Trade Center.
I am greatly impressed by this book. There are some truly gifted turns of phrase scattered throughout; every page has something useful and instructive. This is an intelligent book, very well-structured, with arguments very ably presented.
The author blames the U.S. educational elite, the people who train future government analysts and diplomats, for selling out to Saudi money and essentially policing themselves, being apologists for jihadists, and blinding the nation at all levels to the threat. I share with the author great dismay over how some of the early warnings caused their authors to be banned from working for mainstream media–Steve Emerson’s PBS broadcast on Jihad in America should have put us on red alert.
The author’s most important point is that only the last 10% of jihadist activity within the American homeland is illegal, and that if you wait to that point, it is too late. I agree with him. Jihadist ideology, like racism, cannot be tolerated and it must be rooted out. Just as Australia did recently, if radicalized Muslims wish to demand a state run under Islamic law, they are free to go there. See my review of “Forbidden Knowledge.” The author paints the 100 year war as a war of ideas, and clearly discusses how we must first educate every citizen, and then move on to confront these dangerous jihadist calls for violence against the West, elsewhere.
The book is weakest for lack of context. It is almost as if the author set out to deliberately not mention Dick Cheney, to ignore Peak Oil and the value of laundered drug money to Wall Street (see my review of Crossing the Rubicon), and to overlook what may have been the most grotesque error early in the new global war on terror, Secretary Rumsfeld’s allowing the Pakistani’s to evaluate 3,000 Al Qaeda and Taliban from Tora Bora where they were surrounded. Generally the book suffers from the typical neo-con’s view of America as perfect. There is no mention here of our supporting 44 dictators, or our practice of immoral capitalism, or our tolerance for $2 trillion a year in illicit trade. Indeed the author is positively delusional when he describes the U.S. as a completely open system. Not only is this contradicted by his correct and passionate denouncement of the Saudi blind-folding of the Middle Eastern studies establishment, but it begs on all the secrecy surrounding the Federal Reserve (which is NOT a government agency), the gold stolen from China and Japan (see my review of Gold Warriors), and the roughly $3 trillion looted by Wall Street from the American taxpayer.
There are a few minor errors, such as claiming that the Khobar investigation did not identify the perpetrators. As the recently retired director of the FBI tells us in his book, it was Iran, plain and simple, but Madeline Albright, Tony Lake, and Bill Clinton chose to ignore that attack on U.S. forces as well as attacks on two Embassies and the USS Cole. In each instance, the author points out that the jihadists were testing us, and we failed.
This is a really extraordinary and useful book. In its given area of interest, understanding jihadism, it is beyond 5 stars and a fundamental reference. It is am important–a very important–contribution to the debate, but it lacks the context that one can find in the many other books I have reviewed, and it is my hope that this book will be read in conjunction with those I mention above, as well as Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and also The Soul of Capitalism. The author clearly knows the enemy. I am not so sure he sees our flaws–if I were girding this nation for a long-term war, my first priority would be to recover the moral high ground by ceasing our support of dictators and arms merchants and corporate carpet-baggers; and my second would be educating the American people through an Open Source Agency and a Congressional Intelligence Office that prepared daily Public Intelligence Briefs and regular Public Intelligence Estimates that raised the bar for the mediocre secret intelligence we get now–but in raising the bar publicly, such public intelligence would also out the ideological fantasies and the mendacity of those who seek to profit from elective war. Jihadists are but one of at least seven major threats to the American way of life, and right now we are our own worst enemy. We are neglecting China, water, energy, disease, and poverty as well as ethics.
This is the most practical of the several books out now on understanding terrorism–but all of them fail to understand our tangible vulnerabilities that must be corrected before we can win the global war on terror.
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story
The Informant: A True Story
Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Price
The Return of Depression Economics