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Imperial Hubris, subtitled "Why the West is losing the war on terror", is a book written by Anonymous, a mid to high level ranking member of one of the American intelligence agencies. It runs an analysis of the war in Afghanistan (and to a lesser extent, Iraq), that is contrary to what the author claims to be the mainstream media version of the events of the past few years.

This book is not written to correspond to any particular viewpoint. It is not meant to be for ammunition for liberals to criticize the Bush administration, but it is far from being a rah rah cry for a neoconservative view of America as evangelist of liberty.

The most striking thing about this book is its amorality. Because of the strong emotional ties Americans have to 9-11 and the events following it, it is hard to talk about the enemy and his motivations in a rational way. However, Mr. Anonymous is writing anonymously and has been tracking Al-Qaeda for over a decade, so he is in a position to lay out the situation in a way that few other people would get away with.

The central thesis of the book is that Osama bin Laden is not a madman bent on murdering Americans out of sheer hatred for our way of life. Instead, Mr. Anonymous argues that bin Laden is fighting for clearly defined goals, that he has made clear to the world several times. Leaving aside the morality of his methods, his goal is not to murder Americans, but to change America foreign policy away from blind support of Israel and what he views as apostate regimes, such as the House of Saud. Mr. Anonymous also claims that far from raising an army merely to raise havoc, the main purpose of the Taliban and al-Qaeda camp was to train insurgents, semi-conventional soldiers to fight the armies of the United States, Russia, China, India and aforementioned apostate regimes. The author admits he belabors the point, but continues to mention it, trying to get it across: bin Laden hates us, not for what we are (miniskirts, democracy, McDonalds, ham sandwhiches, etc.), but because of what we do: perceived aggression against fellow Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

The book is short, 250 pages long, and can be read in one day. The prose is sharp, and perfectly conveys that razor sharp analysis of the author. The only thing that the book doesn't give is a balanced view, which the author admits, saying that the situation doesn't give a lot to be optimistic about. The book has a very cynical, pessimistic, amoral tone, although since the author presumably knows much more than we do, this is perhaps warranted. Although he may be playing devil's advocate, the book says America has two choices in dealing with the widespread insurgency that bin Laden is leading: we can put aside our talk of "liberating" countries, and admit that our goal is protecting ourselves by killing large amount of enemy fighters, including unavoidable damage to civilian populations, as well as large numbers of dead American soldiers; or we can try to come to terms with the issues that are making us the enemy of 1.2 billion Muslims.

Although the book doesn't go down very well with my worldview or my ideas of morality and humanity, I consider it one of the mostly plainly written and straightforward accounts of the world situation I have read in quite a while. I would urge people to read this book.

Update: on November 11th, 2004, anonymous, now revealed to be one Michael Scheuer, has left the CIA due to his constant criticisms of his superiors. He intends to take his critique of policy on as a private citizen.

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