Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror


"According to the author, the greatest danger for Americans confronting the radical Islamist threat is to believe - at the urging of U.S. leaders - that Muslims attack us for what we are and what we think rather than for what we do. Rhetorical political blustering "informs" the public the Islamists are offended by the Western world's democratic freedoms, civil liberties, intermingling of genders, and separation of church and state. However, although aspects of the modern world may offend conservative Muslims, no Islamist leader has, for example,
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Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror

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"According to the author, the greatest danger for Americans confronting the radical Islamist threat is to believe - at the urging of U.S. leaders - that Muslims attack us for what we are and what we think rather than for what we do. Rhetorical political blustering "informs" the public the Islamists are offended by the Western world's democratic freedoms, civil liberties, intermingling of genders, and separation of church and state. However, although aspects of the modern world may offend conservative Muslims, no Islamist leader has, for example, fomented jihad to destroy participatory democracy, the national association of credit unions, or coed universities." Instead, a growing segment of the Islamic world strenuously disapproves of specific U.S. policies and their attendant military, political, and economic implications. Capitalizing on growing anti-U.S. animosity, Osama bin Laden's genius lies not simply in calling for jihad, but in articulating a consistent and convincing case that Islam is under attack by America and its allies. Al Qaeda's public statements condemn America's protection of corrupt Muslim regimes, unqualified support for Israel, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a further litany of real-world grievances. Bin Laden's supporters thus identify their problem and believe its solution lies in war. "Anonymous" contends they will go to any length, not to destroy our secular, democratic way of life, but to deter what they view as specific attacks on their lands, their communities, and their religion. Unless U.S. leaders recognize this fact and adjust their policies abroad accordingly, even moderate Muslims will be radicalized into supporting bin Laden's anti-Western offensive.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an insightful, bitter, worrisome book. It is also the most consequential critique of the war on terror yet published, deeply historical, broadly researched, and crisply articulated. . . . Like it or hate it, no substantial debate about the war on terrorism can now take place without references to this book and its ideas. . . . The author's insights into al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and Islam's antipathy toward the United States are brilliantly presented. . . . The author's professional expertise and deep knowledge of his subject jump from every page. . . . Imperial Hubris has to be read by every serious military leader or thinker."

"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. . . . 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."

Richard A. Clarke
For those Americans who had begun to doubt whether the Central Intelligence Agency could produce good analysis, Imperial Hubris clearly demonstrates otherwise. It is a powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it. The CIA carefully vetted the book to ensure that no "sources and methods" were exposed, but the anonymous author -- a current CIA official -- draws effectively on the years he's spent carefully studying detailed intelligence reports from several U.S. and many foreign spy agencies. His criticism is damning.
The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Imperial Hubris, the scalding new book by a current Central Intelligence Agency officer — who was able to publish the book on the condition that his real name not be revealed — is an assessment of America's war on terror that is bound to provoke large heapings of controversy, on both the right and the left, among hardliners on Iraq and critics of the administration alike. Readers will doubtless contest some or many of the things Anonymous has to say, but he pulls few punches in this book and gives us a fascinating window on America's war with Al Qaeda — at least as framed by one senior analyst, who seems to have put all bureaucratic niceties aside.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
It's unclear how, in an age when even office workers must sign confidentiality agreements, an alleged CIA Middle Eastern specialist has gotten permission to publish a sprawling, erudite book on the origins and present state of the "war on terror." His main point is that Arab antagonism to the West (and even non-fundamentalist Arab regimes' winking at terrorism) has its root in real grievances that have gone unaddressed by U.S. measures. The actions of the Saudis, and their U.S. supporters, come in for some hard criticism, as does the elevation of Northern Alliance warlords to de facto governors of Afghanistan. The author makes some challenging remarks regarding Israel ("Surely there can be no other historical example of a faraway, theocracy-in-all-but-name of only six million people that ultimately controls the extent and even the occurrence of an important portion of political discourse and national security debate in a country of 270-plus million people that prides itself on religious toleration, separation of church and state, and freedom of speech") while playing down the extent to which the Taliban itself was a corrupt theocratic regime. But his annotated compendia of battles and skirmishes won and lost by the U.S. and al-Qaeda are gripping, and his engagement with his subject has made him a pundit-in-demand. (Aug.) Forecast: This is more a book to shake up policy wonks with facts on the ground than for the general public, but it has already created a stir inside the Beltway and beyond. The book is the author's second; Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America was mostly ignored, but this time around, the Primary Colors approach (necessary to protect the author's identity) has led to much TV and print exposure (with voice and features disguised); expect media-based sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574888621
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/31/2005
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 639,804
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Scheuer
Bestselling author Michael Scheuer is the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit and has two decades of experience in national security issues related to Afghanistan and South Asia. After resigning from the agency in November 2004, he revealed his authorship of Imperial Hubris (Brassey's, Inc., 2004) and Through Our Enemies' Eyes both originally published under the byline "Anonymous." Scheuer has been featured extensively on television, including 60 Minutes, and has been the focus of print media worldwide. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : "hubris followed by defeat"
1 Some thoughts on the power of focused, principled hatred 1
2 An unprepared and ignorant lunge to defeat - the United States in Afghanistan 21
3 Not down, not out : Al Qaeda's resiliency, expansion, and momentum 59
4 The world's view of bin Laden : a Muslim leader and hero coming into focus? 103
5 Bin Laden views the world : some old, some new, and a twist 127
6 Blinding hubris abounding : inflicting defeat on ourselves - non-war, leaks, and missionary democracy 163
7 When the enemy sets the stage : how America's stubborn obtuseness aids its foes 209
8 The way ahead : a few suggestions for debate 237
Epilogue : no basis for optimism 261
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2005

    Has some points, but mostly overcritical of the U.S.

    This book where the author first chose to be Anonymous (and I can see why) comes off, despite making a few good points, that the U.S. needs to treat the 'war' on terror, especially on the likes of Bin Laden, as a war. Unfortunately, as many have said, Anonymous, Michael Scheuer has become an apologist for Bin Laden and Muslims his suggestions-basically that the U.S. must leave 'Muslim' lands and leave Israel 'twist in the wind', i.e., abandon Israel (wonder how that would go over in the Jewish-American parts of this country, say, New York, for example), and other half-baked [to be polite or they won't let me put this review on their site] ideas might make him feel better but I have news. Even if the U.S. did what he's suggesting, it would still be locked in a 'convert or kill' battle with radical Islam. It's like the Middle Ages, all over again, only with even more horrific consequences. There are Muslims, just as there are others, who want to be left alone and practice their faith. There are those who want to take over the world, like Bin Laden, and who this guy would probably would like to see it happen. There are non-Muslims, so-called Christians, who are fighting a new 'crusade' that are every bit as radical as these Muslims who follow Bin Laden and others like him. Let's send all of these idiots, the Bin Ladens and their Western equivalents to perdition. That way a book like this wouldn't have to be written because everybody could get along without the others. [Wishful thinking I know.]

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2006

    Mr. Scheuer Is ANGRY!

    IH is one of the Angriest books I've ever read. Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Unit, is angry at many people, including both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, over the mistakes each made that led to 9/11. Scheuer's opinion of Bin Laden himself seems to border on ' admiration '. He repeats, and repeats, and repeats, that the reason UBL enjoys the support he does is that he is seen as what Scheuer himself sees him as: An honest, sincere, and unpretentious man, who sacrificed a life of comfort and privilege in order to lead other freedom fighters in their cause. While the West in general, and the US in particular, has a history of (what many outside the US see as) illicit intervention in the affairs of sovereign Muslim nations. Scheuer's opinions are, of course, open for debate. But what is certain is that in order to win the War On Terror, we must understand the enemy, and this book is a startling paradigm shift in that direction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2004

    An Essential Read

    A friend who has four sons dropped it by with a good recomendation. I read it and found it's contents to be essential for my understanding of things I should have been paying closer attention to. I also have four sons. The subject matter is most serious and should be read by all of us who have not given the war issue the attention it surely deserves.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    Imperial Hubris in overshadowed by 'Imperial Designs' by Gary Dorrien

    Not bad, but more of the same. It could be more well written, however, it underscores many contentions of Empires and Imperialism. A better read is 'Imperial Designs' by Gary Dorrien, which explains the PNAC (Project For A New America), and the neo-conservative Christian movement/agenda for a 'New America' that is going on now under President Bush and his faction. Furthermore, the abovementioned illuminates the plan by this movement, which is abounding in society today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2005

    Unfortunately Not Worth Reading!

    I found out about this book through an article in Time magazine. The book is much more theory than facts. I found that much of what the author talked about what his opinions on Bin Laden and the esteem in which he holds him. No wonder the CIA had problems. If you want a true insider book that is based on facts and not theory, I highly would recommend either one of Robert Baer's books. He truly has a better grasp on the situation. I would also recommend Zbigniew Brzezinski's book The Choice. Brzezinski is a former head of the NSA.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2004

    bin Laden-Lover exposed

    As a conservative who is not happy with the direction the incumbent president is taking the country, I anticipated that this book would heap coals on the flames of my dissatisfaction. Much to my surprise, however, I encountered an an author who appears to be totally enthralled by the man he failed to track down while at the CIA. Rather than take my word for it, read a sampling of the Michael Scheuer's adjectives to describe bin Laden. Some are Scheuer's own words, and some are his acknowledgement of the accuracy of descriptions written by others: P. 117 first-rate innovator Executive terrorist Rational, logical, amoral,business-like The quintessential product of 1990¿s and globalism p. 118 innovative military man warrior-CEO heroic admirable and self-effacing character p.119 well-spoken, austere, brave, and self-effacing hero eloquent p, 120 quiet, amiable, pious man a handsome, well-mannered, and nice, cultured person p. 122 a calm young man to a great degree he possessed a certain charisma a tall, thin, gracious man a kind and humble man a pious scholar a man with tender emotions The thing that sent me over the cliff on this book was the author's comparison of bin Laden to Abraham Lincoln, with respect to Lincoln's 'belief in a moral universe in which men could know right from wrong and act accordingly...I would argue bin Laden believes in the same universe, and that Muslims love, repsect, and support him because he speaks of and defends that reality.¿ Am I missing something here, or is this guy star-struck by the murderer he was charged with bringing to justice? He fails to find the man, then makes millions writing a book singing the man's praises, while expressing disdain for the very the government in which he served? Only in America. Thank God the guy is out of the CIA. Our chances of killing bin Laden have to be better now that this apologist for the enemy is out promoting books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    A Dissenting Perspective

    In ¿Imperial Hubris¿ and it¿s predecessor, ¿Through Our Enemy¿s Eyes¿, Michael Scheuer (¿Anonymous¿), formerly of the CIA¿s Bin Laden Desk and now an ardent critic of US policy vis a vis ¿Muslims¿ (always used by him as if these 1.5 billion individuals share an absolute commonality of purpose and perspectives) argues that, through a combination of benighted, misguided and self-defeating policies, Osama bin Laden has emerged as the avitar of outraged and appropriately vengeful Islam. The premise of this book is that the US (in particular) and the West (in general) are being targeted for very specific foreign policy decisions, rather than for espousing what is for Islamists, a fundamentally antithetical world-view (a ¿clash of civilizations¿). The text is structured around a series of excerpts from various bin Laden communiqués, accompanied by the author¿s interpretations, each ending with, ¿Promise made, promise kept¿, repeated ad nauseum like a mantra. Regrettably, the book is tendentious, polemical and fails to muster sufficient data make the case. To accept the author¿s premise, the reader must either be genuinely uninformed on the topic or simply delusional. To support the perspective that bin Laden¿s effort is an appropriate and measured response designed to change specific US policies, the author ignores a large body of well-known and explicitly documented evidence that demolishes his logic. It¿s also frankly repellant and perverse to suggest that somehow, the events of September 11, 2001 were justified by US policy. Take, just as one example of error by omission, this quote excerpted from a pamphlet by Abdallah Azzam: ¿This duty (viz., jihad) shall not lapse with the victory in Afghanistan and the jihad will remain an obligation until all (my emphasis) other lands which formerly were Muslim come back to us and Islam reigns within them once again. Before us lie Palestine, Bukhara, South Yemen, Tashkent, Andalusia¿¿. Azzam was a well-known and central figure in the Afghan mujahadin. In addition, bin Laden and Azzam worked together to establish the Sidda training camp for mujahideen in Peshawar during the Afghan war, indicating commonality of interest and purpose. As such, it is not surprising that numerous statements issued by or in behalf of bin Laden¿s organization indicate Azzam¿s ideology has been incorporated into or is identical to Osama¿s Islamist world-view. These and a plethora of similar proclamations are hard to reconcile with Scheuer¿s fundamental thesis that Osama¿s is a directed, temperate and reasoned response to very specific issues. Scheuer takes as facts arguments that need to be proven. He makes no effort to note or explain statements such as Azzam¿s, much less find and cite contrary evidence contrary to his theory from Osama or his paladins. In fact, bin Laden¿s statements have been quite consistent when read in context. Take this one, for example: in a 'Letter to America' written by Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist leader stated: 'What are we calling you [Americans] to, and what do we want from you? The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam ... It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah's Word and religion reign Supreme. ... The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you. We call you ... to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest.' (The Observer, U.K., Nov. 24, 2002). As can be seen, Osama has made no concessions, either of a strategic or tactical nature which would serve to repudiate these revanchist claims. His repeated statements amount to a declaration of war against existing Muslim governments, Israel, Russia, China, the Phillipines, and of course, the USA. For Scheuer to a

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2004

    Analytic Hubris

    Anonymous should be an expert on Usama bin Laden and al Qaeda, after spending as many years as he has studying these topics. Unfortunately his view of a very complex issue flows from a very narrow context. While well-written, his 'analysis' is merely theory at its best. At its worst, however, the presentation of his analysis is an attempt to 'exploit' a general public that: 1) has a decreasing knowledge level of it own history and values; and 2) has even less knowledge of the history or values of other countries, especially the Middle East. There is a huge difference between 'analysis' and 'policy making.' While interesting, I'll balance anonymous' analysis with many others I have read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2004

    An opinion piece at best

    The book presents a generally coherent and cogent opinion of the world situation. Unfortunately it is not as fact based as some other books, such as 'Sleeping With The Devil' and there is not sufficient basis for the results predicitions that the suggestions are expected to produce.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2004


    It's a great book. It laids down all the facts and addresses why there are more insurgencies and why we are hated. If your in to terrorism analysis or politics, a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2004

    A Foreign Policy Must Read

    Imperial Hubris lets us look at the 'War on Terror' thru a different light than what the U.S. public has been fed by the Bush Administration. Why are we allied with puppet states all over the Persian Gulf? For cheap oil prices! Our policy in the Middle East is transparent to all Muslims as one of exploitation. In the name of Democracy we support nation building in Iraq at the same time supporting the most repressive government in the world, Saudi Arabia. The 'War on Terror' states we have no idea what we are up against and have the completly wrong approach to fighting this war as Anonymous discusses in this chilling account of the painful lessons we may learn in the near future if we continue with our present policy in the Mid East. A good part of this books analyzes Bin ladens statements as well as listing victories on both sides in the past few years. Oh what disasters we could avoid if we were all literate in History! Well done piece by Anonymous!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2004


    Phenomeanl read. If you've paid any attention at all to the shifting justifications for war and wondered about them, this book is for you. If you wondered why the US raced after was before actually dismantling al Qaeda and whether that decision was a sound one, this book is for you. If you want to understand why there are growing insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan despite the administration's claims that everything is fine, this book is for you. If you are interested in the truth about the 'War on Terror' as it is currently being 'fought', this book is for you. To pre-empt the inevitable right-wing hackjob on this book: All you have to do is read the British (NOT French or German) press and see how the War on Terror is being assessed outside of Washington and the punditocracy's slavish adherence to Administration rhetoric. Seriously. Only the 'echo chamber' of conservative collumnists, the Weekly Standard, and those incompetent, arrogant neo-conservatives keeps this country--the US--from waking up to the complete bungling that has characterized the war on terror. Remember, the Russians still insist that all is stable in Checyna, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2004

    This book may be more important then the 911 commisions report.

    After Sept 11, we all wanted to know thing are under control, Afganistan is no longer a threat, and that we will no doubt beat 'new' threat to US Security. If thats what you want, don't read this book. If you want the truth, this is a must read. Its nice in our fairy tail world to think we are under attack for who we are, attacked due to our freedom and Democracy. The fact is we are hated for our actions, and this book lays out how this is true and why that makes it all the more of a Danger. If you want to have a warm fealing inside, and think you are safe, don't read this. If you want to know the truth and see our leaders react to the truth, read this well thought out, book. It may be the only way American makes it out of this war as it would like to be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2004

    Eye Opener

    This is definetly the best political action book I've read, it's almost scary to know how were losing the war on terrorism, but this is a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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