Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 21, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON ANONYMOUS....In the previous post I wrote about Spencer Ackerman's interview with Anonymous, the intelligence officer who's about to release Imperial Hubris. My reading of Spencer's post was that Anonymous thinks our Mideast policies have failed so utterly that the only option left is total war. Several commenters disagreed, picking up on his qualifier that "it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world."

So I emailed Spencer, who has interviewed Anonymous and read his book. Basically, he agrees that Anonymous thinks total war is necessary at this point, but there's total war and then there's total war. Here's his complete answer.


Spencer Ackerman's reply:

While its not totally clear, I think a fair reading is that Anonymous thinks the choice we face is between more-total war and less-total war. He writes on page 250 (of my galley copy of Imperial Hubris):

So, what does it mean to be at war with Islam? First, it means we must accept this reality and act accordingly. Second, it means a U.S. policy status quo in the Muslim world ensures a gradually intensifying war for the foreseeable future, one that will be far more costly than we now imagine. Third, it means we will have to publicly address issues support for Israel, energy self-sufficiency, and the worldwide applicability of our democracy long neglected and certain to raise bitter, acrimonious debates that will decide whether the American way of life survives or shrinks to a crabbed, fearful, and barely recognizable form.

As that passage indicates, and as he reiterates in the portion of the interview I posted, he thinks there indeed are steps we can take to mitigate the scope of the war: namely, seeking energy independence and disengaging ourselves (to an unspecified degree) from Israel, Russia, China, India and Arab/Muslim tyrannies.

That said, he does believe, and states at numerous points in the book (and reiterates in our interview), that we have no choice but to fight a very bloody battle. He writes in the concluding chapter, in a section titled Cant Will Kill Us, that:

Our principles stop us from fighting bin Laden as he fights us. We must fix the sources of al-Qaedas support poverty, illiteracy, and hopelessness. Bin Laden is attacking the civilized world; we must work with others and respond in a manner in line with international law. Cant, all cant the obfuscating and ahistorical language of cowardice and defeat....

America is in a war for survival. Not survival in terms of protecting territory, but in terms of keeping the ability to live as we want, not as we must....There are two choices. We can continue using and believing the cant cited above, or we can act to preserve our way of life what Mr. Lincoln said is mans last best hope for self-government by engaging in whatever martial behavior is needed. We owe this to ourselves, our heritage and our posterity. We protect none of these by cloaking cowardice with canting words about international comity, civilized norms, and high moral standards. Such words are proper only in a suicide note for the nation.

As he adds in our interview, My argument, I think, taken from the whole book, is that we've left ourselves with no option but the military option, and our application of military force against our foe, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, has not been particularly intimidating. They've ridden out two wars. They're on the offensive at the moment. What are we left with? If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it.

Since he doesnt see much promise in an ideological (read: democracy promotion) campaign, or in trying to alleviate the hopelessness of the Muslim world (which he calls cant in the section quoted above), the military option is the one he relies the heaviest on, and his conception of whats militarily necessary is very wide-ranging. The prospect of energy self-sufficiency and foreign disengagement (He writes, There is no greater duty todays Americans can perform for their nation and posterity than to finally abandon the sordid legacy of Woodrow Wilsons internationalism, which soaked the twentieth century in as much or more blood as any other ism) can do something to diminish the need for war to an unspecified degree, but cant substitute for it.

Kevin Drum 3:52 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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