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Who is the mysterious "Anonymous" whose controversial new book, Imperial Hubris, turns conventional wisdom about the war on terrorism on its head? Though his actual identity—CIA officer Michael Scheuer—has been outed by the media, who he is on a more abstract level, and where he's coming from, remains difficult to discern. Indeed, there is a duality to his prescriptions for dealing with terrorism that is hard to reconcile in one person. One representative passage from Imperial Hubris reads:
Progress [in our battle against terrorism] will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts ... The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.
But elsewhere he criticizes America's refusal to acknowledge Muslim grievances:
America's stubborn obtuseness in failing to see the counterproductive nature of its policies toward the Muslim world is a powerful force-multiplier for bin Laden and those he leads and inspires...
We can either reaffirm current policies, thereby denying their role in creating the hatred bin Laden personifies, or we can examine and debate the reality we face, the threat we must defeat,and then—if deemed necessary—devise policies that better serve U.S. interests.
So is he a bloodthirsty advocate of total war against Muslims? Or an ardent believer in the power of public discourse? The answer, forged in the CIA's halls for more than twenty years, seems to be that he is somehow both—a proponent of civilized debate as a first recourse, and an adherent of the notion that if we must go to war against the Muslim world, we need to do it all the way.
The questions about which he seeks to provoke debate are good ones, and ones that intelligence officials and intelligence watchers have been pointing to in these pages for a long time. (See for example James Fallow's "Blind into Baghdad," Kenneth Pollack's "Spies, Lies, and Weapons," and Robert Baer's "The Fall of the House of Saud.") How long can we remain disproportionately dependent on foreign sources of energy? Why do we continue to support corrupt regimes in the Middle East? Is our policy of nearly unconditional support for Israel worth the price we pay for it? In the context of such questions, Scheuer makes the disturbing point that, because of our past policies, we no longer have the choice between war and peace. Much as Scheuer would like for America to debate these questions in a constructive manner, he doubts that such discussion is politically feasible. While debate may be the ideal, war, unfortunately, is the reality.