Former bin Laden Hunter Condemns New Iraq Intervention
Written by Will Porter.
In recent media appearances, ex-chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, came out strongly against the latest American military campaign in Iraq. Echoing past criticisms, thoroughly voiced in his books Through Our Enemies Eyes, Marching Toward Hell, and Imperial Hubris, Scheuer offers a case against the new Iraq intervention based on his 20+ years of experience as a US intelligence officer, as well as a detailed and intimate knowledge of Islamic extremism.
In his view, another US military intervention in the Middle East against groups such as the Islamic State will not meet the stated objectives, and will fall into the same errors made in past operations of a similar character, consistently executed in blunderous, ineffective ways. Continuing this policy, he says, will only help to motivate and radicalize Muslims the world over, expose America to the risk of future acts of terrorism, and further deplete the faltering US economy.
From a 23 September article published to Scheuer’s home on the web, Non-Intervention.com, he cites a multitude of reasons for his opposition, of which I will produce but a few:
And why should we have refused to re-intervene in Iraq?
–Because IS is cutting the heads off Westerners to lure America into re-intervening. Why? Because U.S. military intervention in any Muslim country means more donations, recruits, and popular support for IS, al-Qaeda, and other like-minded organizations. U.S. intervention in the Iraq-Syria theater will, over time, make everything it is designed to stop much worse.
–Because we are BROKE as a nation; re-intervention will be prolonged and extraordinarily expensive; and the goal of IS and all Islamist groups vis. the United States is to complete its economic ruin.
–Because Obama and the national government will further shred the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the name of “protecting Americans” from the Islamist enemies Washington is constantly motivating — through military intervention — to kill them and their soldier-children.
For those familiar with Scheuer’s point of view, these comments aren’t out of the ordinary, yet they nonetheless provide a distinct contrast to the general view adopted today by the American public at large. In a recent poll, Americans in substantial majorities are shown to see Sunni insurgents, like the Islamic State, as an imminent threat to the US national interest, and are increasingly supportive of military action against them.
On top of his forecast of the possible effects of a new Iraq intervention, in an article from 11 August of this year Scheuer explains what he sees as a complete lack of political willpower in the US executive branch to wage a victorious war against the Islamic State:
[Obama doesn’t] have the slightest intention of defeating the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and its allies, which would require the aerial slaughter and boots-on-the ground demolishing of the mujahedin and that portion of the population that supports them. [He is] too sensitive, sophisticated, and well-educated to engage in such blue-collar nonsense as “winning a war” and so [he] will do a little military diddling and make sure the now-doomed Azidis and Christians go to their graves with full bellies.
Combining this perceived lack of political will, the economic costs involved, the resulting dangers to US national security, the benefits that will accrue to the Islamic State, and the stifling of American liberties at home, Scheuer’s position is a multi-faceted one which encompasses the growing concern among many Americans regarding the War on Terror and America’s security role abroad.
Perhaps to reconcile the apparent inconsistency between the hawkish opinion regarding the Islamic State, and the general war-weariness growing among the American people are the recent series of beheadings of Western journalists and an aid worker. Scheuer warns that this is nothing but a “lure” to incite hysteric reaction from the US and its allies to intervene militarily.
Although Scheuer sees the beheadings as tragic, in an 18 September radio interview on the Scott Horton Show, he deems them “zero threat to US national security,” even while acknowledging that the people responsible for them are.
His point also touches on the fact that groups like IS are well aware of the public-opinion dynamic of Western foreign policy, devising a slick PR campaign to purposely inform Westerners of the danger they face, in hopes that citizens will demand their governments do something to stop it.
This brings us to another, possibly the most significant, aspect of Michael Scheuer’s resistance to the newest Iraq incursion: American military involvement will not only benefit the Islamic State, but may be precisely what they need in order to stay relevant in their multi-national front of militant activity, and their ongoing propaganda operation to recruit young Muslim fighters from all over the world to their cause.
From a 27 September CNN interview Scheuer states “The more we intervene, the more they win,” and that “ISIS could not ask for a greater gift than the one Obama is giving them.” He sees that past and ongoing US intervention in the region makes the international Islamist struggle “self-motivating,” effectively providing a permanent casus belli for jihadists in their drive to forcefully establish an Islamic caliphate.
This time around, Scheuer believes groups like IS wish to draw the US into a conflict so that they might “beat us again”—as he sees the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as both complete failures militarily—and drive us out of the region for good. When asked by CNN’s Michael Smerconish whether IS wants the US to stay home, or to intervene, Scheuer answers that they “want us to come over there so that we’ll stay home.”
In the end, Scheuer recommends a series of policy prescriptions which he hopes will gradually reduce the severity of the problems America faces in the Middle East, particularly those related to Islamic extremism. First, “dump the Saudis,” and discontinue all support for repressive Muslim states; support which builds the image of America abroad as the “great Satan,” backing many dictators in the region for decades. Along with despotic Arab regimes, support for Israel must go as well. Ongoing material and political support to Israel has gone great lengths to intensify hatred of America in that region of the world; as America is perceived to have a direct hand in the oppression of the Palestinians.
From the same 18 September Scott Horton Show interview, in relation to supporting regional tyrants (including Israel), Scheuer states “Our foreign policy of intervention has not only alienated the Muslim world, but has absolutely destroyed Israel’s security.” Israeli interests, he says, are harmed when the US stirs up mujahedin fighters on their border, subjecting Israel to dangers from all sides.
Finally, Scheuer insists that America must work toward energy independence. The reliant relationships the US has developed in the Middle East to attain cheaper oil do not reflect well in the minds of locals. Instead of bending over backwards to appease Western buyers, citizens of these oil-exporting nations would prefer to keep the energy or its benefits within their own country. So long as America continues this energy policy, Scheuer says, we will continue to incite anti-American sentiments, as well as outright militant opposition.
In summary, Michael Scheuer sees the American national interest best served when state-policy doesn’t motivate its enemies abroad, or, in fact, create new ones. The costs imposed on the US economy and taxpayers, as well as the negative effects on domestic liberties, in his eyes simply aren’t worth it. He does not at all hesitate to endorse the destruction of America’s enemies, yet believes that a course of action which so clearly stirs up the proverbial hornets’ nest is extremely dangerous and ill-advised. In characteristically frank terms, Scheuer describes US foreign policy in the Middle East today as “madness.”
If you enjoyed Will’s writing, you can find him at his blog, The Market Radical