Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq Hardcover – Feb 12 2008
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Michael Scheuer is the author of Imperial Hubris, which was a New York Times hardcover bestseller for fifteen weeks and stirred up attention in every national and local media outlet. He is a veteran CIA counterterrorism analyst who for many years headed the Osama bin Laden unit. In Marching Toward Hell, Scheuer offers a scathing and frightening look at how the Iraq war has contributed to the enemy's strength and fundamentally changed the geopolitical landscape in a way that is harmful to U.S. interests and security concerns. Scheuer will examine the ways in which the war has widened the conflict by almost every measure, made America less secure, and left us all increasingly vulnerable to attack.
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I am inclined to agree with the other two reviews, because while I think his theories on the Cold War mentality and the current Islamist threat are interesting, the book is far too provocative with too much invective and war-mongering language for my liking.
He repeatedly praises Ronald Reagan; blames the "national security threat" of an over-dependence on foreign oil to environmentalists, which he uses such invective language to attack; he talks about his desire to kill Soviets; attacks other authors of books unfairly; and too often uses pro-war terms, like "annihilating" the enemy and disregarding the deaths of innocents for American goals.
He continues on to make the case that everyone else is wrong but him and he and only he sees the truth because of his credentials. However, I find this ironic, because he criticizes others that have the same or better credentials than himself, such as Richard Clarke, for what they have written about and how stupid they are, implicitly calling them sissies for not taking a more aggressive action against Islamists despite the consequences of those actions.
The book could have made for an interesting read if he focused more on a theory than attacking those that disagree with him or whom he feels are cowards. Instead, he comes off more like a male Ann Coulter, using such distasteful language and alienating his otherwise loyal readers.
His other books were fantastic but this one really blows: "The only convincing case then for anything going to hell in this book concerns the author's credibility as a serious political analyst," and that's the truth.
'Marching toward hell' is haphazardly organized, circuitous, and repetitive. Its substance, when properly organized, might have sufficed for a 5 page essay; it is not nearly enough for a book. Nothing in this book has any degree of novelty. While I enjoy the occasional jibe, this book contains so much invective that it becomes downright annoying. Its only redeeming element is its involuntary humour - somewhat along the lines of General Jack D. Ripper in 'Dr. Strangelove'.
The only convincing case then for anything going to hell in this book concerns the author's credibility as a serious political analyst. The most pathetic excuse for a book I have read in a long time.
I don't irk easily - and I'm glad we still are able to voice our opinions both good and bad but Scheuer seems to have a bee in his bonnet regarding Israel. They way he comes across is railing for the U.S to throw Israel under the bus because they don't have anything to offer the U.S - not unlike cosying up to various Arab/Muslim nations because they do have oil...which is something both the U.S. and Canada would have had in abundance if various Presidents and Prime Ministers didn't bow down to environmentalists freaking out about moose, spotted owls, newts and minnows.
So in effect it was the environmental loonies who put North America in the way of great harm and keeping us all in a position of subservience to despots and dictators who hate the Western way of life. And no- I'm not off topic, this is in answer to much of Scheuer's venom - wrongly directed at Israel - but curiously he seemed to suggest that it might not a bad thing after all to be beholden to homicidal regimes...we could trade oil for 'stuff' and 'security'. Presto! No more war!
I have all of Scheuer's books to date (this one in audio book format) but I won't be buying any of Scheuer's future books as I feel like I've been tricked into paying to listen to some bitter, inner axe he has to grind with the U.S and the C.I.A! He excoriates civilian authors whose positions differs from his, he excoriates Bush and Obama because they won't listen to his advice. He excoriates other retired C.I.A.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Now Scheuer tells us where we're going. We're going to hell.
Marching Toward Hell claims that U.S. foreign policy is often based on some faulty assumptions and is partially driven by some lobbyists whose interests are different than those of the American people. This book goes well beyond the themes of Imperial Hubris.
Dr. Scheuer's book merits 5 stars. He gives the perspective of an intelligence analyst. He's also superb at explaining the complicated relationship between the intelligence community and elected officials in the U.S.
Scholars take Scheuer seriously because of his 22-year career as a top intelligence analyst and also the success of his first book, Imperial Hubris. He studied Osama bin Laden (ObL) for years and urged superiors to remove ObL no less than 10 times when the opportunity arose.
ObL has recommended Scheuer's book, Imperial Hubris, to the American people in a taunting missive. Marching Toward Hell strikes back with recommendations aimed at helping the American people to wise up to what looks to be a very long-term problem.
According to Scheuer, U.S. policymakers still prefer to present the bin Laden Movement as a lunatic fringe even though in some sense it has broad appeal in the Islamic world.
As if that wasn't disturbing enough, Scheuer says that some officials possibly never intended to win in Iraq. Otherwise, more troops would have been sent. That notion is frankly too disturbing for me to think about, and it doesn't resonate with me anyway.
Other claims: that very few political leaders have children serving in the wars is disturbing on many levels; the divide in the U.S. between the political elite and the rest of the people has never been wider; and young people will be sent to war in the coming 8 years regardless of election results.
Scheuer concludes that the U.S. cannot avoid war with Islamists, that it will be much more violent that what we've seen so far, and also that it's too late to win in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I believe Scheuer is angry for reasons cited in the book: a slowness of Americans to understand Muslim viewpoints, the Bush administration dismissal of certain Middle East experts' wisdom and advice, and the perceived lack of political leadership regarding energy policy.
Marching Toward Hell includes a thoughtful proposal. A summary of Scheuer's proposal (The Scheuer Proposal) is that the U.S. must reduce its foreign commitments and to first focus on domestic security. Simultaneously, the country would begin to take steps to reduce oil dependency. Then the U.S. would prepare to defeat its enemies such as Al-Qaeda. That is my summary of his proposal, not endorsement.
Among other things, the Proposal calls for more effective use of intelligence assets and a willingness to use the military differently, more violently. The Scheuer Proposal is filled with surprises and brings into question whether he is the only one making such a proposal.
The author says foreign policy is going to become more important, not less. Remarkably, he goes much further and includes Russia, China and India as countries against Islam that the U.S. supports. Even so, he concludes that the U.S. cannot avoid an even more violent war with Islam.
In my view, the weakest point of the Scheuer Proposal is probably the lack of specifics for how the U.S. will reduce its energy dependency. The Scheuer Proposal relies heavily on a successful new energy policy.
Possibly Scheuer thinks hell is our destiny as the Proposal hints of a difficult future. Such an approach from such a man attracts and holds the reader's interest as if by a spell.
Regimes across the Middle East have fallen and continue to do so. Islamic transnational fighters are now focused on ending the regime in Syria. We don't yet know what kind of returns the U.S. is getting on treasures spent for the Iraq War but we do know nothing will ever be the same.
His diagnosis of our current troubles is clearly accurate. I've always been astonished that Bush could get away with claiming that Muslim activists hate us because they don't like out freedom or social structure. As Scheuer points out, they have made it perfectly clear that are not really interested in what kind of society the infidels choose to live in - in fact they are somewhat ambivalent about it, liking some aspects but considering it decadent - but they are infuriated by the presence of non Muslim troops in their own countries. They also feel their oil has been sold off cheaply and the profits have benefited only rich, decadent and corrupt rulers like the House of Saud. And of course there is the one-sided US support of Israel.
However, his prescription is one that many will find far off track. He has a good analysis of some of our military problems as being related to the hangover of a "Cold War" mentality - hostility between well-defined, technically advanced, nation-states, and how this does not fit the Middle East. Well, that's convincing - who was it said that generals are always ready to fight the last war, but not this one? But he thinks that the only way to win the "war on terror" is to apply rapid and overwhelming force. Anything less, he feels, causes an opponent - especially those who are accustomed to living with much violence and respect force - to think you are weak and step up their efforts. In this he considers civilian casualties, while regrettable, of minor importance. For instance, his approach to Afghanistan in 2001 would have been dramatic - reduce Kabul and Kandahar to rubble and strew salt over the remains. Strong hint of using nukes for this. He fully approved of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He optimistically thinks this kind of action would be a knock-out punch that would save us from further troubles. It's surprising that he doesn't consider what an incredible reaction of horror in the whole world - including our allies - this would provoke. That, he may not care about: but what about the fury throughout the Muslim world, which as he well knows, contains over a billion individuals - three times the population of the US! Also, in 2008, where would you aim such a blow anyway? The Iraq and Afghanistan insurgencies are widely-based and it's hard to see a defined target.
Other weird ideas include sealing off some Middle Eastern borders - has he ever seen those mountains? and our Mexican and Canadian ones, with no particular evidence that these two countries are terrorist entry points. Besides, making the land entry difficult will just make it more attractive to send that little old cargo ship into a major port with something very nasty in its hold.
To me, because there is really no practical defense against that last kind of attack, it makes much more sense to do what Scheuer cannot bring himself, in his macho attitude, to consider: actually address some of the reasons that Muslims are so angry with the US. He seems to understand them well enough. He has just read too many mailed-fist writers in the ancient and modern military fields.
But read this book, because whether you agree with him or not he gives a consistent viewpoint and much fascinating information.
Scheuer's intent in the book is to reconstruct how the U.S. found itself with an untenable set of foreign policies and national security strategies on 9/11, and to explain the costs of trying to maintain them.
U.S. ties to Israel, a state that contributes nothing to America's economic welfare or strategic security, are absurd, per Scheuer. Responding to those claiming Israel has a "right to exist," he states that Darwin's "survival of the fittest" applies; further, "Are we to also resuscitate the USSR, Sparta, etc.?" "You form your country, and you take your chances."
The second major nonsensical decision that burdens America is our doing little in response to the '73 oil embargo. Thus, we have ended up playing both sides (Israel vs. the Arab states) in a religious fight-to-the-finish.
American policies are further undermined by human rights groups - eg. they pushed the Senate to pursue human rights for Afghan women instead of us being able to try to get the Taliban to turn over Bin Laden. Other secondary issues have stayed our hand numerous times - eg. blowing up Iraq's Intelligence Service headquarters at night (minimize casualties) in response to its effort to assassinate Bush I in Kuwait, and calling off multiple efforts to kill Bin Laden.
Scheuer believes we have lost both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and that launching the Iraq War was a major blunder. Further, we need to stop believing that a "post-war Marshal Plan" will change the hearts and minds of Arabs - not unless we stop backing Arab tyrants and Israel.
As for Europe, Scheuer sees it becoming overrun by Muslim immigrants and their children. Meanwhile, its support for the U.S. is weakening - witness the recent fall of supporting leaders in the U.K., Spain, and Poland.
Concluding, Scheuer states that Islam is the fastest growing religion, U.S. officials have lied to citizens (providing erroneous reasons why terrorists hate us - eg. "they hate democracy)," instead of telling the truth while counteracting terrorists, and the U.S. is VERY vulnerable to more terrorism subce we've cut funding to help Russia secure its nuclear weapons, failed to close our borders, and failed to even propose an effective energy policy.
As for "preventing follow-up terrorist attacks in the U.S.," Scheuer is unimpressed - they're simply defeating us without bombs, through dragging us down towards bankruptcy. His recommendation - focus on "America first" - issues that truly threaten our survival.
In this read-it-now recommendation, I've concentrated on the character of the book, letting others address the contents. I'm glad I read it myself and hope that many others will. In the great American tradition of constructive provocateurs, Mike Scheuer doesn't demand that you agree with him on every point--but he does want us all to think for ourselves, instead of accepting the platitudes delivered from on high by the governing "elite." I value the book, and I admire the man who wrote it. It's encouraging to have this voice crying out in the Washington wilderness.
I was surprised about the Author's view towards politicians and law enforcement. His view of the CIA on the fact gathering arm is very good. The author glosses over the fact that the CIA itself is involved in its share of debacles. The author makes it clear that the present political situation is really terrible. All of our leaders - Democratic and Republican - are more interested in looking good towards leaders of Europe and the rest of the world community than taking care of American citizens. The FBI, all the high US military commanders, and most government agency personnel only really care about their careers and not really protecting the average citizens. The author gives legion stories about all the various government agencies caring more about their piece of turf than protecting the average American.
Some of the book is depressing to read. We support some Islamic dictatorships, the logic is "better the devil you know". The CIA knows of most of the terrorist training camps in Islamic nations, such as Pakistan. We don't want to attack them because it will provoke them. This is insanity. During the 1860s the USA successfully had Britain stop supplying arms to the Confederates. In the same period Britain had the US government stop cross border raids into present day Canada by Irish insurgents. In both cases the British and American governments had the interests of their citizens at heart. Now the author gives case after case of all the western leaders are more concerned about looking good to one another than to their own citizens.
I knocked off a star because the Author has no military back ground and says the governors of each state could stop the national guards from being called up for military service. Sorry, but the national guards were all de facto nationalized back in 1963 under a defense reform act. A National Guard unit is actually - from a command point of view - an Army Reserve unit detached for duty in a state.
The author also writes, truthfully, that the USA had lost every war its been in since 1945. Our enemies know this fact. They count on it. The giant American military is commanded by career oriented politicans who wear both suits and uniforms.
I should have knocked off a star because the author gives no solution to the present Middle East situation from an American point of view. Honestly, there may be no solution except for the insolvency of the American government. The fact of the matter is the poor American taxpayer is bound by his feckless government to give billions to Israel and the neighboring Arab states. If the taxpayer says anything against this unholy relationship they are called anti-Semite. This is mind boggling in concept. Actions by a citizen's government put the citizen at risk, put the citizen in physical jeopardy, and if the citizen complains about it the result is the citizen is then made to seem like an ignorant bigot instead of somebody shrewd enough to have figured out that his own government is working against their own best interests. The author makes this fact abundantly clear and any reader will have to come to the logical conclusion that they are right.
But this book is very well researched and will give great background to people who want to learn how we got into such a tangled mess. Don't expect anything to change regarding terrorism against average Americans because our American leadership does not want things to change. Our leaders want to look good to their fellow leaders in Europe or Western Civilization. And that's the most damning fact of this book.