A career CIA analyst and the author of Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, "Anonymous" was granted permission to publish both books provided he was not named (though he has since been identified). In a somewhat repetitive style-with too many words wasted lining up other specialists for praise or condemnation rather than setting out his own case-he makes the following arguments. Bin Laden is not a madman but a rational strategist who says what he believes and acts on it. He is well regarded throughout the Muslim world. Al Qaeda hates us not for who we are but for where we are. So, too, does most of the Muslim world. The United States' propping up of unpopular Middle Eastern regimes and unflagging support for Israel weakens its hand in the region. Washington should have struck against al Qaeda in Afghanistan immediately after September 11 and should have finished the job there rather than turning to Iraq. These arguments might seem to lead to a prescription for a fine-tuned U.S. strategy of isolating al Qaeda and weakening its appeal to the Muslim masses by changing U.S. policies and building coalitions with Middle Eastern and other states. But not for Anonymous: this is war, he writes, and "we must kill many thousands of these fighters." Exactly how to engage in such a war (as opposed to a persistent police action) against tiny, mobile pockets of fighters spread all over the world and connected via the Internet is not clear.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.