Seeing Islam Through a Lens of U.S. Hubris

Our political leaders contend that America's astoundingly low approval
ratings in polls taken in major Islamic countries do not reflect our
unquestioning support of Israel and, as such, its "targeted killings" and
other lethal high jinks. Nor, they say, are the ratings due to our
relentless support for tyrannical and corrupt Islamic regimes that are
systematically dissipating the Islamic world's energy resources for family
fun and profit, while imprisoning, torturing and executing domestic
dissenters. The low approval ratings, we are confident, have nothing to do
with our refusal to apply nuclear nonproliferation rules with anything
close to an even hand; a situation that makes Israeli and Indian nuclear
weapons acceptable - each is a democracy, after all - while Pakistan's
weapons are intolerable, perhaps because they are held by Muslims. And
surely, if we can just drive and manage an Islamic Reformation that makes
Muslims secular like us, all this unfortunate talk about religious war will

Thus, because of the pervasive imperial hubris that dominates the minds of
our political, academic, social, media and military elites, America is able
and content to believe that the Islamic world fails to understand the
benign intent of U.S. foreign policy. This mind-set holds that America does
not need to reevaluate its policies, let alone change them; it merely needs
to better explain the wholesomeness of its views and the purity of its
purposes to the uncomprehending Islamic world. What could be more American
in the early 21st century, after all, then to re-identify a casus belli as
a communication problem, and then call on Madison Avenue to package and
hawk a remedy called
"Democracy-Secularism-and-Capitalism-are-good-for-Muslims" to an Islamic
world that has, to date, violently refused to purchase?

This is meant neither to ridicule my countrymen's intellectual abilities
nor to be supportive of Bin Laden and his interpretation of Islam, but to
say that most of the world outside North America is not, does not want to
be and probably will never be just like us. And let me be clear, I am not
talking about America's political freedoms, personal liberties or respect
for education and human rights; the same polls showing that Muslims hate
Americans for their actions find broad support for the ideas and beliefs
that make us who we are. Pew Trust polls in 2003, for instance, found that
although Muslims believed it "necessary to believe in God to be moral,"
they also favored what were termed "democratic values."

I'm saying that when Americans - the leaders and the led - process incoming
information to make it intelligible in American terms, many not only fail
to clearly understand what is going on abroad but, more ominous, fail to
accurately gauge the severity of the danger that these foreign events,
organizations, attitudes and personalities pose to U.S. national security
and our society's welfare and lifestyle…

The author is a senior counterintelligence official at the CIA who served
from 1996 to 1999 as head of a special unit tracking Osama bin Laden. The
CIA allowed publication of his forthcoming book, "Imperial Hubris"
(Brassey's, 2004), in which the author is identified as "Anonymous.


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