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Extended Book Review

The Path To Security For America And The World

Philip H. Gordon

With 9/11 approaching a decade past, it is high time to review the events that have transpired since. The War on Terror began with carnage and destruction of infrastructure in New York. Since that fateful day, the carnage and terror has moved legitimately to its place of origin, and illegitimately, well beyond--Iraq will never be the same and is still not assured a peaceful future. Afghanistan, its place of origin, was so mishandled as to become a metaphor for national self-destruction--for invaders and pacifiers alike.

Fortunately there are thinking people thinking about all this, and Philip Gordon is one of them. He not only arrives at the obvious of the above, but offers a viable way out. Fortunately too, Americans seem to have elected a president with similar views. Read on; perhaps you will agree.

Gordon starts out boldly, taking Mr. Bush and the Neocon philosophy of perpetual preparations for war to task:

    “Declaring war might well have been useful to rally public opinion but it had the significant disadvantage or implying there was a military solution to the problem and it endowed the terrorists with warrior status they did not deserve. The object of the war was also a problem--terrorism was merely a method, not an organization or country, and it covered such a broad range of activities that it risked confusing Americans about just whom they were against.”

There was no confusion about bin Laden’s role, but the speed at which the euphoria accompanying his long-delayed demise gave way to sober reassessment was telling. We have indeed been pursuing the wrong war.

Gordon is quick to point out that it is not too late. But major policy changes are needed. Indeed even Mr. Bush began moving away from the most hawkish approach during his second term. Obama has taken important steps; most importantly to cease demonizing another ethnic group, any “other” religion, or any other social system peoples of this earth find it comfortable to live within.

To begin with Gordon’s fixes, it is helpful to follow his own words, beginning with understanding bin Laden’s basic intent.

      “...the US invasion and occupation have turned Iraq into a terrorist training and recruiting ground. Iraq, bin Laden declared, has become a “golden opportunity” to start a “third world war” against the crusader-Zionist coalition. He has publicly admitted that his goal has been to “provoke and bait” the United States into “bleeding wars” throughout the Islamic world, to bankrupt it as the Soviet Union was bankrupted in Afghanistan.”

    Such was the vision behind 9/11. We were baited into the longest and most draining wars in American history, and they are not over yet. But our basic course does seem to be changing. The restraint shown by America as Tunisia, Egypt, then Libya and other Islamic states erupted with rebellions from within is one important example. The United Nations and NATO are playing larger roles than before. So there is hope on the horizon. America does not stand alone.

    Mr. Bush was dead wrong in his claim that it was the terrorists hatred of freedom that is the problem. Gordon makes clear, as do many others on this website, that “resentment, humiliation, and the unresolved diplomatic crises in the region are more important.” (Bin Laden himself said as much. Why do we not listen?)

    Fix the reasons for those attitudes and feelings, and terrorism will die down to the local levels where police actions can control it as the simple crime that it basically is.

    Gordon is realistic about that possibility. He points out that we must

      • “...wean ourselves off imported oil from the region.”
      • “...stop pretending that our disengagement from efforts to achieve peace between Israel and its neighbors has nothing to do with the problem of terrorism.”

    Here again, Obama is following suit. It is important to note that it is Netanyahu that is dragging his feet by demanding that Israel, in effect, be granted hegemony over Palestine as if all Palestinians were mere animals. (Demonizing, when it serves one’s purpose, knows no bounds it seems.)

    Gordon’s book was first published in 2007. It was already apparent to Gordon that the world of Islam would rise up against terrorism. How right he was! Like the rest of us, he missed the fact that that uprising would also be against the dictators who control their peoples by terror.

    We find nothing to quibble about with this little book. It deserves five stars and more. It is not only prescient, it is also well-reasoned and documented. We suspect that the former arises from the latter. Gordon not only deserves respect for his timeless insights, but for his ability to articulate them as well.

    Philip Gordon makes studies such as this his primary business. He is currently a senior fellow for American foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. He was a member of the National Security previously. His resume includes teaching at John Hopkins University at Washington, INSEAD, and Singapore. Five previous books on international affairs and American foreign policy bear his name, as do many articles in the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. He takes politicians to task for their performance, not their ideology.

    Collateral reading:


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