Former bin Laden Hunter Says Islamic State Needs US To Intervene

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 an intimate and detailed knowledge of Islamic extremism.

In Scheuer’s view, another US military intervention in the Middle East against groups such as the Islamic State (IS) will not meet its stated objectives, and will fall into the same errors made in past operations of a similar character. Continuing this policy, he says, will only help to motivate and radicalize Muslims the world over, and will provide exactly the impetus IS needs to step up their drive to establish a long-sought Islamic caliphate in the Levant region.

From a 23 September article published to Scheuer’s home on the web,

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. US intervention in the Iraq-Syria theater will, over time, make everything it is designed to stop much worse.

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.

Aside from 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.

Scheuer perceives this lack of political resolve, coupled with the benefits that will accrue to the Islamic State, as clear reasons to stay out of the conflict, a position which coincides with 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 in the Middle East. Scheuer warns that these are nothing but a "lure" to incite hysteric reaction from the US and its allies to intervene militarily; part of a slick IS propaganda campaign that takes into account the public-opinion dynamic of Western foreign policy.

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.

Scheuer’s resistance to the newest Iraq incursion resides primarily in his judgment that American military involvement will not only benefit the Islamic State, but may be precisely what they need in order to stay relevant in their multinational 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 believes past and ongoing US intervention in the region makes the international Islamist struggle "self-motivating," and effectively provides it a perpetual casus belli.

This time around, Scheuer believes groups like IS wish to draw the United States into an armed conflict so that they might "beat us again" – as he sees the past operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as both failures militarily – and drive the 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 Arab states, support which helps build the image of America abroad as the "great Satan". Along with despotic Arab regimes, support for Israel must go as well. In Scheuer’s view, 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 danger 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 these policies, Scheuer states, we will continue to incite anti-American sentiments, as well as outright militant opposition.

23 thoughts on “Former bin Laden Hunter Says Islamic State Needs US To Intervene”

    1. Like with regulations, one intervention leads to another, then another, then another. It never ends.

    2. Agreed. An earlier version of this article included how the three biggest enemies of the mujaheddin–Saddam, Ghadaffi, and Assad–have all been removed from power, with the exception of Assad, who the US seem to be trying to depose right now (although I've been hearing that a shift in policy might be in the works, to realign with Assad).

      It's insanity though. The last thresholds against these types of crazies removed by the US, only to turn around and start making a big deal over how dangerous they are. You don't say….

  1. Scheuer is a courageous former CIA spook in the Ray McGovern mold. It must not be easy for these guys to step off the reservation. Like the Mafia, you're in for life, and probably have to keep looking over your shoulder. Dumping Saudi Arabia and Israel should be no brainers, but will not happen. We'll continue to grovel to the Saudi's as long as we need their oil, and, Israel, you know why.

  2. One point of error in the article above is the series of events that lead to the beheadings. ISIS did not begin beheading western journalists until *after* the US formally began its bombing campaign. Hence, it was not a lure for the US to return to Iraq – the US returned to Iraq on account of the successes that ISIS was having on the ground. Prior to that, ISIS was focused on regional goals and did not want the US or any outside power to interfere in their state-building project. After the formal bombing campaign began, then these particular beheadings may have occurred for the purpose mentioned above. The US is only conducting an air war. As a result, these beheadings could be seen as a lure to try and get the US to invade with a substantial ground force. ISIS might have to wait for the republicans to come into power before that happens. If this thesis is true though, then it reflects on ISIS as being an al-Qadiah-style organization more so than a state, proto-state, or superstate (caliphate).

    Dr. Scheuer is right though with regards to how ISIS benefits from this global air campaign against them. They are not a state in the fullest sense of that term, but they are attempting to build one, and they need legitimacy before that happens. Their extreme or exaggerated interpretations of how to apply Islamic rulings and laws (though they themselves often fail to abide by that Shariah) were a point of criticism from other Muslims. But, such criticism takes a backseat when the perception becomes that ISIS is defending itself and the Sunni population it has reunited as a result of the destruction of Sykes-Picot. In this, ISIS (at least for now) benefits from the schizophrenic foreign policies of the western powers.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I could have my dates mixed up, but I believe Scheuer was talking about a "lure" even after airstrikes had started. If that's the case, then I think he's referring to a broader "lure," to pull the US into ever-more significant intervention and military action, like a ground war.

      I think you touched on this though.

      I also agree with you about ISIS being helped by aggressive US policy. While they haven't established any kind of state to speak of, their attempts to do so are greatly moved along when they have a Western enemy to fight. It helps to unite the Sunni population, who might not be huge fans of hardline mujaheddin but feel a greater affinity with THEM than they do the US.

    1. We need to wean ourselves off dependence on oil. There is a story in the news today about Lockheed Martin making a technical breakthrough on developing nuclear fusion. The first reactors could be available in a decade. The process uses deuterium and tritium.

    2. I would agree with you if we were speaking of free markets. However it seems the sorts of relations the US government makes regarding oil are more cronyist, fascist arrangements.

      Scheuer's point about energy probably refers more to how our relationships with oil-exporting nations incite anger among their populations, giving these jihadi types more reasons to hate the US.

      I think within the last decade or so the US has been found to have way more oil than was previously thought, so I suppose energy "independence" IS possible, even while conceding that independence isn't even necessary when nations can freely exchange.

      EDIT: OH yeah, and thorium. I'm a fan.

      Hugely safer way to generate nuclear energy, and since it doesn't use uranium, nobody can take the depleted fuel rods and make toxic radioactive ammunition out of them.

      A thorium reactor is much safer because it works in a sort of opposite way to uranium reactors. Thorium you have to constantly keep going for it to work, uranium you have to constantly keep FROM exploding, or melting down or whatever.

      Look it up if you're not familiar. I'm not a physics genius or an expert on nuclear energy or anything at all, but from some research into it, seems like something people should be looking more into.

    1. Haha right, of course. Still always important to hear the advice from these kind of folks.

      Peaceniks don't usually hold such official positions, tends to give their words more weight.

    1. Haha dammit, ignore the last comment. I was on a phone and my thumb pressed "submit" before I could finish typing.

  3. So I am anti-war and actively opposed the US invasions of Afghan and Iraqi homelands, but I am not a pacifist. I know this only because when the Yazidis faced a crisis at hands of the ISIL and that hit the news, I was mad at the US and World community for not using sudden force to protect the victims. I thought if they use military anyway why not now to save thousands of innocent lives? There was even time at that time to at least reach for support from the UN. Obama acted unilaterally instead and we cannot deny that military strikes saved many lives, even if other forces on the ground helped. I felt sick again for the collateral damage to occur as a result, however, when Obama cited the bombing later to justify all US Terror inflicted by his Administration. As a rational movement we cannot be absolutes and expect to defeat fascist militarism and aggression. We need to be a moral authority in all cases. 1 last example: Assad is a war criminal, period. He should be arrested and tried by the WORLD and the peace movement should urge the UN to take action before the Pentagon does.

    1. While I do agree with your sentiments about wanting to protect innocent people, I believe it ALWAYS a bad idea to suggest that government do something.

      We cannot predicate our political ideas on what we think government SHOULD do. Government simply doesn't work that way. If you let the Obama admin. wage defensive war in Iraq to save the Yazidis, it certainly won't stop there.

      Before long, we'll have another full scale ground war which does nothing more than perpetuate the exact same problems into the future, creating more and more new dangers that innocents in the region will face.

      We can't treat every problem like a nail for the mighty US hammer to smash into submission. It doesn't work, and it's immoral. Not only the war itself, the height of evil and immorality, but the things govt must do to wage a war, like the vast amounts of money stolen in taxation, not to mention the constant destruction of domestic liberty (something which ALWAYS accompanies war, read Bob Higgs on the "ratchet effect").

      Finally, about the Yazidis, I'm pretty sure most of those guys had been evacuated or fled by the time the US got in there. The ones that remained WANTED to be there. I could find you a footnote for that if you don't believe me, don't have it on the top of my brain at the moment.

      Thanks for the comment though!

    2. "Assad is a war criminal, period. He should be arrested and tried by the WORLD…"

      The same should be said regarding George W. Bush and his entire Administration, as well as the current occupant and his Administration.

  4. Scheuer is a historian who fully understands that history is a chain of unintended consequences. Bravo!

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