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.
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.