Middle East Quarterly
The Challenge of Hizb ut Tahrir: Deciphering and Combating Radical Islamist Ideology. Edited by Zeyno Baran. Washington, D.C.: The Nixon Center, 2004. 119 pp. $6.95, paper.
The Nixon Center's February 2004 Istanbul workshop on Hizb ut-Tahrir was intended both to "decipher and combat radical Islamist ideology" in general and to assess the specific terrorist threat posed by the group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The meeting was off the record and not all participants permitted their work to be published. The proceedings consist of a short paperback book of twenty brief and informative papers. They provide diverse portrayals of Hizb ut-Tahrir but offer no operational or strategic consensus.
Five papers are of special note because they highlight the academic, law enforcement, political, religious, and social perspectives—those of Rohan Gunaratna (Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore), Madeline Gruen (New York City police department counterterrorism research analyst), Rusen Cakir (writer on Turkish Islamist movements), Mateen Siddiqui (vice president of the Supreme Islamic Council of America), and Michael Whine (counterterrorism expert for the Jewish community of the United Kingdom).
Their assessments of Hizb ut-Tahrir diverge as much as their backgrounds. Gunaratna identifies members of the Al-Qaeda organization connected with the group (such as Pakistani Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Jordanian Abu Musah al-Zawaqawi, and Indonesian Hambali) and concludes that this proves "adherents of HT are actively engaging in global terrorism." In contrast, Cakir finds it unlikely that Hizb ut-Tahrir would use terrorism in Turkey. Gruen finds that "in the United States, HT was following the patterns of white ethno-nationalist groups, who are exploiting interests in the Internet, computer games, and music," and predicts that HT will continue to make da'wa (propaganda) efforts in the United States. Siddiqui emphasizes the virulently anti-Semitic, totalitarian nature of the group and its close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood with its objective to establish an Islamic "world dominance through Islamic rule." Whine reports that "there is no evidence that HT is involved in or engages in terrorism in Europe" but holds that it "represents a long-term threat of subversion."
Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir informs but does not draw conclusions, leaving the reader wondering whether Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group linked to Al-Qaeda that must be eradicated, or an elitist club to be scrutinized but tolerated.
The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign against Terror. By Ronald Kessler. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. 496 pp. $27.95 ($15.95, paper).
Kessler, a New York Times journalist and best-selling author, gained impressive access to the CIA and recorded interviews with many of its highest officers, past and present. The result is the CIA at War, a tantalizing journey into the organization, its history, secrets, travails, and successes.
From a Cold War operation run by Ivy League East Coast insiders to an enormous apparatus of human and technological counterterrorism headed by a son of immigrants, the CIA has chalked up remarkable successes (identifying the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba) and astonishing failures (being hoodwinked by a brace of double agents, many of whom continued in their ruinous ways after failing polygraph tests).
What emerges is a CIA that suffered long bouts of institutional atrophy, congressional hostility, and public lack of confidence, all of which made for staggering lapses in national security. A long period of patient reconstruction and striking success in the post-September 11 war on militant Islam has since followed. Kessler's access to contemporary officials, not least the media-shy George Tenet, makes by far for the book's greatest interest.
Allowing for Kessler's clear partisanship for Tenet, this book makes for a corrective to the view of the CIA as napping while dangers multiplied. The CIA's failure to preempt Al-Qaeda is located in a combination of Clinton administration uninterest, legal and technical shackles, and a prevailing mood of complacency in Washington.
Kessler offers teasing glimpses, interesting anecdotes, and even occasionally absorbing testimony, but in the end, these fail to satisfy as the author ultimately is limited by his sources. Whether they have truly been forthcoming and whether he has given due weight to the variables involved is a matter for judgment. Kessler's story is additionally fitful and riddled with digressions (for example, five pages on the CIA's public image immediately following the September 11 attacks).
Middle East Forum
Dark Victory: America's Second War against Iraq. By Jeffrey Record. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004. 375 pp. $24.95.
In 1993, Record, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staff member, authored Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War in which he took President George H.W. Bush to task for not ousting Saddam Hussein. In the present book, Record takes George W. Bush to task for having corrected his father's mistake.
The new book, while well written, is reduced by the author's permeating antipathy for so-called neoconservatives, alleging without proof that a sympathy for Israel's Likud Party colors their view of the world. While it is true that neoconservatives tend to be staunch supporters of Israel, every president since Harry Truman has defended Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. Nor is there anything new about U.S. support for democracy or opposition to terror. The only recent development is a willingness of the U.S. government to reach out to new partners, even if this means working without traditional allies. Record further blames neoconservatives for "the president's controversial use-of-force doctrine," curiously overlooking the impact of 9/11 on Bush's thinking.
Record holds neoconservatives responsible for pursuing policies that cause many adversaries to dislike the United States. He laments "the Bush administration's foreign policy fails to grasp the fact that others do not see us as we see ourselves—that is, as a benign and historically exceptional force." But the Bush administration does grasp this; it just believes that being respected is more important than being liked. The costs of winning Syrian, North Korean, or Chinese favor for U.S. policy would be too high if it meant abandonment of democracies such as Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. Conversely, Libyan strongman Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi may not like the United States, but it was his respect for the Bush administration's willingness to back force with military action that led to his decision to abandon his nuclear ambitions.
Record's style is confident and authoritative with plenty of facts cited and examples given. A close read, though, shows that Record ignores facts that undermine his arguments. For example, he trumpets a 1999 UNICEF report that relied on Iraqi government statistics to conclude that sanctions on Iraq killed 500,000 Iraqi children; he ignores a joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization study the following year that found that half the Iraqi population was overweight, and that hypertension and diabetes—not diseases of the hungry—were among the leading causes of Iraqi mortality. Other facts he simply gets wrong. How could the Defense Department have airlifted Ahmad Chalabi into Iraq during military operations when Chalabi had returned to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq months before the war began?
Dark Victory has many other weaknesses. Record engages in one-man's-terrorist-is-another's-patriot moral relativism. He conflates the Afghan mujahideen with Al-Qaeda, an anachronism that ignores a decade-long fight between Al-Qaeda pan-Islamists and Afghan nationalists such as Ahmad Shah Masud. While determined to debunk any analogy between postwar Japan and Iraq, Record ignores the South Korea example, frequently cited by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Notably absent from a book about Iraq is any consideration of what Iraqis think; Record writes as if Iraqis do not exist.
A book should be more than a glorified op-ed. Unfortunately, Dark Victory is not.
Disarming Iraq. By Hans Blix. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. 285 pp. $24.
Blix has produced a straightforward, easy-to-read account of the U.N.'s Iraq inspections and the crisis at the U.N. in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war. With its clear style and blunt but polite language, his book will be much appreciated by those critical of that war.
In a book so full of criticism of others, however, there is remarkably little self-criticism. For instance, the attitude of key Washington decision-makers towards Blix was much affected by his role in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iraq inspections pre-1990. Blix describes the IAEA's activities in that period in a mere page and a half, without a single reference to his own role as the organization's head at that time and with some incomplete references to how far Iraq had gotten with its nuclear programs. Blix asks why U.S. and British leaders listened "so little and, in the cases of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Wolfowitz, seem to have had such disdain for the assessments and analyses of the IAEA." Perhaps part of the reason is that IAEA under Blix's leadership had been so wrong for so long about Iraqi activities before 1990.
Blix writes at length about his poor relations with Washington, implying that the fault lies with the crazed ideologues of the Bush administration. But Blix pays no attention at all to U.S. concerns that the inspection process was diverting attention from the nonproliferation goal; in plain English, that sustaining the process had become the main objective, rather than achieving the original aim. Washington saw inspections as a useful way to verify the detailed and compete declaration of weapons of mass destruction activities Baghdad was obligated to produce; in the absence of such a declaration, the inspectors could not find what Iraq had hidden, given the vastness of the country. One would search Disarming Iraq hard and long for any acknowledgment by Blix of this American concern. The author would have done better to repeat his 1992 assessment, "Without information about the location of possibly hidden nuclear material and installations, no meaningful inspections are possible."
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. By Bat Ye'or. Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005. 384 pp. $49.50 ($23.95, paper).
In 1985, Bat Ye'or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality. Bat Ye'or's documentation and argument convinced most of her (relatively few) readers.
Now she surprises again (and to a substantially larger audience). The term "Eurabia" in her title was the title of a journal initiated in the mid-1970s by the "European Committee for Coordination of Friendship Associations with the Arab World," and it is still used in the sense of bringing Europe and the Arabs together as in Eurabia Studentenvereniging, the name of a Rotterdam University Moroccan-Dutch students' union.
Bat Ye'or turns the word on its head and uses it to refer to a grandiose scheme, created by unaccountable civil servants and politicians eager to please their Arab counterparts, a scheme that aims at furthering these highly ideological aspirations for Euro-Arab unity, a scheme that, for obvious reasons, can never be allowed to stand the test of being voted upon by European (or Arab) electorates. Her extensive documentation leads to the breathtaking conclusion that the outlook of those insignificant-looking friendship associations has developed into the European Union official policy and ideology.
This Eurabian ideology, for instance, claims a moral equivalency between the Crusades and jihad, ignoring that jihad was unremittingly active in Asia, Africa, and Europe centuries before the crusaders conquered Palestine. Moreover, the last crusader was buried centuries ago while jihadists appear to be very much alive. The Eurabian ideology blinds a number of Western politicians to the fact that extensive Islamic territories lie close to Europe and that millions of Muslim immigrants have settled in European cities, causing those same politicians to overlook the hostility that now reverberates in Western Europe, as exemplified by the ritual assassination of Dutch filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam, on November 2, 2004.
God blinds those whom he wants to destroy; Bat Ye'or's Eurabia offers a powerful tool for those who wish to see.
Johannes J.G. Jansen
Oasis of Dreams: Teaching and Learning Peace in a Jewish-Palestinian Village in Israel. By Grace Feuerverger. New York and London: Routledge Falmer, 2001. 218 pp. $25.95, paper. Israeli and Palestinian Identities in Dialogue. Edited by Rabah Halabi. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. 204 pp. $60 ($21.95, paper).
That the Arab-Israeli conflict can be resolved within the confines of an encounter group is the unlikely premise behind the Jewish/Arab "joint model village" of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salam. Quite unintentionally, these two books confirm the allegation previously voiced in the exchange between Joseph V. Montville, Edward Alexander, and Ahmad Yusuf in this journal—that the original idea of an apolitical meeting point for Jews, Muslims, and Christians has been perverted into an ideological project centered on the doctrine of Israeli guilt and Arab innocence.
Feuerverger, an associate professor of teacher development at the University of Toronto, undertook multiple visits to Neve Shalom where she applied her belief that the theories of American psychologist Carol Gilligan and French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva offer insight into the dynamics of the Middle East. The result is adequately conveyed by her subchapter headings: "Reflexive Ethnography on the Border of Hope," "Between Aesthetics and Rigor: An Interactive Methodology," and so on. Combined with these pseudo-scholarly vacuities are the author's personal musings on her background as a confused Jewish Diaspora academic. Further added to the mix are extracts from her personal journal as well as interviews with various characters she encountered, with one section entitled "In Their Own Voices: Interviews as Resistance to Hegemony." Feuerverger's book stands as a testament to the boundless naiveté and self-obsession of North American academic liberals.
Explaining their work at Neve Shalom's School for Peace, former headmaster Halabi and his colleagues have produced a numbingly predictable collection of jargon-ridden essays on the mechanics of "dialogue." In his introduction, Halabi casually discloses that Israel's goals include "subjugating the Arabs by force" and that its methods involve "the system favored by the imperialist nations in the early 1900s." Among the Jewish contributors, Arie Nadler ridicules the idea of "conflict-resolution" and calls for an "interidentity dialogue about power and equality," while on the Arab side, Ramzi Suleiman warns the discussion "facilitators" that Jewish participants must not be allowed "to impose a ‘veto' on political and conflictive aspects." In short, despite its name, the School for Peace teaches not the reconciliation of differences but the promotion of conflict.
Operation Iraqi Freedom and the New Iraq. Insights and Forecasts. Edited by Michael Knights. Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004. 375 pp. $19.95, paper.
The 2003 Iraq war has spawned much punditry. Journalists, think-tank scholars, and academics compete to publish articles or offer television commentary. But their analysis falls short, particularly as few of them have spent time in Iraq, much less speak its languages. Happily, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the New Iraq, a collection of short essays by scholars at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and compiled by Knights, a British scholar and defense journalist, offers real substance and quality.
Michael Eisenstadt, director of security studies at The Washington Institute, highlights lessons learned from Britain's post-World War I occupation of Iraq. Written before the U.S. occupation commenced, Eisenstadt's analysis proves remarkably prescient. Knights and former Defense Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey White contribute a number of short essays analyzing the military component of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The detailed essay showing how basing restrictions shaped the conduct of war will be highly useful to military historians and tacticians. The section on postwar coalition security policy is more relevant to the general reader. It provides useful analysis of the new Iraqi army, the alphabet soup of Iraq's other reconstructed security forces, and the multinational divisions. Of particular interest is the synopsis of a speech by General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne, on lessons of the Iraq war.
In a section analyzing the Sunni insurgency, White becomes a bit mired in the weeds, but Jonathan Schanzer brings useful field research to his analysis of the Ansar al-Sunna terrorist group, foreign jihadists, and other Sunni organizations. The section on the Shi'ite opposition is perhaps the weakest in an otherwise strong collection, for there is no mention of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi and minimal mention of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the faction-ridden Da'wa party, all of which play key roles. The synopsis of a presentation by Yitzhak Nakash about the Shi'ite in Iraq's future is valuable but too brief to fill the gap.
A section on the post-Saddam economy and politics contributes valuable nuggets. Barham Salih, who became deputy prime minister in the interim government, discusses how Iraqi Kurdistan fits into the rest of the country while Soner Cagaptay provides good insight into the oft-forgotten Iraqi Turkmen community. More discussion of Kurdish politics and the question of federalism would have been helpful, though.
Unfortunately, Iraq's constitutional debate is ignored and questions of transitional justice and the trial of Saddam Hussein are dealt with only in passing.
Little writing produced in the wake of the Iraq war are as detailed and informed as that included in this collection. Despite an emphasis on military strategy, Operation Iraqi Freedom is a valuable resource for those needing nuance and informed comment beyond the news headlines.
What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building. By Noah Feldman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. 154 pp. $19.95.
Feldman, a New York University professor of constitutional law who briefly worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority on preparation of Iraq's interim constitution, argues, "Having thrust the Iraqis into [their current] situation, we have an obligation to enable them to climb out of it." It would, indeed, be interesting to see an argument made about whether the United States has such an ethical obligation, and if so, how far does it extend. Unfortunately, Feldman makes no such case: he simply presumes that the United States has the duty to create in Iraq, in his words, "a legitimate democratic state." That is a remarkably tall order for such a fragile nation with such limited democratic traditions. The presumption that this is what we owe Iraq is breathtaking, yet it is an article of faith as much on the liberal Left (from which Feldman comes) as on the neoconservative Right. And the hubris extends to confidence that Washington is well placed to carry out this far-reaching transformation of Iraq's political culture; for all his caveats about how hard the task will be, Feldman insists that an active U.S. role is the essential ingredient for success. One might have thought that the nationalist resentments at the U.S. presence and the obvious disappointment of Iraqis in what Washington has been able to accomplish in the first year and a half since Saddam's fall might have led to a bit more humility. But it remains an article of faith for Feldman that if only the United States buckles down to the task, Iraq can become a democracy soon.
Feldman's optimism about Washington's ability to transform Iraqi politics would be more convincing if he demonstrated a better understanding of the obstacles ahead. His account concentrates on what he calls the transformative effect of elections. At least that is a step forward from some earlier writings, in which he argued that a well-crafted constitution would be revolutionary—a stunningly naive view in light of the history of constitutions that remain dead letters (perhaps the most democratic constitution in history was that of Stalin's Soviet Union). In his effusive praise for how elections "provide large-scale accountability" and "reveal public preferences," Feldman passes over the minor problem that most elections to date in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East have done nothing of the sort. The region is well acquainted with elections that rubber-stamp power arrangements based on force, not on the people's will. To date, the U.S. appointees to the Interim Governing Council have maneuvered to keep in their hands the reins of power. Few in Iraq or the Middle East will believe that Iraq is a democracy until the first government is peacefully voted out of office, an event not likely to happen any time soon.
Who's Left in Israel? Edited by Dan Leon. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2004. 189 pp. $49.50 ($24.95, paper).
Leon, former editor of New Outlook, has collected articles by Israel's most vociferous and venomous far-leftists to show that, despite the enormous discrediting of leftist ideas over the past fifteen years, "peace" is still possible if Israel adopts an uncompromising anti-Zionist, Marxist agenda. The happy result of that would be (depending on the writer) either a two-state solution or a one-state solution. (The latter means Israel is eradicated and replaced by a single Arab-majority state.) All the authors agree that Israel's electoral Left is too moderate, too cowardly, and insufficiently anti-Zionist.
Uri Avnery, the father of Israeli anti-Zionism, the man who obediently marketed every slogan coming out of the PLO, is, amazingly, in this volume among the less extremist writers; he actually proposes a solution that will leave Israel in existence alongside Palestine in a two-state solution. This is rejected by other writers, such as As'ad Ghanem, a political scientist at the University of Haifa, who wants a single "non-denominational" state, stripped of all Jewish symbols and identity with no ties at all to Jewish national ambitions. This is the "state for all its citizens," that has become the mantra of Israel's far Left.
Tamar Gozansky, an unreformed Stalinist, who sat until recently in Israel's parliament as representative of the predominantly Arab Hadash party, offers boilerplate Marxism with knee-jerk denunciations of "state capitalism," privatization, and "concentration of capital." Shulamit Aloni, who once ran Meretz and was Israel's minister of education for a while, complains that the schools do not spend enough time bashing religion and promoting the Left's notion of human rights.
Lev Grinberg, in the news recently for publishing an article denouncing Israel for conducting "symbolic genocide" against Palestinians when it assassinated Sheikh Yassin of Hamas, has an article that denounces what he calls the "Ashkenazi Left." Despite Israel's having pursued the Left's failed policies since the early 1990s, Grinberg is livid that most of the Left rejects his extremism. Menahem Klein, from Bar Ilan University, recently made a speech declaring Israel's very creation a catastrophic mistake; here he insists on the transfer of all of East Jerusalem to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Ilan Pappé, best known for his role in the infamous Tantura affair, is even more explicit than Grinberg in denouncing the non-fanatic Israeli Left for its failure to reject Zionism altogether. Pappé dedicated his last book to his sons, whom he wished would grow up in "Palestine"—or in a Middle East from which Israel has been eradicated. Pappé's proposal is that Israel allow unrestricted immigration for any Arab claiming to be a Palestinian.
Henriette Dahan-Kalev, a "gender sociologist" from Ben-Gurion University, denounces Israel for supposedly suppressing the Mizrahi (Oriental Jewish) "narrative." That most Oriental Jews vote against the Left might have something to do with her hostility. Amira Hass, arguably the most extremist anti-Israel columnist in the Israeli media, dismisses all Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy as a conspiracy to advance Israeli "colonialism." Arella Shadmi, a radical feminist, denounces the Ashkenazi militarist, bourgeois, patriarchal conspiracy. Alon Tal, an adjunct at several Israeli universities, declares Israel must foreswear economic growth to pursue fashionable environmentalism; no more immigrants—they'll crowd the lizards!
Despite all its nonsense, Who's Left in Israel? has value as a guide to the mindset of Israel's hard Left today and perhaps the harder Left tomorrow.
University of Haifa
 Washington: Brassey's, 1993.
 Assessment of the Food and Nutrition Situation: Iraq (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2000), p. viii.
 Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.
 See Joseph V. Montville, "Neve Shalom: A Model of Arab-Israeli Coexistence?"; Edward Alexander, "No, an Exercise in Jewish Self-Debasement"; and Ahmad Yusuf, "No, but a Useful Step toward Bi-Nationalism," Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1998, pp. 21-32.
 The New York Times, Sept. 24, Nov. 13, 2003; Feb. 20, Sept. 24, 2004.
 La Libre Belgique (Brussels), Mar. 29, 2004.
 Ma'ariv (Tel Aviv), Feb. 1, 2004.
 Solomon Socrates, "Israel's Academic Extremists," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2001, pp. 10-3.