US Misunderstood Al-Qaida

NPR did an interesting 8 minute interview with the author of "Imperial Hubris", an anonymous CIA analyst.

Here is a transcript I made of a central part of the dialogue.

[...] The United States fundamentally misunderstood the motivations of Al-Qaida. How so?

What we misunderstood is Bin Ladens genius on focusing on American policies. We continue to describe him as a gentleman and a movement, that is out to deny us our freedoms, our liberties, our voting system, our society.

The standard administration line is: "They hate freedom"

Yes, and it has been since 1992 or 1988. Take your pick. It is a blindness which is bipartisan in nature. They don't like our society, clearly. They don't like women going to school and they don't like unveiled women and all of those things are true - but very few people in the islamic world are going to die for that kind of morpheus goal of making sure the americans won't drink Budweiser or something along that line.

You just summarized this: I mean, you say that Al-Qaida are unhappy with the United States and gets support in the islamic world, not for what the United States stand for, but because of what the United States does.

That's exactly right and I think United States is Al-Qaida only indispensable ally. As long as we pursue the policies that Bin Laden has focused on, we will be an admirable, in fact a perfect foil for his activities. For example, he really has a very limited number of complaints, but they are very important in terms of the muslim world. Our unqualified support for Israel. Our ability to keep oilprices at levels acceptable to the western consumer. Our support for countries that oppress muslims. He is focused on all those things and they all appeal to muslims across the theological spectrum of Islam.

So what do you do differently? You don't just want to give in and do what they want?

Of course not, it's got to be a combination of things. [...]

See also my post on Fahrenheit 911 and Robert Kaplan.