Give up the Empire

by Philip Giraldi
January 14, 2014

Back a little over ten years ago I wrote an article for The American Conservative magazine called “The Jihadi War.” I had only recently left the CIA and it was the first article I had ever written for any publication, so I was grateful for a little friendly editorial advice when I inevitably discovered that people who have been spending twenty years reading and writing government reports generally forget everything they learned in English Comp. Nevertheless, I was both proud of my ability to string together 1200 words and apprehensive about how it would be received.

I basically described how the United States was locked into fighting a centralized and organized al-Qaeda that had already ceased to exist. Attacking Afghanistan and then Iraq had let the genie out of the bottle, meaning that the US would be plagued with the new style of worldwide “jihad,” locally supported and directed warfare, difficult to detect and counter. Franchising terrorism was a lesson learned from the mistake of locating the al-Qaeda movement in physical bases in Afghanistan, where it could be identified and destroyed piecemeal. But the US military and intelligence agencies, resistant to learning anything new, continued to fight the terrorists in conventional terms after capturing Kabul, placing themselves on the defensive everywhere while freeing up the insurgents to pick and choose when and where to strike. The Bush Administration’s doctrine of preemptive war also meant that increasingly the Muslim world would see itself on the receiving end of an implicit regime change strategy, a perception sure to alienate potential allies while simultaneously creating more new terrorists than could possibly be killed.

I suspect that readers found the piece interesting within the broader context of the magazine’s jeremiad against interventionism and it certainly attracted a response from CIA, which sternly informed me that I had failed to clear the piece with the Agency’s Publications Review Board.

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