A Mystery Solved, Another Concern, And An Open Letter To Juan Cole

by tristero

In a review so shamelessly fawning it simply boggles the mind , Niall Ferguson writes of Philip Bobbitt's latest book length typing:
This is quite simply the most profound book to have been written on the subject of American foreign policy since the attacks of 9/11 — indeed, since the end of the cold war. I have no doubt it will be garlanded with prizes. It deserves to be. It is more important that it should be read, marked and inwardly digested by all three of the remaining candidates to succeed George W. Bush as president of the United States.
What makes Bobbitt's book so profound?
Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short...
Hold it right there, Mr. Ferguson. Did I read that correctly? I did:
Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short...
And now we know why McCain keeps on thinking Iran supports al Qaeda. According to Bobbit's definition, all radical Islamist groups, Shiite AND Sunni, can be referred to as "al Qaeda" because they form a network of "Islamic terrorism."

In case you think I'm clowning around here, that McCain's idiotic confusion surrounding Iran and AQI has nothing to do with Bobbitt's ideas, I assure you I am quite serious. Ferguson makes the McCain/Bobbitt connection explicit in his last two paragraphs:
Yet it is striking that, despite being a Democrat, Philip Bobbitt so often echoes the arguments made by John McCain on foreign policy. He sees the terrorist threat as deadly serious. He is willing to fight it. But he wants to fight it within the law, and with our traditional allies.

Perhaps — who knows? — this brilliant book may also be an application for the post of national security adviser. In times of war, stranger bedfellows have been known than a Democratic Texas lawyer and a Republican Arizona soldier.
How unbelievably profound is Bobbitt's insight. Well, it's profoundly unbelievable, that's for sure. Equally unbelievable is the only criticism Ferguson levels at this "masterpiece" of foreign policy analysis:
Only one point seems to elude Bobbitt, and that is what seems to me to be the great defect of any pre-emptive action by a democratic regime: the electoral rewards for success are slight because the public finds it hard to be grateful for a nonevent. Retaliation, by contrast, is a surefire vote-winner. That is a major difficulty, I think, since the United States can scarcely be an effective “claviger” (key bearer) and “steward” of the states of consent if its executive cannot secure enduring domestic consent for its “preclusive” actions.
I find it hard to read this as anything other than a barely disguised advocacy for an authoritarian form of government not beholden to the whims of an electorate. I also find it hard to believe I read this call for dictatorship in the New York Times Book Review.

Dear Professor Juan Cole,

I know you are a very busy person, but for personal reasons, I urge you to review Philip Bobbit's new book, Terror and Consent and give it the public evisceration it has, apparentely so well earned. If you are unwilling to do so, and no other expert is, either, then I will feel morally obligated to read it and review it myself. The problem is that I know as little about the topics Bobbitt addresses as Bobbitt does himself. Therefore, it would take me a whole hour of googling to find the primary sources needed to refute Bobbitt's basic premises. And I would need to provide at least five links to be convincing.

Frankly, Professor Cole, I don't want to waste my time like that, when an expert could dismantle Bobbitt's arguments in a fraction of that time and space. Thanks in advance for your consent.