The United States must “energize every element of national power in a cohesive synchronized manner—similar to the effort during World War II” to fight this new “global war.” The radical Islamists, Flynn writes, “think they’re winning, and so do I.” Things are so dire, in fact, that “I’m totally convinced that, without a proper sense of urgency, we will be eventually defeated, dominated, and very likely destroyed.” So far, “our leaders in Washington, from the White House to the Pentagon to our major military headquarters, have proven they aren’t up to” fighting this war.
Iran is at the heart of Flynn’s fevered vision. The strictly limited, multilateral nuclear agreement signed in 2015 has been criticized by some for not going beyond the nuclear issue. Flynn and Ledeen transform it into a full-scale “strategic embrace of the Islamic Republic” by the United States. Focusing on the nuclear issue is, in any case, a mistake since, they argue, the goal of US policy should be regime change. Instead of invading Iraq in 2003, “our primary target should have been Tehran,…and the method should have been political—support of the internal Iranian opposition.” That this could have brought down the deeply entrenched Iranian government is another pure fantasy. But “we should at least consider how to change Iran from within, remembering that such methods brought down the Soviet Empire.” (They didn’t.)
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn writes, have been fought in a “half-assed” manner, with “token” forces and without the resolution “to crush our enemies.” To win we have to destroy all ISIS and al-Qaeda bases, conquer the terrorities they hold, return them to local control, and then, somehow, “insist on good governance.” It was a “pipe dream” to believe we could bring full democracy to this region (not clearly defined, but including, at least, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kurdish areas), but “we could certainly bring order.” Order and good governance have, of course, been the elusive goals of a decade and a half of multitrillion-dollar effort.
“Eliminating Radical Islam” will take leadership that “isn’t obsessed with consensus.” The only consensus that matters is “the one at the end” of what Flynn emphasizes will be a war extending for generations. Awash in tweets and twenty-four-hour news coverage, he yet writes, “things have not changed much since Machiavelli told his prince ‘if you are victorious, the people will judge what ever means you used to have been appropriate.’”
Flynn does part company with Trump (and, perhaps, with Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson) in a major way regarding Russia. “There is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us,” he writes. The Kremlin’s 2016 announcement of its intention to open new military bases on its western border and its plan to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces “are, rather, indications that Putin fully intends to do the same thing as, and in tandem with, the Iranians: pursue the war against us.”
Trump’s statements have been much friendlier, to say the least, toward Russia. But it’s easy to see what Trump would find attractive in Flynn’s fact-free bluster. Moreover, Flynn was the first big-name (or, at least, not completely obscure) national security figure to join his campaign, bringing badly needed credibility, for which Trump owes him a good deal. Yet this book reveals a man so utterly out of touch with the real world at home or in the Middle East that it’s hard to believe even Trump could take him seriously for long, or that a man whose former military colleagues now call him “unhinged” will survive very long in the critical position to which he has been named.
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