My Brother, My Enemy
America and the Battle of Ideas Across the Islamic World
By Philip Smucker
(Prometheus Books, Hardcover, 9781616141844, 377pp.)
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
This kaleidoscopic tour behind the frontlines of the war of ideas assesses US efforts to persuade Muslims that Americans respect their rights and interests, while we fight wars and promote our interests. He draws on extensive travels in the Muslim world through interviews with a cross-section of the population including students, intellectuals, insurgents and politicians. For an American perspective, the author examines the threat of terrorism and the challenges of winning the peace through candid interviews with US military officers, diplomats, and regional experts. The author describes turmoil within the Islamic realm and our efforts to project "soft power" into a world that remains misunderstood. He assesses both our failures and successes in Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saharan Africa. In contrast to Western fearmongers who use hyperbolic rhetoric about "a clash of civilizations" and our war with "Islamic fascism," he asserts that such language targeting a would-be "enemy" has only aided and abetted al Qaeda’s recruiting drive and hardened attitudes against America among average Muslims. Several themes resonate through these interviews. One is that the Muslim world is looking for consistent engagement from the US, particularly in regard to Israeli-Palestinian peace. After decades of paying lip service to the ideal of peace in the Middle East, the author shows why it is crucial for the Obama Administration to push forcefully for a two-state solution. Another is that the US must discontinue its policy of backing authoritarian regimes that oppress their people. In the eyes of everyday Muslims, such tactics make a mockery of our claim to be the champion of individual liberty. Muslims, many of whom already support democratic change, will only be convinced of America’s good will, says the author if our actions speak louder than our words. Finally, the book makes the case that as long as Americans and Muslims view one another with blanket suspicions and as potential "enemies," neither side can hope to persuade his "brother" to see the world in another light. Though there are no silver bullets, pacification, development, and democratic progress should be approached through shifts in American foreign policy, he argues. This revealing, vividly told narrative by a daring and experienced journalist with firsthand knowledge of the events and people in conflict areas offers unforgettable insights into the Muslim world’s hopes and fears as well as our own crucial diplomatic overtures and military campaigns across the Islamic world.
Philip Smucker (Alexandria, VA) is an independent journalist, a documentary filmmaker, and author of the highly acclaimed Al-Qaeda’s Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror’s Tail, which broke the story of Osama bin Laden’s escape. He has spent the last twenty-two years as an overseas reporter, covering conflicts across many countries including Haiti, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cambodia. He received three Pulitzer nominations for his reporting and has worked and written for many publications, including McClatchy Newspapers, the Atlantic Monthly, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Telegraph, Asia Times, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, and Time. He has appeared on national television and radio as an expert on the Islamic world, including on the Today show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, and The Diane Rehm Show.