America's badly damaged image in the Muslim world could take more than a generation to set right. And Bush's mounting political woes at home have undermined the chance for any bold U.S. initiatives to address the grim social realities that feed Islamic radicalism, they say.
"It's been fairly disastrous," said Benjamin, who worked as a director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1999.
"We have had some very important successes getting individual terrorists. But I think the broader story is really quite awful. We have done a lot to fuel the fires, and we have done a lot to encourage people to hate us," he added in an interview.
But one has to look at the fact that they are hardly isolated or alone:
Benjamin and Simon's criticism of the Bush administration in Iraq follows a path similar to those of other critics, including former U.S. national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.
"We may be attacked by terrorists who receive their training in Iraq, or attacked by terrorists who were inspired, organized and trained by people who were in Iraq," said Simon, a Rand Corp. analyst who teaches at Georgetown University.
"(Bush) has given them an excellent American target in Iraq but in the process has energized the jihad and given militants the kind of urban warfare experience that will raise the future threat to the United States exponentially."
For Benjamin and Simon, the war on terrorism has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and failed to counter a deadly global movement responsible for attacks in London, Madrid, Bali, Indonesia, and Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
And not even al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, they say, could have dreamed the United States would stumble so badly in the court of Muslim public opinion.
"Everyone says there's a war of ideas out there, and I agree. The sad fact is that we're on the wrong side," said Benjamin, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
U.S. fortunes could improve, the authors say, if Washington took a number of politically challenging steps, like bolstering public diplomacy with trade pacts aimed at expanding middle-class influence in countries such as Pakistan.
Washington also needs to do more to ease regional tensions that feed Muslim grievances across the globe, from Thailand and the Philippines to Chechnya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a Muslim world of 1.2 billion people, as many as three-in-four hold negative views of the United States.
But, the wingnuts say, IT'S SO MUCH MORE FUN TO BLOW SHIT UP!
Such is our country's sad state.