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TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq--only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In "The Longest War "Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from t TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq--only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In "The Longest War "Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. Unlike any other book on this subject, here Bergen tells the story of this shifting war's failures and successes from the perspectives of both the United States and al-Qaeda and its allies. He goes into the homes of al-Qaeda members, rooting into the source of their devotion to terrorist causes, and spends time in the offices of the major players shaping the U.S. strategic efforts in the region. At a time when many are frustrated or fatigued with what has become an enduring multigenerational conflict, this book will provide an illuminating narrative that not only traces the arc of the fight but projects its likely future. Weaving together internal documents from al-Qaeda and the U.S. offices of counterterrorism, first-person interviews with top-level jihadists and senior Washington officials, along with his own experiences on the ground in the Middle East, Bergen balances the accounts of each side, revealing how al-Qaeda has evolved since 9/11 and the specific ways the U.S. government has responded in the ongoing fight. Bergen also uncovers the strategic errors committed on both sides--the way that al-Qaeda's bold attack on the United States on 9/11 actually undermined its objective and caused the collapse of the Taliban and the destruction of the organization's safe haven in Afghanistan, and how al-Qaeda is actually losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world. The book also shows how the United States undermined its moral position in this war with its actions at Guantanamo and coercive interrogations--including the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar, who was kidnapped by the CIA in Milan in 2003 and was tortured for four years in Egyptian prisons; his case represents the first and only time that CIA officials have been charged and convicted of the crime of kidnapping. In examining other strategic blunders the United States has committed, Bergen offers a scathing critique of the Clinton and Bush administrations' inability to accurately assess and counter the al-Qaeda threat, Bush's deeply misguided reasons for invading Iraq--including the story of how the invasion was launched based, in part, on the views of an obscure academic who put forth theories about Iraq's involvement with al-Qaeda--and the Obama administration's efforts in Afghanistan. At a critical moment in world history "The Longest War "provides the definitive account of the ongoing battle against terror.


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TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq--only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In "The Longest War "Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from t TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq--only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In "The Longest War "Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. Unlike any other book on this subject, here Bergen tells the story of this shifting war's failures and successes from the perspectives of both the United States and al-Qaeda and its allies. He goes into the homes of al-Qaeda members, rooting into the source of their devotion to terrorist causes, and spends time in the offices of the major players shaping the U.S. strategic efforts in the region. At a time when many are frustrated or fatigued with what has become an enduring multigenerational conflict, this book will provide an illuminating narrative that not only traces the arc of the fight but projects its likely future. Weaving together internal documents from al-Qaeda and the U.S. offices of counterterrorism, first-person interviews with top-level jihadists and senior Washington officials, along with his own experiences on the ground in the Middle East, Bergen balances the accounts of each side, revealing how al-Qaeda has evolved since 9/11 and the specific ways the U.S. government has responded in the ongoing fight. Bergen also uncovers the strategic errors committed on both sides--the way that al-Qaeda's bold attack on the United States on 9/11 actually undermined its objective and caused the collapse of the Taliban and the destruction of the organization's safe haven in Afghanistan, and how al-Qaeda is actually losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world. The book also shows how the United States undermined its moral position in this war with its actions at Guantanamo and coercive interrogations--including the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar, who was kidnapped by the CIA in Milan in 2003 and was tortured for four years in Egyptian prisons; his case represents the first and only time that CIA officials have been charged and convicted of the crime of kidnapping. In examining other strategic blunders the United States has committed, Bergen offers a scathing critique of the Clinton and Bush administrations' inability to accurately assess and counter the al-Qaeda threat, Bush's deeply misguided reasons for invading Iraq--including the story of how the invasion was launched based, in part, on the views of an obscure academic who put forth theories about Iraq's involvement with al-Qaeda--and the Obama administration's efforts in Afghanistan. At a critical moment in world history "The Longest War "provides the definitive account of the ongoing battle against terror.

30 review for The Longest War: A History of the War on Terror and the Battles with Al Qaeda Since 9/11

  1. 4 out of 5

    Szplug

    I first saw Peter Bergen doing an interview on CNN at some point in the months following 9-11, as he had met with and interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1997 and was thus considered an informed voice regarding this lean and ascetic man of whom most people had previously been little aware but were now eager to learn all that they could. So over a decade ago he already had the authority of an old hand when it came to Central Asia, which was the primary factor that motivated me to pluck The Longest War I first saw Peter Bergen doing an interview on CNN at some point in the months following 9-11, as he had met with and interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1997 and was thus considered an informed voice regarding this lean and ascetic man of whom most people had previously been little aware but were now eager to learn all that they could. So over a decade ago he already had the authority of an old hand when it came to Central Asia, which was the primary factor that motivated me to pluck The Longest War from the thrift shop and subsequently slot it in ahead of a legion of its sullen elder shelf-brethren. As is customary with works like these, I flipped through the back pages to bookmark the endnotes—and they were endless. Every single page notched multiple times. What's more, immediately before them Bergen had listed out all of the interviews he had conducted in the course of researching his book. Hundreds of names ordered before my eyes, at least half of them unfamiliar and a goodly number of obvious Middle-Eastern and/or Muslim character. And let's not leave off the bibliography itself, which, even were it the only sourcing the author had deigned to partake of ere he penned this tome, would have rendered Bergen one of the smarter guys in the room. The man has more than done his homework—and it tells in that even the angriest reviews one comes across within the tendentious ranks of the Amazon decriers grudgingly acknowledges that this leftist Bush-whacker might know a thing or two about the subject in question. This is a worthwhile book, the first of its kind to focus upon al-Qaeda as an enemy of the West, via its declared prime enemy, the United States, and how that conflict—initiated in the wake of the Soviet-Afghan war—mushroomed with the attack on 9-11 such that it consumed the attention of the US and its western allies for a goodly part of the new millennium; indeed, is a conflict with no obvious endpoint, and hence no end, in sight. It is already the longest war that the US has been involved in, and the first in which state actors did not provide the principal foe. As Bergen set out to recount the entirety of its history up to the date of publication—June, 2011—he inevitably winds up covering ground that has been done prior—in certain cases, in more depth and narrower analysis. Examples that I've read would include Wright's The Looming Tower , Coll's Ghost Wars , Filkin's The Forever War , and Rashid's one-two punch of Taliban and Descent into Chaos ; perhaps even the first two of Woodward's tetralogy if he didn't give me heartburn, and Ricks' pair of works on the Iraq War. Yet I still would recommend Bergen's late contribution unreservedly, as nobody has done a better job of providing clear and coherent historical reportage and analysis of such a broad timeline and global scope that yet focuses upon the jihadist group at the center of events and spreading its destructive tendrils outwards from its Taliban-nurtured home. He's a solid, if unexciting writer, his research is extensive, and he is writing here of what he's lived and breathed in his professional life over the past two decades. I've noticed that a considerable number of reviewers have complained of Bergen's tone, that he fails to maintain the dispassionate impartiality deemed requisite for such reportage. But I disagree with this. Bergen is not happy when he surveys the field and espies, time and again, incompetence, ideological blinders, and ignorance. When he measures it across the decades, when he's apportioning it out in toto, he is angered by it and it shows; and I find it refreshing that an author writing for the general public is unafraid to reveal that displeasure—often combined with a deadpan humour that punctuates with precision. Frankly, this conflict deserves it. Mismanagement and blunders that have cost tens of thousands of extra lives should invoke such a response. And I also take issue with those reviewers—many from the same camp as noted above—who dismiss Bergen's ire because he hasn't deigned to offer details on how he would have dealt with the responsibility of implementing a response to al-Qaeda and its allies. As I see it, severely critiquing the strategy, tactics, and operations of a modern war, in the course of constructing an historical narrative, carries no collateral obligation to explicate how one would have executed the whole affair differently or better. Rather, in all cases Bergen takes pains to lay out the options that were available—and often possessed of a more solidly constructed evidentiary nature—and details why the options that were pursued were errant, counter-productive, or poorly undertaken. If his tone appears harsh in the whole, it's because he has discovered a lot of faults worthy of being pointed out, however much a weary public—and that includes myself—may be apathetic towards going over that ground any further. And there's no getting around the fact that the Bush Administration comes off poorly in the fulgency of Bergen's withering gaze. The reviewer from The Economist made the admission that: To read “The Longest War” by Peter Bergen...is to be amazed afresh at how badly America has handled the affair. For although the bookending presidencies of Clinton and Obama receive their due share of critique, history records that the majority of the (central) events comprising the conflict between the United States and this organization of Islamist Fundamentalism transpired under the two terms of George W. Bush. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, in particular, are presented in an unflattering light; whereas the former president, although castigated for his responsibility in the clusterfucks of his first term, is credited for his firm resolve in carrying out the Surge that surely prevented Iraq from sliding into a sanguinary civil war. It's not that he's hostile to the Bush administration from partisan drive; it's that he's taken the taste of their performance and deemed it sour as hell. Bergen adds new angles and information to all of these well-covered events, and his relation of the origins, strategies, and hierarchy of al-Qaeda—where members swore a personal oath to bin Laden that endowed him with much authority, and meant that his death in 2011 left a tremendous vacuum in the group's leadership—and the operations of the invasion of Afghanistan are first rate. In particular, he lays out a persuasive case for the terrible error of the American administration and military in not committing the boots on the ground to the Battle of Tora Bora that would almost certainly have led to the capture of the top al-Qaeda leadership. Unfortunately, his picture of a Pentagon and CENTCOM still entwined in the Powell Doctrine's cautionary restrictions, and a faith in the Afghan troops working together with the undermanned Special Forces and CIA officers during that fight meant that bin Laden and Company (narrowly) escaped into Pakistan's Tribal Areas—a fact that would prove costly, especially when the debacle of Iraq occurred shortly afterwards. Ah, Iraq. How things went down in that riverine realm is symptomatic of the inherent problem of that Republican Administration: they were always taking their eyes off of the ball to contemplate future, and ofttimes irrelevant, dreams and goals. They took their eyes off of bin Laden at the very start to focus upon the Middle East; took them off of the hard-pressed al-Qaeda leadership in trying to spread out around Afghanistan, tracking each and every intimation of the wanted leader's presence; took them off of the restructuring of Afghanistan, and shoring up relations with an uneasy, historically-troubled Pakistan in order to bring all forces to bear upon the non-existent link between Saddam and Osama, and the former's supposed delving into WMD; they took them off of the securitization of a religiously and ethnically diverse Iraq and an orderly restructuring in order to pursue the chimera of a readily-embraced free market panacea; and they took them off of bin Laden, and his rebuilding organization, that they might try and stabilize a violent, partisan-riddled Iraq and install some semblance of security to that shattered realm. And it's the nonchalance that attended the growing public awareness of their misrepresentations and mistakes that most draws Bergen's ire. A perfect example lies in the response of Laurie Mylroie, the academic who provided the impetus for the belief in a linkage between Saddam and bin Laden, upon the presentation of yet another commission, after the fact of invasion, declaring no evidence whatsoever had been found for such: I take satisfaction in the fact that we went to war with Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein. The rest is details Yes, it's wonderful that Hussein is no longer practicing his particular brand of despotism; but Bergen—and many, many others, including myself—hold that those details were pretty fucking important. With so much of the American military, and supporting intelligence, concentrated upon Iraq from 2003 to 2011, there was far less available for Afghanistan, where the Taliban, who represented the only existing implementation of the seventh century, barbaric theology that al-Qaeda was desirous of implementing across the Muslim world, lodged themselves as a shadow government in many of the eastern and southern Aghan provinces: as one of Bergen's interviews puts it: Where the road ends, the Taliban begins. Its inflamed overreactions led to the revelations of enhanced interrogations, renditions, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib that damaged the United States deeply amongst the religious constituency they were most desirous of convincing of the primacy of human rights in a proper ordering of the world. The harm this inflicted upon the liberal democratic cause is, in the author's estimation, one that would be difficult to measure. And Bergen patiently outlines the counter-productivity of it all: leaving aside the ceding of the moral high ground, including the continued snickers engendered when the US condemns the enhanced interrogations torture of other countries even today, for a country founded upon and functioning within the rule of law, it poisoned the prosecution of captured terrorists, sundered the relations between the FBI and CIA whose original dysfunction had been instrumental in the failure to prevent 9-11, wasted countless hours in aborting the gathering of information from non-coercive interrogations—the positive results of which the author stresses throughout the book where they apply—and sharply divided the US over the conduct of the war. And that's without taking into consideration the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died, by the most conservative estimate, in the eruption of violence that appended the original invasion. It's understandable, in the face of the original assault, why the United States would abandon themselves to this; understandable, but inexcusable in the author's eyes when so many experienced voices were counselling against such aggressive approaches. The chapter on how al-Qaeda seized the initiative in a fractured, security-riven, and highly unemployed Iraq is quite gripping, with the Jordanian thug al-Zarqawi reveling in the chaos he ordered and ratcheting up the savagery quotient of jihadist barbarity with his video-taped and internet-posted executions. The abyss staring the Bush Administration in the face, and the successful answer they concocted in the Surge, is informatively related. The author's analysis reminded me of how central al-Qaeda was, in its Iraqi incarnation, to the upheaval inflicted and spread across that country in the debacle of a rebuilding haphazardly attempted by an administration apparently completely unprepared for what was appropriate in the face of a rapid military victory. While al-Zarqawi's murderous rampage against fellow Muslims disturbed the leadership sheltering within Pakistan, they yet released several video- and audio-tapes glorying in what they saw as their American arch-foe being squeezed to the point of asphyxiation. So, yes, Bergen covers all of that familiar ground. Yet what I most appreciated was the extensive information imparted about the nature of the jihadist original and its outgrowths, the (surprising) amount of attacks planned, carried out across the globe, and the relentless caginess of al-Qaeda in concocting new and shocking ways of waging terror upon the West—and, perhaps most of all, the success of American and allied intelligence agencies in uncovering and foiling the vast majority of them ere they could be enacted. Working in unison, the fourteen agencies that comprise the US intelligence empire present a formidable foe for potential terrorists. He tries to get at the appeal of jihad for disaffected young Muslims in poor, jobless countries as well as for educated, employed, and familial Muslims living in the West who willingly volunteer to be suicidal operatives. The sheer number of suicides is startling. Perhaps the worst of all of these nihilistic theological warlord's crimes is the wastage of young life demanded in order to assault a cultural structure they helplessly abhor. And that helplessness lies in the utter lack of any coherent plan for establishing the new caliphate that carries any appeal for more than a minute portion of the Muslim populace. In the same vein as Paul Berman, Bergen traces the jihadist's obligation to Sayyid Qutb's Islamic theosophy which forms the basis for their own interpretations—and which is nihilistic, consumed by a death wish, containing no measure of structured thought about how societal reordering might be accomplished save through bloodshed and the dreamed uprising it will incite. Bergen believes—rather against the evidence, in my view, but yet persuasively argued—that al-Qaeda is facing a grim future: at the beginning of the book he outlines why he deems bin Laden to have been a poor strategic thinker, with the worst error being the tactical victory of the 9-11 assault, of which the American and global response the author—against the grain of most thinkers I've read on this subject—insists bin Laden had completely unanticipated and underestimated. It has led to the ruin of an al-Qaeda that had felt itself poised, in the late nineties, to achieve remarkable things: relentless drone attacks have decimated their organization (and many innocent Pakistanis, though Bergen hardly touches upon this repugnant aspect of pilotless drone technology), their two glorious successes—the Taliban rule of Afghanistan and the Sunni uprising that rocked Iraq from 2004-2007—have been subdued and extinguished, respectively. The recent Arab Spring uprisings, spreading like wildfire across a western Muslim world roiling with hostile energy to the stagnant legacy of despotic rule, although in a vein with al-Qaeda's cherished dreams, arose independent from both the instigation and endpoint that the jihadist's falsely believed they were inspiring with their endemic violence. They have been shut out of the affair's unfolding entirely, which Bergen claims as further proof of their increasing irrelevancy to Muslims tired of the status quo but rejecting the Taliban-style solutions of bin Laden's clique. And while the rejigged Taliban still plagues Afghanistan, a shadowy counter-government apparently prepared to outwait the Americans, the author provides reason to believe that a segment of the Taliban has become tired of their al-Qaeda relationship, and seek accommodation with the Karzai government and his US protectors. It is in this way that Bergen ends everything on an optimistic note quite at odds with the general tone of all that has come before. Hey, the man knows his stuff. I'm not gainsaying him—and all of my hopes lie in the direction that he reveals with a faint cast of promise.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    In a recent interview on The Daily Show, Peter Bergen said, “Al Qaeda is going to fade to irrelevance over time.” (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon...) One of the main points of The Longest War is his argument in support of that statement. Bergen has been on the scene for quite a while. In addition to his prior books, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader, he produced the first television interview w In a recent interview on The Daily Show, Peter Bergen said, “Al Qaeda is going to fade to irrelevance over time.” (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon...) One of the main points of The Longest War is his argument in support of that statement. Bergen has been on the scene for quite a while. In addition to his prior books, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader, he produced the first television interview with bin Laden in 1997. He has been a foreign correspondent extraordinaire, earning recognition from the Foreign Press Club, and has reported for a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, The Guardian, and other papers in Europe and the Middle East. He has been a TV presence as well, reporting for CNN, National Geographic and Discovery. He also teaches had holds positions at think tanks. Either the guy’s services are in incredible demand, or he can’t hold a job. He takes us from the beginnings of Al Qaeda to the present (2011) showing how we and they got from there to here. Bergen’s analysis is enlightening, revealing his very well-informed take on the primary international terrorist NGO on the planet. The major reveal here is that OBL’s decision to go ahead with 9/11 was not universally admired within his community. There was considerable concern among his minions that his bold attack would bring a rain of fire down on them. Osama believed the US would respond with air attacks only. He was wrong and they were right, and that error did not win him many friends in the movement. OBL may continue to be an inspirational figure for many in the fundamentalist Islamic world, but he has not accomplished his goals. The cost to the USA has been considerable, but we are still standing. And our own forces of darkness have seized on his actions as if they were a gift from Allah, and used terrorist actions as camouflage to cover their own economic and political agenda. …bin Laden’s grand project—to transform the Muslim world into a militant Islamist caliphate—has been, by any measure, a resounding failure. In large part, that’s because bin Laden’s strategy for arriving at this Promised Land is a fantasy. Al-Qaeda’s leader prides himself on being a big-think strategist, but for all his brains, leadership skills, and charisma, he fastened on an overall strategy that is self-defeating. Bin Laden’s main goal is to bring about regime change in the Middle East and to replace the governments in Cairo and Riyadh with Taliban-style rule. He believes that the way to accomplish this is to attack the “far enemy”(the United States), then watch as the supposedly impious, U.S.-backed Muslim regimes he calls the “near enemy” collapse. …Not only did bin Laden not achieve his war aims, but the attacks on Washington and New York resulted in the direct opposite of his stated goal of forcing a U.S withdrawal from Muslim lands.Bergen has turned up some information about bin Laden that shows him to be perhaps less-than-deserving of the personal admiration that his followers lavish on him. He had indeed passed up a life of luxury to live among his jihadi followers, but when push came to incoming, his priorities became a bit less equitable. Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, a Yemeni doctor who was treating the al-Qaeda wounded…said he personally told bin Laden that, if they did not leave Tora Bora soon, “no one would stay alive” under the American bombardment. But the al-Qaeda leader seemed mainly preoccupied with his own escape. “He did not prepare himself for Tora Bora,” Batarfi said, “and to be frank he didn’t seem to care about anyone but himself.”For those who have read a lot on al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Bush rush to wars of choice, particularly in Iraq, there is much here that is familiar. But there are enough new bits in Bergen’s book to make this a worthwhile read. He offers a very informative chapter on Zarqawi and the significance of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. We learn of Zarqawi’s personal background, and learn of some of the innovations he introduced into his particular line of work, such humanitarian advances as using the women and the mentally unstable for suicide missions, using sequential vehicles for bombing missions, using the web to broadcast executions. He takes on the US political right and their media manipulation: what was especially cynical about the charge that the media was ignoring the “good news” was that the Iraq War was the most dangerous war the press had covered since World War II. Some 130 journalists were killed in the Iraqi conflict, more than double the number that had died in Vietnam. Indicative of how dangerous it became were the physical changes that took place over the course of the was at the Baghdad bureau of the New York Times, which gradually morphed into a fortress festooned with searchlights and machine gun emplacements on the roof, surrounded by concrete blast walls, a foot thick and twenty feet high, protected by forty armed guards.Bergen offers an analysis of the significance of the sort of leaderless terrorism that has security officials so concerned, and looks into the likelihood of an actual WMD threat from Al Qaeda. He offers insightful reportage about the nature of the Taliban and reports on why many clerics and Muslim leaders rejected Al-Qaeda When examining the history of Al-Qaeda, the USA’s involvement in Afghanistan and the state of terrorism in the world today, there are few people as knowledgeable as Peter Bergen, who backs up his analysis with almost two decades of experience looking into the organization, much of that investigation having been very much up close and personal. The Longest War should be mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in national security issues or in understanding al Qaeda.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Bohnslav

    There's not much new gound being broken in this book, to my knowledge--it's an extremely well-researched recap of the War on Terror. Peter Bergen is very knowledgeable on this subject, and at one point even interviewed bin Laden himself. Some of the low reviews are likely fans of President Bush--Bergen pulls no punches on the effects of Bush's and his advisers' preoccupation with Iraq. He describes how the focus on Iraq was part of the reason we let the senior Al'Qaeda leadership escape from Tor There's not much new gound being broken in this book, to my knowledge--it's an extremely well-researched recap of the War on Terror. Peter Bergen is very knowledgeable on this subject, and at one point even interviewed bin Laden himself. Some of the low reviews are likely fans of President Bush--Bergen pulls no punches on the effects of Bush's and his advisers' preoccupation with Iraq. He describes how the focus on Iraq was part of the reason we let the senior Al'Qaeda leadership escape from Tora Bora; how Bush repeatedly sought evidence linking Saddam Hussein and Al'Qaeda, which didn't exist; and how the invasion of Iraq reinvigorated a jihadist movement which was nearly destroyed by 9/11 and the destruction of the Taliban. The book ended on a slightly hopeful note. After bin Laden was killed, Al Qaeda was leaderless--al-Zawahiri doesn't command the respect that bin Laden did. The Arab Spring was spreading throughout the Arab world, was not primarily religious, and included women; all things Al'Qaeda hates. Lastly, after Obama's troop surge to Afghanistan, the Taliban were receding. The end of the book is: "In 2011 the Longest War, finally, began to wind down." Unfortunately, Bergen's hope was misplaced. The Arab Spring revolution in Syria turned into a violent civil war, drawing foreign jihadis from all over just as Afghanistan did in the 80s. Violence is spilling over the border into Araq--Al'Qaeda just reconquered the city of Fallujah, the site of two horrific battles in the Iraq War. The government of Afghanistan has proven itself incapable of handling security on its own--the day after Christmas 2013, the Taliban attacked the American embassy there. Libya has devolved into armed conflict between militias, with jihadists thrown into the mix as well. The Drone War continues unabated in Pakistan and Yemen. Al'Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to wage war in Yemen, for example killing or wounding 200 people in the Defense Ministry's headquarters in December 2013. In short, the book was an excellent way to learn about the conduct of the War on Terror across the world, the Iraq War, and the Afghan War, up until 2011. What I'd really like is a sequel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ed Wagemann

    Living in the Age of Information means that The American history books chronicling the first decade of the 21st century are already being written—and they are not looking too kindly upon The Bush Administrations and their War On Terror. Peter Bergen’s account of the War On Terror depicts George W. Bush as an incompetent baffoon surrounded by a bunch of callous agenda-driven Dr. Evil types (Cheney, Rumsfeldt, Wolfowitz, etc) who are completely clueless in regard to what effect their actions and p Living in the Age of Information means that The American history books chronicling the first decade of the 21st century are already being written—and they are not looking too kindly upon The Bush Administrations and their War On Terror. Peter Bergen’s account of the War On Terror depicts George W. Bush as an incompetent baffoon surrounded by a bunch of callous agenda-driven Dr. Evil types (Cheney, Rumsfeldt, Wolfowitz, etc) who are completely clueless in regard to what effect their actions and policies are going to have on the Middle East, on the USA and on the world in general. Bergen reels off example on top of example of the Bush Administrations ineptitude, including: ~The Bush Administrations unwillingness to take al-Qaeda as a serious threat prior to 9/11 ~Their falsified reasons for invading Iraq, ~Their failure to capture or kill Bin Laden at the battle of Tora Bora in December of 2001 ~The mismanagement by the Coalition Provisional Authority (the transitional Government that the Bush Administration inserted to run Iraq) ~Their use of rendition and enhanced interigation methods that lead to parade of fiascos at Abu Ghraib and Guantonamo Bay. ~Their mistake of diverting troops from Afghanistan to Iraq and thereby allowing the Taliban to resurface The Bush Administrations Unwillingness to see al-Qaeda as a serious threat On page 42 of his history book Bergen writes: “Five days into the new Bush administration, on January 25, 2001, Richard Clarke wrote National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that a cabinet-level review of al-Qaeda was “urgently”needed...With the exception of Clark and CIA director George Tenet and the later’s deputy John McLaughlin, senior Bush administration officials consistently underestimated the urgent threat posed by bin Laden and al-Qaeda...A Nexis database search of all newspapers, magazines and TV transcripts of Rice’s statements and writings from the mid-1990s until 9/11 shows that she never mentioned al-Qaeda publicly...”Nexus search for Wolfowitz, Cheney and Bush give the same results despite the fact, as Bergen writes on page 43: “The fact that the Bush administration was strangely somnambulant about the al-Qaeda threat is puzzling. It was not as if they did not have enough information or warning about the threat posed by al-Qaeda; quite the opposite...” The problem Bergen explains is that the seniors in the Bush Administration had an agenda and mentality that was a holdover from the Cold War era. Vulcan like Cheney and Wolfowitz were focused on missile defense while Rumsfeldt was knee deep in his efforts at “transformation”of the military into a lighter force. This lack of attention resulted in numerous blunders (such as Attorney General John Ashcroft turning down FBI requests for some 400 additional counterterrorism personnel months prior to 9/11) that One such blunder was the Bush Administration non-response to al-Qaeda’s bombing of the USS Cole which took place less than a month before Bush was elected into office. Not only did the Bush administration not respond to this attack but they then continually dismissed CIA reports of another planned al-Qaeda attack. In the spring and summer leading up to 9/11 the CIA was “blinking red”with repeated warnings to Rice of the high volume of alarming intel about an impending al-Qaeda attack. These reports, including the April 20th report titled “Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations”, the June 23rd report titled “Bin Laden Attacks May Be Imminent”, the July 2nd report “Planning for Bin Laden Attacks Continues, Despite Delays”. Finally on July 10th after getting no acknowledgement from the administration, George Tenet demanded a meeting with Rice in which he tells her “There will be a significant terrorist attack in the next weeks or months...Multiple and simultaneous attacks...”Counterterrorism advisor Richard Clark echoed Tenets warnings to Rice. Still nothing. Now, as though banging their head against a wall, The CIA reports continued: the August 3rd report titled “Threat of Impending al-Qaeda Attack to Continue Indefinitely”and the famous August 6th report titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S.”given to George Bush as he was on vacation, clearing brush, in Crawford, Texas. The Bush Administration’s falsified reasons for invading Iraq On page 52 of his book, Bergen details the Bush Administrations reactions on the day of the 9/11 attacks. During that afternoon Douglass Feith—the number three man at the Pentagon (behind Rumsfeldt and Wolfowitz) put forth the idea that the 9/11 attacks was reason to overthrow Saddam to a group of senior Pentagon officials. General John Abizaid (who went on to assume responsibility for U.S. military operations in Iraq) interupted Feith, saying “Not Iraq. There is not a connection with al-Qaeda”. Meanwhile Rumsfeldt was already considering hitting Saddam in retaliation in notes to his top deputies. Then just one day after the attacks, Bush pulled Richard Clarke aside and asked him to find evidence that Saddam was involved somehow. Clarke looked at him incredulously and said “But al-Qaeda did this”as though this should dismiss the notion that Saddam was involved, seeing how Saddam and bin Laden were enemies and in no way connected with each other. “I know, I know”Bush pushed, “But see if Saddam was involved.” As it turns out Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz (who told the president that there was a 50 percent chance that Saddam was involved in 9/11) had Bush’s ear. None the less, Clarke went ahead and did what he was told, did his investigation then sent the results to Condolezza Rice in a report that included that there was no case at all for the notion that Iraq was involved in the attack. This wasn’t good enough for the Bush Administration. They sent the CIA to work trying to find something, but by June of 2002 they issued their classified assessment that concluded there was no evidence of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda. In August of 2002, Cheney’s office called upon the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda, Daniel Coleman, to “review everything”they had in order to find a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Coleman who had already gone over all his material twice, once again came up empty. Still the Bush Administration pushed harder, which led to a review of over 80,000 documents of material by the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, looking for al-Qaeda links to Iraq. His review also came to the absolute conclusion that there were no connections. Even after the fall of the Taliban produced thousands of more documents, still no links were found. The definitive report on the issue came in January of 2003, which concluded there was no Iraqi “authority, direction and control” over al-Qaeda. Despite this, during this entire time, the Bush Administration was making statement’s to the media of just the opposite. Despite this, Dick Cheney and company realized the timing was right for a plan that they had had in the works for many years: Taking over Iraq. The 9/11 attacks had drummed up American patriotism and prompted Bush into an all-time high in popularity and they were certain that the kind of locomotion that 9/11 generated would never be repeated. So the Bush Administration went to work at orchestrated reasons for going to war with Iraq. They dug up misinformation about al-Qaeda-Iraq ties, they warned the public of Saddam’s WMD, the issued misinformation—cloaking their sources in the guise of national security—and fed it to the public as if it were fact. The Bush Administration Letting bin Laden escape: On page 81 Bergen writes: “Given that only three months earlier some three thousand Americans had died on 9/11 and that al-Qaeda’s leaders and hundreds of the group’s foot soldiers were now all concentrated at Tora Bora, the Pentagon’s reluctance to commit more American boots on the ground is a decision that historians are not likely to judge kindly.”Dalton Fury, the Delta commander who was in Tora Bora in December of 2001, says (page 76 ) “...to abort that effort to kill or capture bin Laden when we might have been within 2,000 meters from him, about 2,000 yards, still bothers me.” Bergen points out that the Bush Administration screwed this up because they were totally concentrated on Iraq and their effort to sway the American people that Saddam was involved in 9/11. Afterall if bin Laden had been captured at that time, then the American public would have felt that the attacks on 9/11 had been redeemed and therefore they would not support going to war with Iraq. The mismanagement by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) On page 155 Bergen writes, “The CPA would prove to be one of the more inept imperial administrations in modern history...” It took just weeks for the most effective military in world history to overthrow Saddam. At first the citizens of Iraq were celebrating their freedom, toppling statues of Saddam and looking forward to a bright future. But instead of handing over Iraq to its people, the Bush Administration decided to enforce an American occupation. The CPA was inserted and they immediately mandated the removal of more than 30,000 Baath party members, the people who ran the Iraq government, its universities, hospitals, etc. Then they dissolved the entire Iraq military of 400,000 men. Military Intelligence and Army soldiers who knew the whereabouts of massive weapon caches stored throughout Iraq that totaled an estimated one million tons. From that point it didn’t take long for the widespread looting and pillaging that was going on in Saddam’s absence to turn into a full blown insurgency. The U.S. practice of searching Iraq citizen’s homes (many without a male head of household) with intimidation, doing body searched of Iraqi women, the news of innocent Iraq civilians being killed, the use of sniffing dogs and the rumored abuses inside CPA prisons of Iraq citizens who taken from their homes oftentimes for no better reason than the fact that they didn’t speak English then fueled the insurgency to the point that it lead to a quagmire for the U.S. The Bush Administration’s use of rendition and enhanced interigation methods that lead to parade of fiascos at Abu Ghraib and Guantonamo Bay I’ve sometimes wondered who is a more despicable human being: Saddam Huessein, Milosovic, Kim Jung Il, Kadafi or our own Dick Cheney. A revealing insight into Dick Cheney’s (for a lack of a better word) fucked-up way of thinking is seen in the months following the 9/11 attacks when he pushed for the government to immunize the entire U.S. population against a smallpox attack. Without any proof what so ever, Cheney was convinced that Iraq possessed smallpox and somehow had the capability to deliver it to the U.S. Despite there being any evidence of this and despite medical studies that showed that such a mass immunization would kill at least 300 Americans, Cheney pushed hard for this. Apparently he thought the death of 300 innocent Americans was no big deal. However President Bush’s political advisers warned Bush against this: it would be hugely unpopular and cost him votes. Plus, obviously, the plan was based on irrational fears and a total lack of factual evidence. The fact that Cheney was so eager to waste so many American lives based on the flimsiest of excuses is incredibly telling of the kind of dipshit that he is and it echoes a lifetime of callous, self-serving decisions that date all the way back to him getting married and having a child in the mid 1960s in order to avoid the draft and being sent to Vietnam. Similarly Cheney was behind the system of enhanced interigation that the U.S. put in place post 9/11: a systematic abandonment of the Geneva Conventions that not only put every U.S. soldier in danger of being tortured in retaliation, but also totally undercut the moral high ground in the war on terror that the U.S. previously held. After all how could the U.S. argue that they are getting rid of Saddam because he tortured his people and committed crimes against humanity when the U.S. was doing the exact same thing? But the Bush Administration had looked silly caught with their pants down on 9/11 and now had to over compensate. They needed to get information, by any means possible. This included unethical and illegal means. Aware that what they were doing was unethical and illegal, they went to great lengths to try to protect themselves by: 1) practicing rendition (which is illegal according to the United Nations). They outsourced dozens of prisoners to countries like Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen that practiced torture. 2) They set up a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay where they argued the Geneva Conventions did not apply. And 3) they covered their policy of systemic torture with legal mumbo jumbo, smoke and mirrors and displacement of accountability (in fact CIA agents began taking out liability insurance for fear that they would later have to hire lawyers to represent them before Congress for the unethical actions they were being ordered to partake in—the FBI meanwhile refused to get involved in enhanced interigations completely). Overall according to the director of national intelligence during the Bush Adminstration, Admiral Dennis Blair, the human rights abuses “hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefits they gave us and they are not essential to our national security” *** 90 to 98% of all humans are fairly unremarkable. 1 to 5% are incredibly remarkable in the best sense of the word and another 1 to 5% are incredibly remarkable in the very worse sense of the word. This latter group I call the Rat Bastards. If one of these Rat Bastards is your neighbor or your co-worker or a family member, then there are a number of ways to deal with them. Ignore them, call the police on them, train your dog to poop in their yard. But if one of these Rat Bastards is a world leader (Hitler, Saddam, Milosovic, Kim Il Jung, Moosoulini, Kadhafi, Dick Cheney) then there is really almost nothing you or I can do about it. I know few if any people who would argue that getting rid of Saddam was NOT the right thing to do. The world is a better place without Saddam as the leader of Iraq. Each situation in regard to trying to get rid of a Rat Bastard is unique and there are no cookie cutter solutions. What works in Egypt most likely won’t work in North Korea. But the actions taken to remove Saddam from office were so wrong that they basically serve as a blue print as how NOT to remove a tyrant. I think it is important none the less to study these mistakes and learn from them, for there are plenty of Rat Bastards in the world today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was a slow, grueling read for me, not because it was a terrible book—quite the contrary—but simply because it was so difficult to read instance after instance of gross incompetence and willful disregard of the facts made by the Bush administration, I found myself frequently disgusted and outraged. It’s taken me nearly three months to get through this, as I’ve only been able to read 4-12 pages at a time before I found myself muttering or cursing aloud and resisting the urge to chuck the damn This was a slow, grueling read for me, not because it was a terrible book—quite the contrary—but simply because it was so difficult to read instance after instance of gross incompetence and willful disregard of the facts made by the Bush administration, I found myself frequently disgusted and outraged. It’s taken me nearly three months to get through this, as I’ve only been able to read 4-12 pages at a time before I found myself muttering or cursing aloud and resisting the urge to chuck the damn book across the room. Instead, I took to putting it down, and walking it off, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. A few times, I even read other books in between, which I’ve never done before. I was so angry that, at one point, I even put it down four paragraphs from the end of a chapter. On a facing page. And went to try a recipe for How to Clean a Glass-Top Stove with Only 3 Ingredients You Probably Already Have in Your Kitchen! that I found on Pinterest. And I did indeed have all three ingredients, though one was under my bathroom sink. I even had the optional fourth ingredient. At ten o’clock at night. Who does that?!? First off, no reader I’ve ever known willingly stops reading a book when they’re in the middle of a chapter, let alone when the end is literally within sight. And second, anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a huge fan of cleaning. So, if I’m putting in some serious elbow grease, near bedtime, to scrub off the build-up on my stovetop that I’ve wanted to do since I moved in (almost seven years ago), rather than finish a chapter of a book, you know that’s saying something. Needless to say, over a 90-minute period, I worked out some of my anger, felt the burn in my triceps, and my stovetop now sparkles like new. Enough ranting, on to the review. The book is broken into two sections: Hubris and Nemesis?. In the first section, the author delves deep into the information the Bush administration received, detailing who they got it from, when they got it, and what they did with it. Spoiler alert: prior to 9/11, they ignored it. Post-9/11, they were scrambling to cover their asses. Then they tried to twist that information into justification for invading Iraq when we had no legitimate reason to do so. And while they had some of the sharpest minds gathering intel at the various agencies at their disposal—both before and after 9/11—the administration persisted on Saddam’s involvement. For instance, on June 16, 2004, a 9/11 bipartisan report was released, concluding that Saddam Hussein did not play a role in the attacks of 9/11, and that there was “no operational relationship between Saddam and al-Qaeda”, yet the very next day, Vice President Dick Cheney insisted during an interview with CNBC that “we have never been able to confirm that…we just don’t know.” In fact, they had confirmed it. Numerous times. In countless reports from various agencies and experts; from hundreds of thousands of documents unearthed in Iraq totaling millions of pages, it was repeatedly determined that there was no connection between the two, and therefore, no imminent reason to invade Iraq. But of course, none of that was disclosed to the public at the time. And we trusted our government, who had access to highly classified documents, to make the right decisions in order to keep its citizens safe. Otherwise, we would not have gone along with the invasion of Iraq, and we would certainly have insisted the focus should be on bin Laden, who was in Afghanistan. Putting aside the failures leading up to 9/11, how many military lives could have been spared, and how quickly could we have dismantled both al-Qaeda and the Taliban if that had been the priority from the start? To that end, the author tells how our military could have captured or killed bin Laden just three months after 9/11, had Bush not been so fixated on going to war with Iraq. Instead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told General Tommy Franks that, “President Bush wants us to look for options in Iraq”, so while bin Laden, high- and mid-level al-Qaeda leaders, and hundreds of foot soldiers were concentrated in Afghanistan’s mountainous range of Tora Bora, our military count at the base of the range was approximately 70 troops. 70! Yet, there were around 5,000 more stationed within hours of the battle, and had even 10-20% of those troops been called in to help seal off their escape route, bin Laden and Company would not have been able to safely retreat over the mountains into Pakistan, and we would have seriously crippled (if not destroyed) their organization. Ugh, I could go on and on, but that would only cause my blood pressure to go up and up. So...the second section discusses how our failure to make bin Laden and al-Qaeda a priority led to their spreading influence—and that of the Taliban— throughout the region. After the Obama administration took over the reins, a date was set to withdraw troops from Iraq, while they also focused on stabilizing Afghanistan so that we could begin withdrawing troops from there as well. And while we knew bin Laden had escaped into Pakistan, it could not be diplomatically confirmed that the Pakistani government knowingly harbored bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Mullah Omar, nor could we aggressively pursue an investigation or take action against our would-be ally. Surely there is no doubt of their collusion with the Taliban, nor their knowledge of the existence of headquarters for both the Taliban and al-Qaeda in their country, but because they possess nuclear weapons and a large army, Obama also had to mindfully strive to maintain our delicate relationship with Pakistan. To be sure, Bush’s handling of the events leading up to and following 9/11 can only be categorized as a colossal clusterfuck, but it’s difficult to objectively ascertain Obama’s success or failure in the matter, as it appears to me that he was merely strapped with cleaning up a mess made much larger by Bush’s preoccupation with Iraq and delay in confronting Afghanistan, not to mention, this book was published in 2011. So I will reserve further comment on the Obama administration’s management of events until I read more about the emergence of ISIS to determine what role, if any, the US played in their development during his second term (I need a serious breather from this subject matter, but I’ve already got Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick sitting on my bookcase, and I also want to read The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State by Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 that I read last year). It’s worth noting that this author is an award-winning journalist, and a national security analyst who has given hours of testimony to Congress regarding terrorism in order to better understand our enemies in the Middle East. His expertise on the subject is, without question, extensive, and has resulted in several bestselling books, so in addition to this book being thoroughly researched and well-written, the author also includes maps, an impressive list of interviewees, an index, and an exhaustive bibliography. The author also produced the first US televised interview with bin Laden back in 1997 that subsequently aired on CNN, where he first declared war against the US to an American audience, so concluding the book with his death is a fitting end. This is a must-read for all, but be prepared to be frequently pissed off.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Thoughts on reading The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda, by Peter Bergen The Longest War is a slow read, because I find myself glowering, grumbling, and occasionally shrieking as I come across passage after passage that reveals the utter incompetence and willful ignorance of George W. Bush and his cronies in the run-up to 9/11, the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their continuing failure to understand the most basic realities about Al-Qaeda as the Thoughts on reading The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda, by Peter Bergen The Longest War is a slow read, because I find myself glowering, grumbling, and occasionally shrieking as I come across passage after passage that reveals the utter incompetence and willful ignorance of George W. Bush and his cronies in the run-up to 9/11, the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their continuing failure to understand the most basic realities about Al-Qaeda as the years went by. Now, don't get me wrong. I've read a fair amount about the history of Al-Qaeda, U.S. counter-terrorist efforts over the past two decades, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as viewed both from Washington, DC, and from the field. I don't claim any expertise, but I do think it's fair to say that I know considerably more than the average guy on the street. And yet I find Peter Bergen's history of the now two-decade war between Al-Qaeda and the United States to consistently unsettling and occasionally shocking. For example, I knew that some of the captives at Guantanamo were very likely innocent of terrorism. What I didn't know, however, was that "only some 5 percent of all the detainees held [there] were ever apprehended by U.S. forces to begin with. Why is that? Almost all of the prisoners there were turned over to American forces by foreigners, some with an ax to grind, or more often for a hefty bounty or reward. After U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, a reward of five thousand dollars or more was given to Pakistanis and Afghans for each detainee turned over. While rewards can be a valuable law enforcement tool, they have never in the past absolved law enforcement authorities of corroborating the information that motivated the reward. But the U.S. military accepted the uncorroborated allegations." I wonder if this information was what Donald Rumsfeld meant when he spoke of "what we didn't know we didn't know." But I doubt it. From the stubborn refusal of Condoleeza Rice even to discuss the threat from Al-Qaeda until just days before 9/11 . . . to Dick Cheney and George Bush's insistence that the "intelligence" they received from that proven liar and crook, Ahmad Chalabi, was more credible than reports from their own CIA . . . to the spectacularly obtuse refusal of the Bush White House and the Pentagon alike to send even four or five hundred more troops to close off Osama bin Laden's escape routes from Tora Bora . . . the whole horrific misadventure was without any question the most dramatic example of incompetence in the conduct of international affairs in all of American history. And to think that our federal government is now increasingly falling under the sway of people whose only criticism of George W. Bush appears to be that he spent too much money! Grrrrrrrr. NOW HERE'S MY REAL REVIEW, WRITTEN ONE WEEK LATER: If you’ve been an avid follower of the news about the “war on terror” and the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s likely to be relatively little in this book that you don’t already know. What sets it apart, though, is that it presents the story of these closely related subjects from both sides, Al Qaeda’s as well as the U.S.’s, and it brings to the table the perspective of a genuinely knowledgeable journalist and not a participant with obvious self-interest at stake. The Longest War is an able, one-volume history of the fateful two-decade interaction between Osama bin Laden and his followers with three successive U.S. Administrations. The author, Peter Bergen, is an award-winning journalist who in 1997 produced for CNN the first interview with Osama bin Laden and has been following the story ever since. Perhaps more than any other Westerner, Bergen is the best-qualified person to have written this book at this time. What emerges from a careful reading of The Longest War is that the U.S. government under both Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. did a truly execrable job of confronting the challenge raised by Al Qaeda. The Bush Administration’s performance was especially shameful: grounded in a stubborn and irrelevant ideology and managed in an abysmally ineffective manner, the Administration seems to have made a tragically wrong decision at virtually every critical juncture during its eight years in office. First, soon after taking office, by ignoring repeated and passionate pleas from knowledgeable insiders to review the evidence that Al Qaeda was planning a major attack on the U.S. Then, responding to 9/11, deciding that an air war in Afghanistan could destroy Al Qaeda and capture Bin Laden, and quickly ending the effort when it inevitably failed. Later, launching a preemptive war on the grounds that the greatest problem was Iraq and not Al Qaeda . . . ensuring years of civil war there by disbanding the Iraqi Army, pursuing mindless de-Baathification, and imposing on U.S. forces in the field a strategy that ensured they could never keep the peace . . . and pursuing a counterproductive alliance with Pakistan’s Musharraf regime that only strengthened the hand of the extremists and ensured them safe harbor across the border from Afghanistan. The jury is still out on the Obama Administration’s actions to date.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kent

    For a comprehensive and up-to-date (as of January 2011) review of the past couple of decades that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been terrorizing the world, you can't go wrong with Peter Bergen's The Longest War. The author produced bin Laden's first television interview for CNN back in 1997, in which bin Laden declared war on the United States, so I guess we had been warned. Mr. Bergen's journalistic skills are evident as he pieces the story together in such a way as to reveal the truth abou For a comprehensive and up-to-date (as of January 2011) review of the past couple of decades that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been terrorizing the world, you can't go wrong with Peter Bergen's The Longest War. The author produced bin Laden's first television interview for CNN back in 1997, in which bin Laden declared war on the United States, so I guess we had been warned. Mr. Bergen's journalistic skills are evident as he pieces the story together in such a way as to reveal the truth about each situation and each major decision from multiple perspectives and then brings that all together in his summary statements concluding each chapter of this historical review of the war on terror. Occasionally, a liberal bias is evident, but Bergen generally suppresses the urge. Besides all of that, Bergen manages to quote my new son-in-law in one chapter about Iraq, so I had to read his book! The weakness of the Bush-Cheney decision to invade Iraq and that decision's impact on the failure of the Tora Bora campaign to locate OBL was revealing. Bergen does give GWB credit for the singular decision to pursue the surge strategy in Iraq, but then asks the question what did it actually succeed at accomplishing in terms of the war on terror. Bergen giveth and taketh away! The author's assumptions about the whereabouts of OBL in the last chapter turn out to have been spot-on and it was interesting to read them with knowledge of recent events that have occurred since publication. I recommend the book, but fans of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld beware! You won't like the way your boys come through this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Peter Bergen indicts the Bush Administration for their decisions in launching the Global War On Terror. This book has convinced me that the American people were sold a bill of goods - so many of the "reasons" and "justifications' for attacking Iraq have been proven to be utterly false (WMD, Terrorism). What was really disappointing to learn was that our senior leaders KNEW that their justifications were not true and yet they persisted in the was in Iraq and Afghanistan! What a waste of blood. Anot Peter Bergen indicts the Bush Administration for their decisions in launching the Global War On Terror. This book has convinced me that the American people were sold a bill of goods - so many of the "reasons" and "justifications' for attacking Iraq have been proven to be utterly false (WMD, Terrorism). What was really disappointing to learn was that our senior leaders KNEW that their justifications were not true and yet they persisted in the was in Iraq and Afghanistan! What a waste of blood. Another interesting outcome of Mr. Bergen's work is the conclusions he draws, both from his analysis of the details of these conflicts but also upon his experience: there are 4 strategic weaknesses of al_Qaeda: 1. victims of their attacks are often Muslim civilians - which the Koran specifically forbids. 2. no positive vision of the future - doh! I want to live in abject poverty in the 14th century 3. no ability to compromise - if you can't move from your Utopian vision, you can't succeed in the real world. 4. increasing enemies - the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Solid, well researched and written book. A bit dense....

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    The Longest War is a very good overview of the "War on Terror" until 2010. It's well sourced and researched, and the author's prose makes the book an easy read. However, my expectations for the book were higher than my impression after reading it. Based on Bergen's amazing career and background, I was expecting unique and thoughtful insights. While there are strong chapters (specifically on AQ WMD), generally the story presented comes in the form of highlights on major aspects of the past decade The Longest War is a very good overview of the "War on Terror" until 2010. It's well sourced and researched, and the author's prose makes the book an easy read. However, my expectations for the book were higher than my impression after reading it. Based on Bergen's amazing career and background, I was expecting unique and thoughtful insights. While there are strong chapters (specifically on AQ WMD), generally the story presented comes in the form of highlights on major aspects of the past decade. I often struggled to find the value-added from this book. For example, the chapters dealing with the shift to the Iraq War are good, but delve into back room politics that are covered in more depth by others, such as Bob Woodward or Tom Ricks. The same goes for the Taliban resurgence/resilience where Antonio Giustozzi or Ahmed Rashid have significant contributions. My take away from this book - it's a wonderful overview for those not well versed in the topics, but if you are looking to build on a knowledge base, you may be left wanting more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Budd

    The edition I read was published just before the discovery and eradication of Bin Laden in 2011. However the author, in the final chapters, speculates entirely accurately on where he would be found. He predicts that it would be in a secure compound in Northern Pakistan, that he would have been there some time and have family around him. Amongst other things he also rightly predicts that he would have little or no digital equipment on the site and that if a lead to his whereabouts would be discov The edition I read was published just before the discovery and eradication of Bin Laden in 2011. However the author, in the final chapters, speculates entirely accurately on where he would be found. He predicts that it would be in a secure compound in Northern Pakistan, that he would have been there some time and have family around him. Amongst other things he also rightly predicts that he would have little or no digital equipment on the site and that if a lead to his whereabouts would be discovered then it would likely be via a "mule" or identified messenger - and this is what did happen. The book is a really worthy and solid read. The author writes with authority and as noted above, knows his subject in great depth. You may or may not agree with his political views but he makes a strong case for Bush being a total pillock and Blair the lickspittle running dog that us Brit's overwhelmingly now see him as.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    Published at a time when Bin Laden was yet alive while also questions abounded as to not 0nly where he lived, but if he lived, this has a retrospective feel. It is a look back at the first key decade plus of the Global War on Terror. The focus is on missteps of the bush years from Tora Bora to ill-considered torture. This brings up to Obama's tenure and stepped up drone attacks, less comity with Pakistan, and the albatross of Guantanamo. Two things jumped out at me: (1) Bush briefers knowing McC Published at a time when Bin Laden was yet alive while also questions abounded as to not 0nly where he lived, but if he lived, this has a retrospective feel. It is a look back at the first key decade plus of the Global War on Terror. The focus is on missteps of the bush years from Tora Bora to ill-considered torture. This brings up to Obama's tenure and stepped up drone attacks, less comity with Pakistan, and the albatross of Guantanamo. Two things jumped out at me: (1) Bush briefers knowing McCain's presidential hopes were non-existent when his people where inattentive and not taking notes compared to Obama's and (2) several pages of anti-9/11 pronouncements by moderate Muslim leaders.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob Ries

    A stellar treatise on the United States approach to the "War on Terror" in all of its convoluted often misguided approaches....in particular by Bush "Junior" and his cronies. Bergen does a wonderful job of remaining objective when dealing with the obvious ineptitude of Bush and his cadre of clowns. The book is painstakingly researched, well documented and easy to read. No small accomplishment considering the material being written about. If you have any interest in understanding the political mac A stellar treatise on the United States approach to the "War on Terror" in all of its convoluted often misguided approaches....in particular by Bush "Junior" and his cronies. Bergen does a wonderful job of remaining objective when dealing with the obvious ineptitude of Bush and his cadre of clowns. The book is painstakingly researched, well documented and easy to read. No small accomplishment considering the material being written about. If you have any interest in understanding the political machinations, decisional blunders and overall misguided approaches taken by the west in dealing with the ongoing threat of terrorism, read this book. Well worth a read! Big Cat Bob

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sayan

    For me this was an absolutely unputdownable book. I did happen to have some time off the past week and went through the book at one go, no interruptions and no other books in between. Of course having read the author's earlier "Holy War, Inc" I knew what to expect. I was mostly Interested In the sections where the author points out mistakes made by both the USA and AQ. Also the way in which the author has documented his sources and acknowledgements and bibliography. I own the kindle version if th For me this was an absolutely unputdownable book. I did happen to have some time off the past week and went through the book at one go, no interruptions and no other books in between. Of course having read the author's earlier "Holy War, Inc" I knew what to expect. I was mostly Interested In the sections where the author points out mistakes made by both the USA and AQ. Also the way in which the author has documented his sources and acknowledgements and bibliography. I own the kindle version if this book and just under half of it is acknowledgements,bibliography and sources.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    An excellent account of the conflict between America and Al-Qaeda, and peripherally the GWOT (Global War On Terror), from before September 2001 to the death of Osama bin Laden and the beginning of the end of that conflict in 2011.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Altaf Khan

    Perfect book to understand the Afghan imbroglio in aftermath of 9/11

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    I was looking forward to this mainly as a recap to how the "al-Qaeda portion" of the War on Terror has progressed since 9/11.I wasn't expecting anything new, and this was a pretty easy read. The recap of how al-Qaeda formed is wholly unnecessary if you have read The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. One interesting revelation is that not all of bin Laden's cohorts agreed with bin Laden's decision to attack the Towers and Pentagon. Bin Laden believed that the US would simply fire more I was looking forward to this mainly as a recap to how the "al-Qaeda portion" of the War on Terror has progressed since 9/11.I wasn't expecting anything new, and this was a pretty easy read. The recap of how al-Qaeda formed is wholly unnecessary if you have read The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. One interesting revelation is that not all of bin Laden's cohorts agreed with bin Laden's decision to attack the Towers and Pentagon. Bin Laden believed that the US would simply fire more cruise missiles, or deploy a massive army in a Soviet-style invasion that the battle-hardened Afghan al-Qaeda members and Taliban could repel. Bin Laden was wrong, and that error did not win him many friends. Mainly, Bergen briefly touches on all of the various aspects of the war on terror from the time al-Qaeda formed to about 2009-ish. Bergen's central thesis is that Al Qaeda erred big time in attacking the US and that its policy of direct confrontation with the West was a complete and utter failure. Western powers and the US crushed Al Qaeda militarily and the particular brand of extreme interpretations of the Koran as favoured by the Wahabists, were soundly rejected by the vast majority of Muslims. He also examines the impact of the Iraq war on the fight with al-Qaeda and describes in interesting detail, the history, rise, and killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He also includes the story of Ali Soufan, author of The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, who was mentioned in "The Looming Tower". Interestingly, Bergen interviewed "Dalton Fury", author of Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man, and painted an interesting narrative of the battle of Tora Bora and bin Laden's movements during the battle(Why Bergen felt the need to interview Fury when he cited information from Fury's book is beyond me). Bergen also details Obama's Afghan policies, such as the "Afghan surge" and the CIA's stepped-up UAV campaign in Pakistan. Although, this quote was a little over-the-top for me. "After the 9/11 attacks no Bush administration official took responsibility, apologized, resigned or was fired for what was the gravest national security failure in American history" P. 39 Look, Mr. Bergen, after 9/11, the government's main priority was to prevent further attacks and manage the threat posed from terrorists, not on finger-pointing or apologizing. After all, it wasn't the Bush administration that flew those planes into the Pentagon, WTC, and Shanksville. Maybe Bergen could have called it "The Longest Smear Campaign"...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Mexic

    This nonfiction book by Peter Bergen is nothing short of terrific. He has, per the index and bibliography, done a fantastic amount of research and conducted interviews with over 200 people, to give the reader interested in our country’s war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated like minded jihadist terrorist-practicing organizations, everything we could ask for other than some probably still highly secret information. From the late 80’s to 2010, when the book was finished, we are treate This nonfiction book by Peter Bergen is nothing short of terrific. He has, per the index and bibliography, done a fantastic amount of research and conducted interviews with over 200 people, to give the reader interested in our country’s war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated like minded jihadist terrorist-practicing organizations, everything we could ask for other than some probably still highly secret information. From the late 80’s to 2010, when the book was finished, we are treated to all the actions, mistakes, and decision making available about al Qaeda and the U.S. We learn facts unknown to us from merely reading and listening to news accounts. If you have any interest in this, our longest war, do not fail to read this book. Although, I must say that Mr. Bergen’s timing is just a little off, as he could have made an even bigger splash with his marvelous book had he waited a few more months, until bin Laden was killed. As a sampler, here are a very few passages I put in “my clippings”. “One hundred and fifty-four American soldiers died in 2008 in Afghanistan, the largest number since the fall of the Taliban. In 1968, the deadliest year of the Vietnam conflict, the same number of U.S. servicemen were dying every four days.” Kindle location 6299-6301. “Objections to Obama’s ramp-up in Afghanistan began with the observation that Afghanistan has long been the ‘graveyard of empires’: as went the disastrous British expedition there in 1842 and the Soviet invasion in 1979, so too the current American occupation was doomed to follow. In fact, any number of empire builders, from Alexander the Great to the Mogul emperor Babur in the sixteenth century to the British in the successful Second Afghan War three decades after their infamous defeat there, have won military victories in Afghanistan. The graveyard-of –empires metaphor belonged in the graveyard of clichés.” Kindle location 6341-6346. “In the penultimate meeting on November 23, Hillary Clinton, a vocal opponent of the surge in Iraq, sided with the military and was the most forceful advocate in the room for a substantial troop increase [for Afghanistan].” Location 6620-6622. “Pakistan had also long stirred the pot in Afghanistan by supporting elements of the Taliban, in particular the Haqqani Network, which was paid by the Pakistanis to conduct operations against Indian targets in Afghanistan, including the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009.” Location 6645-47.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    An opinionated but informative history of America's conflict with al-Qaeda up until January of 2011. I'm sure Bergen now wishes publication had been delayed about five months. Although falling short of being a comprehensive history, the book does do a good job of shedding greater light on largely misunderstood events and helps to put incidents generally reported in isolation in their larger context. If anything I have a much better perspective on the chronological progression, which has grown ha An opinionated but informative history of America's conflict with al-Qaeda up until January of 2011. I'm sure Bergen now wishes publication had been delayed about five months. Although falling short of being a comprehensive history, the book does do a good job of shedding greater light on largely misunderstood events and helps to put incidents generally reported in isolation in their larger context. If anything I have a much better perspective on the chronological progression, which has grown hazy in personal memory. The most fascinating parts of this book detailed the conflict from al-Qaeda's perspective, describing their strategic thinking and ideological basis. Bergen managed to interview former jihadists and close friends and family of bin Laden, and their perspective was very fascinating. Certain parts of the story are glossed over, such as the initial invasion of Iraq and the activities of the first conventional Coalition operations in Afghanistan, but in a book covering two conventional wars and countless covert ones, this is only understandable. As I said, the book is certainly opinionated, and not all those opinions are entirely consistent. Nevertheless, Bergen is always careful to back up his claims with clearly verifiable facts, which speak for themselves in spite of his sometimes hyperbolic description. The one downside from a historian's perspective, particularly in the chapters describing military operations, is that Bergen's lack of military experience or expertise shows through pretty clearly. He misuses many terms, some excusable, others less so in a work as clearly well researched as this. Some of his criticisms of strategy disregard the enormous reality of logistics and the real-time uncertainty of things that become obvious in hindsight. On the whole, however, this is a well-written and timely effort to make sense of a long, confusing, and seemingly endless war.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    Read this book for research. A solid attempt to summerize and explain the long standing engagements between Al-Qaida and the US from 1998 to 2011. The book was published right before the eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden. Bergen uses his expertise and observations to try to make some sense of the longest continuous conflict the US has found itself in since the Vietnam War (one can make the argument for the various conflicts between the Native American tribes and the European settlers from the Read this book for research. A solid attempt to summerize and explain the long standing engagements between Al-Qaida and the US from 1998 to 2011. The book was published right before the eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden. Bergen uses his expertise and observations to try to make some sense of the longest continuous conflict the US has found itself in since the Vietnam War (one can make the argument for the various conflicts between the Native American tribes and the European settlers from the 1500s thru 1890 being the "longest American War"). He notes the actions, successes and failures of both sides of the fight. Hardly a fan of the actions that led to OIF, Bergen pulls no punches in his critiques of the actions and mindsets of the Bush administration in the post 9/11 days, especially the near obession with Iraq, even as evidence showed little to no real connection between Iraq and Al-Qaida (a key argument the US made in the initial invasion of Iraq). He takes great pains to dimiss the effectiveness of the American sanctioned torture techniques in the post 9/11 days, noting that traditional interrogation techniques provided more effective information. His review of Obama's Afghanistan strategy does indicate uncertainty and conflict about what method the US should go forward with. He also notes how Al-Qaida made horrendous mistakes in Iraq going after the civilians, taking what seemed an adventageous position between 2005-2007 and sowing the seed of their own downfall in Iraq. Probably something in this book to tick off all ends of the political spectrum, but at the same time, a good volume for those wanting to gain some insight into the US "War on Terrorism".

  20. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    Truth be told, I feel a bit guilty that I even had to read this book. Of course, like everyone else, I've lived through the last decade of our "War on Terror" and everything that includes - Iraq, Afghanistan, Al Quada, Bin Laden, the GWOT, London's 7/7 bombings, domestic terror threats, and of course 9/11 itself. And i consider myself reasonable well-informed on current events. But as you watch the news, read a newspaper, or God forbid live these events and their repercussions, it's hard to real Truth be told, I feel a bit guilty that I even had to read this book. Of course, like everyone else, I've lived through the last decade of our "War on Terror" and everything that includes - Iraq, Afghanistan, Al Quada, Bin Laden, the GWOT, London's 7/7 bombings, domestic terror threats, and of course 9/11 itself. And i consider myself reasonable well-informed on current events. But as you watch the news, read a newspaper, or God forbid live these events and their repercussions, it's hard to really get a sense on the ground of whats really happening in what are probably the defining events of our time. That's what makes this book such a great read, and one that anyone who cares about current events should read. Bergen really synthesizes everything there is to know about the cliched "War on Terror". Not only is this book incredibly well-researched and based on interviews with just about every major actor, including Osama bin Laden himself, but it is extremely readable and even gripping in the way one would expect from a work of fiction. Which sadly, it isn't. And be forewarned, you will be frustrated with much of Bergen's story - of the mistakes we (the United States) have clearly made in this war's prosecution. And that's just one reason why this should be required reading for every American, or at least every one who cares about our national security. And now, I need to turn to a real work of fiction, for some pleasant escapism after this heavy subject.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adriel

    Peter Bergen wraps up his reporting on terrorism and the wars in the Middle East from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 through through the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. While most of the bloody story is familiar to anyone who can read a newspaper, or anyone who still does, Bergen adds some unfamiliar details only a superb and brave reporter could know. Everbody knows about the memo warning Condoleeza Rice and the President the Bin Laden was going to attack, but Bergen shows that there was a long Peter Bergen wraps up his reporting on terrorism and the wars in the Middle East from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 through through the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. While most of the bloody story is familiar to anyone who can read a newspaper, or anyone who still does, Bergen adds some unfamiliar details only a superb and brave reporter could know. Everbody knows about the memo warning Condoleeza Rice and the President the Bin Laden was going to attack, but Bergen shows that there was a long list of warning and signs pointing to an imminent strike on U.S. territory. While most people understand that Bush II was hell-bent on attacking Iraq, we learn from Bergen about the delusional operatives and think tank mountebanks who for years lobbied for a second round of killing in long-suffering Iraq. Nonetheless, he does give credit to Bush for revising his war strategy and firing the officials and generals who so made a botch of things. Bergen also does a fine job of showing the political and military goals of the Pakistanis and explains their troubling dalliance with local and Talibani militants. In the Afghan sphere, it is surprising to learn the Hamid Karzai was greeted with open arms by Afghans, who, despite their reputation for tribalism, have a strong sense of national identity that is older than the United States itself. Even today, in 2012, polls show powerful support for Americans and hatred of the Taliban.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Rathel

    1) This book is an excellent summary of America's engagement with Al Qaeda since the late '90's. Bergen draws extensively from his personal interviews with both US and Al Qaeda leaders in order to paint a rather complete picture of what has occurred over the past decade. 2) While nothing particularly new is revealed in this book, it is helpful to have all of the events of the past decade compiled together in one complete narrative. The 24-hour news cycle of the American press frequently prevents 1) This book is an excellent summary of America's engagement with Al Qaeda since the late '90's. Bergen draws extensively from his personal interviews with both US and Al Qaeda leaders in order to paint a rather complete picture of what has occurred over the past decade. 2) While nothing particularly new is revealed in this book, it is helpful to have all of the events of the past decade compiled together in one complete narrative. The 24-hour news cycle of the American press frequently prevents one from seeing events in their proper context. Bergen's careful compilation allows one to actually reflect on some of the decisions/events that we've heard about in the news and to see them in their larger historical context. 3) Bergen interestingly speaks about the strategic blunders that both sides have made during this lengthy conflict. He is particularly hard on some of the decisions made by the G.W. Bush administration (rightly so I think). However, he also points out some of the (rarely mentioned) strategic blunders that Al Qaeda operatives have made over the past ten years. A very interesting read- I recommend it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I haven't reviewed any books in a while because I was busy reading The Longest War--or the longest book, amirite? This book made worthwhile, but slow, reading. It analyzes the disparate threads of the "Global War on Terror," with individual chapters related to issues like post-9/11 bombing plots, the surge in Iraq, Pakistan's porous borders, and so forth. These themes don't always hold together, but that serves to reflect the GWOT as the ill-conceived hodgepodge that it was (and is). The author I haven't reviewed any books in a while because I was busy reading The Longest War--or the longest book, amirite? This book made worthwhile, but slow, reading. It analyzes the disparate threads of the "Global War on Terror," with individual chapters related to issues like post-9/11 bombing plots, the surge in Iraq, Pakistan's porous borders, and so forth. These themes don't always hold together, but that serves to reflect the GWOT as the ill-conceived hodgepodge that it was (and is). The author is particularly perceptive when it comes to discussing the openly stated aims of Al Qaeda and how the U.S. frequently ignored these, instead responding to its own interpretation of what terrorist groups aimed to do. Unfortunately, this book would have made better reading if I'd read it a year ago; it doesn't include the Arab Spring and its reference Bin Laden's death is tacked-on (and in the interview list, he's still referred to as "in hiding.")

  24. 4 out of 5

    Clara Roberts

    I expected to read about 9/11 and the suceeding conflict. What I got was a whitewash of Clinton and a vindictive reaction to anything the Bush Admin. did to keep America safe. When he talks about the 9/11 commission he absolves the Clinton Admin. of any responsibility. He fails to say that the five Democrats on the commission included Jamie Gorelik, a Clinton appointment(Justice Dept) whose ruling prevented FBI and CIA talking to each other. Then there was the hyper partisan lawyer Richard Ben-V I expected to read about 9/11 and the suceeding conflict. What I got was a whitewash of Clinton and a vindictive reaction to anything the Bush Admin. did to keep America safe. When he talks about the 9/11 commission he absolves the Clinton Admin. of any responsibility. He fails to say that the five Democrats on the commission included Jamie Gorelik, a Clinton appointment(Justice Dept) whose ruling prevented FBI and CIA talking to each other. Then there was the hyper partisan lawyer Richard Ben-Vineste who had fought tooth and nail to saddle us with Al Gore as president. Even Timothy Roemer was a highly partisan Dem. The Rep. were moderate Rep. like Thomas Kearns and James Thompson. The whole book was like that. I read 1/2 the book and then decided that there was nothing in the book of value. I would learn nothing from this book. I did not finish the book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terri Pickett

    Fantastic, thorough, well-researched and organized, immensely readable. Honestly, I expected to tire of this book quickly and/or skim through much of it but found myself reading every word. Bergen's skilled use of quotes, irony, sarcasm and even humor turn what could have been dense information and research into something of a story. So many blanks have been filled in for me about 9/11, Al Qaeda and the US response to each. Bergen doesn't hide his political leanings but backs up every point he m Fantastic, thorough, well-researched and organized, immensely readable. Honestly, I expected to tire of this book quickly and/or skim through much of it but found myself reading every word. Bergen's skilled use of quotes, irony, sarcasm and even humor turn what could have been dense information and research into something of a story. So many blanks have been filled in for me about 9/11, Al Qaeda and the US response to each. Bergen doesn't hide his political leanings but backs up every point he makes with fact, educated opinion and direct quotes. My only disappointment was that the book was completed before the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Bergen speculates about what bin Laden's death would mean for Al-Qaeda and the world but I would have loved to read his thoughts on how things have actually turned out. I'll be looking for his next book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Bergen details the war against Al-Qaeda with the stopover in Iraq. He explains the key players, their decisions and the consequences of their assumptions. Why I started it: Having just read Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq I wanted to learn more about Afghanistan. Why I finished it: I had to take this is small doses. It's a good thing that I don't have an assault rifle and a time machine. Hearing about policy decisions can be so frustrating. It was really interesti Bergen details the war against Al-Qaeda with the stopover in Iraq. He explains the key players, their decisions and the consequences of their assumptions. Why I started it: Having just read Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq I wanted to learn more about Afghanistan. Why I finished it: I had to take this is small doses. It's a good thing that I don't have an assault rifle and a time machine. Hearing about policy decisions can be so frustrating. It was really interesting to hear Bergen's predictions about killing or capturing Osma... especially since this was published just months before we found him in Pakistan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Frank Kelly

    Peter Bergen has probably done more to help the West understand Al Qaeda, their intentions, their thinking, their way of life. In his latest book, Bergen reviews in vivid detail Al Quada's strategy (and devolution into tactics as opposed to sticking to the strategy) along with the West's (mostly the US's) strategic efforts to destroy and dismantle the organization. Bergen's research is stellar -- he covers the broadest possible swath of participants possible on both sides of the fight. Now that Peter Bergen has probably done more to help the West understand Al Qaeda, their intentions, their thinking, their way of life. In his latest book, Bergen reviews in vivid detail Al Quada's strategy (and devolution into tactics as opposed to sticking to the strategy) along with the West's (mostly the US's) strategic efforts to destroy and dismantle the organization. Bergen's research is stellar -- he covers the broadest possible swath of participants possible on both sides of the fight. Now that Bin Laden is dead, it will be interesting to learn Bergen's views on where Al Queda now goes. Does it devolve further into minature, mostly autonomous terror groups focused on regional fights or will they retain their global focus? Or is the movement now at death's door?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrewh

    This is a good summary of the War on Terror by a leading US journalist, who is one of the few to have interviewed bin Laden himself. None of the protagonists comes out well in this analysis, and Bergen submits that it has been a strategic failure on both sides. Bin Laden made a bad mistake in provoking the Leviathan of America to destroy his base in Afghanistan and the US, in turn, made the fatal mistake of invading Iraq, on spurious grounds, after first letting Bin Laden escape from the mountai This is a good summary of the War on Terror by a leading US journalist, who is one of the few to have interviewed bin Laden himself. None of the protagonists comes out well in this analysis, and Bergen submits that it has been a strategic failure on both sides. Bin Laden made a bad mistake in provoking the Leviathan of America to destroy his base in Afghanistan and the US, in turn, made the fatal mistake of invading Iraq, on spurious grounds, after first letting Bin Laden escape from the mountain complex of Tora Bora, then compounding the military error by alienating people worldwide with such embarrassments as Gitmo, extraordinary rendition and Abu Ghraib. The Long War is still going, with no end in sight.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Finally, a well-balanced and thorough primer on America's long-standing war with Al Qaeda!! Bergen does a terrific job of laying out the basics here, from OBL's declaration of war back in the 1990's through to the first two years of decisionmaking during the Obama administration. His argument is clear and concise: the US has made grievous errors in regards to al Qaeda, but AQ has made even worse decisions, and has lost much of its appeal (although this does not mean, Bergen is quick to point out Finally, a well-balanced and thorough primer on America's long-standing war with Al Qaeda!! Bergen does a terrific job of laying out the basics here, from OBL's declaration of war back in the 1990's through to the first two years of decisionmaking during the Obama administration. His argument is clear and concise: the US has made grievous errors in regards to al Qaeda, but AQ has made even worse decisions, and has lost much of its appeal (although this does not mean, Bergen is quick to point out, that much of the Muslim world will be allying itself with the United States any time soon). With any luck, the book will be updated to include the Arab Spring and death of OBL before it comes out in paperback.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sulzby

    A very important book on Al Qaeda and OBL. Bergen gives a very detailed history of the relationship among the Shia, Sunni, and the Kurds. One of his points was that, in Hussein's Iraq many communities were "integrated," Shia and Sunni families sharing the same neighborhood. He emphasized the results of US'incompetence in starting the war without understanding the ethnic/religious history and contemporary situation; allowing looting of weapons caches and labs capable of making WMD without securit A very important book on Al Qaeda and OBL. Bergen gives a very detailed history of the relationship among the Shia, Sunni, and the Kurds. One of his points was that, in Hussein's Iraq many communities were "integrated," Shia and Sunni families sharing the same neighborhood. He emphasized the results of US'incompetence in starting the war without understanding the ethnic/religious history and contemporary situation; allowing looting of weapons caches and labs capable of making WMD without security; and no real plan for what to do after the war overcame the Iraqi leadership. I've read lots of this by other writers and in articles by Peter Bergen but his version is much more contextualized. Besides containing so much information, Bergen's book is very readable.

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