Customer Reviews for

The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted February 7, 2011

    Excellent Work

    There is a little-known sidebar story to the broader saga of America's encounter with violent Jihadism that runs as follows: the dogged, thorough, insightful efforts of a coterie of journalists has been of enormous benefit to thousands of hundreds of people whose work puts them in the anti-terrorism business. These journalists have been and continue to be a valuable source of on-the-ground intelligence and independent analysis.

    None has had greater influence than Peter Bergen.The Longest War, the latest in Mr. Bergen's long list of stellar books and articles, is certain to be a work widely consulted and relied upon.

    He divides his book into two sections, the first of which he labels Hubris. Mr. Bergen was one of the very few prior to 9/11 to recognize the danger Usama bin Laden and al-Qaeda posed for the U.S. Like so many of those who were voices in the wilderness, he is sharply critical of what he sees as a lack of government attentiveness to the al-Qaeda threat circa late summer 2001. Unlike those other voices, Mr. Bergen does not explicitly state that greater attentiveness to the threat might well have averted 9/11. But the contours of the implication are fairly easy to make out.

    It is an interesting thing to speculate about, not in order to affix blame but to acquire a better understanding of our anti-terrorism efforts. In many respects, the problem pre-9/11 is the same problem we face today - having to protect a vast number of targets from people who are attempting to operate beneath radar screens. The "we" here is not just the Federal government and foreign allied governments but local law enforcement entities and the general public. To go back over the chain of events that led up to the plane hijackings, it is clear that many, many people saw pieces of the unfolding plot and that almost no one recognized what they were seeing as anything worthy of greater scrutiny, much less as a piece of a terrorist plot. This was not so much due to lack of attentiveness as it was lack of experience with covert terrorist operations. To put this another way, before dots can be connected they must first be recognized. And this ability to do so is heavily dependent on experience. Even today with plenty of experience under our belts, identifying dots remains a challenge. Witness the Underwear Bomber of December, 2010. In any case, I am skeptical that greater awareness on the part of the Bush Administration would have made a difference.

    Mr. Bergen reserves his harshest criticism in the Hubris section for Usama bin Laden, who thought that attacking would, at worst, lead to a few bombs being dropped on Afghanistan before the Americans would fold their tents and leave the Middle East. Once this happened, he believed, the governments of that region would collapse and a new era of Islamic-based rule woudl emerge.

    As Mr. Bergen notes, there has never been a greater U.S. presence in the Middle East, the Taliban government was dissolved, and opinion in the Muslim world holds bin Laden in low regard. As for regimes collapsing, that may be now be taking place in Egypt but it has nothing to do with 9/11 and Ayman al-Zawahiri can only watch events in his homeland from his hiding spot in Pakistan.

    There is much more to say but no room to say it. Suffice it that anyone wanting a concise but comprehensive account of our battle with al-Qaeda need look no further than The Longest War. It is unquestionably the best a

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    Exceptional view of Middle Eastern conflict and its Terrorist

    Peter Bergen has done an excellent job of explaining the Iranian an Afganistan conflicts we are up to our necks in. He gives an unbiased perspective of America's response and strategies on the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. A must read for anyone who thinks they know the truth about Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and their relationship with the al-Queda, the Taliban and the jihadist movement. It is also an excellent assessment and timeline of the "war on terror" since 9/11. I really enjoyed the info on Osama bin Laden and the other figures in the jihadist movement around the world. Loved it, very insightful, "RolloRT"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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