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Most Helpful Favorable Review
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.
Informative and Entertaining I've had several books written abou
I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Blac...
I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" earlier in the year, and figured few authors would be able to tackle this story better than he.
Bowden delivers a readable narrative of this significant political and military milestone. At only about 300 pages, Bowden blends the context, history, military and intelligence detail, with the key personalities, to create an interesting and entertaining read.
The actual raid on the bin Laden compound covers about 25 pages. The entire operation took about four hours from initial lift-off, to the team's return to base. It took only eighteen minutes from the moment the Seal Team landed in Abbottabad until bin Laden had been fatally shot and initially identified. The rest of the story delves into the background, history, strategy and tactics that revolve around a major operation like this.
The meat of the story lies in Bowden's details of the military intelligence used as part of the ongoing campaigns following the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. "Information and intelligence" are the key strategies in major modern warfare. America was still learning how to fight a nation-less enemy. Bowden asks, "...what if attacks came from nowhere? What then? The answer was information."
Bowden writes, "No matter how one felt about the wisdom of invading Iraq, or the seemingly unending conflict in Afghanistan, a near decade of combat had matured a generation of warriors and tools, battle tested and custom-made for finding and killing terrorists."
"America had spread an invisible web of surveillance that registered seemingly everything that stirred." He states that torture techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay in part fed some of the details that eventually led U.S. Intelligence to the small city in Pakistan. And the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, were a game-changer providing silent, safe (for the U.S. at least), relatively inexpensive, close range and inexpensive enough to provide near full time watch.
Bowden focuses on the foundational elements of an upbringing that built Osama Bin Laden’s personality, passion, perspective and eventual martial-religious leadership. Over many years, he built a cult of personality. In his recruiting efforts, and ongoing management of his disparate troops, he "...decorated the truth with dreams and portents, weaving magic into the facts, coloring them with divine favor."
And as always is the case, one man's rebel is another man's hero or freedom fighter. Bowden writes, "He did not see any of his attacks as wonton terror, as his horrified enemies did. They were retribution. They were not simply just, but divinely inspired. They were his duty."
Bowden spends a good part of his narrative on Barack Obama...both before he was president and after. It was under Obama's Presidential watch that bin Laden was found, but he wasn't responsible for all of the groundwork that led America to his doorstep. Al Qaeda and bin Laden were tracked in the late 90s under the Clinton administration while he was in the Sudan. When bin Laden went to Afghanistan, the U.S. had a more prepared and better-built intelligence structure in place. And the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated under the Bush Presidency, drove the development of a better overall war machine focused on fighting the kinds of war terrorists wage.
There had been many opportunities to strike at and attempt to kill bin Laden before 9/11, but there were always concerns over collateral damage and the risk involved - politically and bodily. Bowden includes prophetic quotes from the CIA team involved in tracking bin Laden pre 9/11 expressing worry that the White House's denied opportunities to strike at him would come back to haunt America in significant ways.
After American forces attacked bin Laden’s hideout at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, he was suspected to have fled through the mountainous border into Pakistan. He went mostly silent, and the elaborate hide-and-seek between America, it's allies, and bin Laden became a long and tedious effort in military intelligence. The final scenes were played out by some of America's most savvy warriors, but the rest of the story was played out behind the scenes.
"(Intelligence work) More than genius or courage, it is about effort and patience and will. It is also, of course, about money and time..." The muscles, weaponry, gadgets and equipment were key in the final attack, but it was "warrior geeks focused on computer-based intelligence gathering and dissemination" that led the muscle to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Bowden's description of the raid itself comes from numerous interviews of people close to the operation, but none of the SEAL Team members that were directly involved. My preview edition of the book came with a note that indicated that future versions of "The Finish" would include some of the first hand experiences that have been released since this book went to publish.
The book is strong on details, but not blindingly overwhelming in minutiae. I felt that the reporting was appropriately balanced politically, though I suspect some may feel that Bowden perhaps puts too much of a positive spin on Obama. I don’t agree.
If you’re looking for an informative and entertaining overview of the ten-year search for Osama bin Laden and it’s conclusion, then you should buy this book.
I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
posted by JGolomb on November 20, 2012Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Most Helpful Critical Review
9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.
This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the
posted by Guyus_Germanicus on December 13, 2012Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2012
Knowing better, I bought the book anyway. From articles that I
Knowing better, I bought the book anyway. From articles that I had read I knew it would be an Obama lovefest, and it was.
Chapter 2 had good information on Osama Bin Laden's background. Chapters 1 and 3 were a waste of time. Most of the rest of the book was a huge waste of time. Little info on the raid itself. Background on the people in the background.
Without actually saying so, Bowden blames Bush for most everything and for not finding Bin Laden. Credits Obama with restarting the search with renewed vigor. Hogwash.
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 27, 2012
Very Disappointing. I'm a big fan of Mark Bowden's previous wor
I'm a big fan of Mark Bowden's previous works, but this book falls far short. In fact, it appears contrived, almost as if it was commissioned. Essentially, it is an Ode to Obama. For those seeking a glimpse into the mission itself that took out Bin Laden, this is not that book, as even Bowden admits he talked to no one who was actually on the raid (Check out No Easy Day for that inside info). This is mostly about the political background in Washington that led up to the decision to go and act on CIA information that Obama was probably in Pakistan. Sadly, Bowden spends a lot of time belittling George Bush and bashing Republicans in general - even mentioning Rush Limbaugh and talking about the "birther" issue, as if either of those had anything to do with the hunt for Bin Laden. He likewise downplays Democrat failings in the hunt for Obama: while he goes into some detail about how mission after mission was denied to go after Bin Laden in the 1990s based on CIA info, not once does he mention in that segment that the "no" was always coming from Bill Clinton. And while he mentions the Pakistani doctor who aided the CIA in the hunt and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned by Pakistan for it, he neglects to mention that he was arrested due to "leaks" that came from DC, most probably from Obama's national security advisor Donilon, who Bowden repeatedly writes about positively in the book.
Overall, there's some good background here, but as I said...it all sounds contrived and as if Bowden was contracted by the WHite HOuse to put out a good spin. It was a book written very quickly, and is very short. Not at all like Bowden's previous works. I smell a rat.
3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2012
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Posted December 14, 2012
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