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

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

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by Peter L. Bergen
     
 

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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

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Overview

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 Guantánamo 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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Editorial Reviews

Thomas E. Ricks
For years, I tried to read every new novel about how 9/11 affected our lives. Some were very thoughtful, but I always came away unsatisfied, feeling that the authors had worked hard but had somehow fallen short. As I read the stunning first section of Peter L. Bergen's new book on the war between the United States and Al Qaeda, I realized I had been looking in the wrong genre. None of the novels were as effective or moving as The Longest War, which is a history of our time…one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years. But be warned: You will read it and weep.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
For readers interested in a highly informed, wide-angled, single-volume briefing on the war on terror so far, The Longest War is clearly that essential book…Although some of Mr. Bergen's conclusions are bound to be controversial, the lucidity, knowledge and carefully reasoned logic of his arguments lend his assessments credibility and weight, even when he is challenging conventional wisdom.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), CNN's national security analyst, revisits the personality and career of the al-Qaeda leader and his immediate circle, while delving into the conflict between al-Qaeda and associates and the U.S. and its coalition. Much of the narrative conforms in outline to other recent books on the conflict, but Bergen adds much detail and contour to his analyses. He finds serious miscalculations on the part of the terrorist organization, and sees the "surge" in Iraq signaling a larger decline in al-Qaeda's potency. At the same time, he argues that the widespread backlash in the Middle East against the September 11 attacks confirms it is mainstream Islam that poses the greatest "ideological threat" to al-Qaeda. The U.S., meanwhile, has let incompetence and a misguided obsession with Iraq undermine its efforts to extinguish al-Qaeda and the enduring influence of bin Laden, who, Bergen argues, is still alive. Drawing on vast firsthand knowledge of the region and mining a huge stock of primary and secondary material, including his own interviews with combatants, the book's depth of detail and breadth of insight make it one of the more useful analyses of the ongoing conflict. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"For readers interested in a highly informed, wide-angled, single-volume briefing on the war on terror so far, The Longest War is clearly that essential book."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"The Longest War is Mr. Bergen's magnum opus…. essential reading.”—The Washington Times

“For years, I tried to read every new novel about how 9/11 affected our lives. Some were very thoughtful, but I always came away unsatisfied, feeling that the authors had worked hard but had somehow fallen short. As I read the stunning first section of Peter L. Bergen’s new book on the war between the United States and Al Qaeda, I realized I had been looking in the wrong genre. None of the novels were as effective or moving as “The Longest War,” which is a history of our time. … “The Longest War” is one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years. But be warned: You will read it and weep.”
–Thomas E. Ricks, The New York Times Book Review

“His important history of the war on terrorism….The greatest strength of The Longest War is that it provides a detailed history of what has occurred since al-Qaeda first appeared on the terrorist scene. Uniquely, it tells the history from three sides: the Americans involved in prosecuting the war; ordinary Muslims, the vast majority of whom remain unmoved by bin Laden's siren call; and the many terrorists and sympathizers whom Bergen has sought out in the field or whose voluminous writings he expertly synthesizes. The Longest War is also a very good read.”—Washington Post

“The Longest War is ambitious both in scope and aims…you need to understand al-Qaida, and Bergen, with this detailed, serious, scrupulously fair, perceptive and sometimes startling work has made a significant contribution to us doing exactly that.”—The Guardian

The Longest War is by far the best and most comprehensive book on the conflict so far.”—Sunday Times

“A grippingly important work that belongs on the shelf alongside The Looming Tower and Ghost Wars.”—-The Daily Beast

"The Longest War is his history of a daunting subject that succeeds where other books have failed. That's because the author was one of the few people onto al-Qaeda years before the instant experts cropped up. And he is still there watching, long after most of those so-called experts packed it in and moved on."—The Globe and Mail

“A revelatory, pull-no-punches history of the War on Terror, from before 9/11 to the present day…One of the deepest and most disturbing investigations of one of the defining issues of our era.”—Kirkus, starred review

“Drawing on vast firsthand knowledge of the region and mining a huge stock of primary and secondary material, including his own interviews with combatants, the book’s depth of detail and breadth of insight make it one of the more useful analysis of the ongoing conflict.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘In The Longest War Bergen attempts to provide us with an overarching narrative of the first ten years of the epic struggle that resulted from the 9/11 attacks, and he does an admirable job of it.” –Christian Caryl, The Washington Monthly

“[a] readable and well-reported appraisal”—The Economist

“"The Longest War" is a useful synopsis of the struggle we've come to call the war on terror, and he chronicles it with the keen eye of an experienced journalist and on-the-ground observer. Bergen, who actually has interviewed Bin Laden and is the author of two books on him, gives a particularly good view of Al Qaeda’s operative behavior — it’s much more bureaucratic than you might imagine — as well as a gripping re-creation of what went wrong at Tora Bora, the last opportunity the U.S. had to apprehend or kill Bin Laden.” –LA Times

“Peter Bergen has long since established himself as America’s most authoritative and insightful analyst on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and time and again has given the nation an unblinking glimpse into the mind of the enemy. Now, with The Longest War, he has performed perhaps his greatest public service with what is certainly the finest comprehensive history of the war on terror yet written. Weaving together the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader anti-terror campaigns of Bush and Obama, he does something nearly impossible. He explains how we got here from 9/11.”
—James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

“When the War on Terror is consigned to the history books, one name will dominate as the steady, clear-eyed chronicler of that period. Peter Bergen was among the first to note the rise of al-Qaeda, and he is still on the case. The Longest War is a vital and essential account of the central conflict of our times.”
—Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

“Peter Bergen’s The Longest War is indispensable history. Authoritative and ambitious, it provides a damning account of the fitful fight against Islamic terrorism that every American should read.”
—Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

"Peter Bergen has produced a masterful, definitive assessment of Al-Qaeda and America since September 11 - rich with new details, elevated by careful analysis, and quickened by riveting characters and stories. This is essential reading."—Steve Coll, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

Library Journal
CNN reporter Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), one of the foremost Western experts on al-Qaeda, presents a compelling narrative of the history of the battle against al-Qaeda since 9/11. Relying on a variety of sources, including the jihadists and U.S. government documents, interviews with al-Qaeda operatives and senior Washington officials, and his own extensive field experience, the author describes success and failure in the "war on terror." He divides his book into two major parts. Part 1 describes al-Qaeda's misunderstanding of the West and its capabilities and Washington's policy in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Part 2, Bergen explains the lessons that the U.S. military learned from its mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq and how it later used its experience in these two countries to take the initiative from al-Qaeda and its affiliates. However, as General Sir David Richards, the head of Britain's armed forces, recently noted, al-Qaeda cannot be beaten, but it can be contained and weakened. VERDICT This highly readable book is suitable for specialists and nonspecialists alike.—Nader Entessar, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile
Kirkus Reviews

A revelatory, pull-no-punches history of the War on Terror, from before 9/11 to the present day.

CNN national security analyst and journalist Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader, 2006, etc.) takes a critical look at all phases of the conflict between the West and al-Qaeda. Drawing on an impressive range of both Western and Islamic sources, the author examines the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the jihadist movement, most importantly as exemplified by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden's charismatic appeal arises in part from conscious emulation of the prophet Muhammad, writes Bergen, even as early as his joining the fight to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan. In particular, his personal asceticism, maintained in spite of his great wealth, gives him credibility with the disaffected of the Islamic world and makes it easy for him to recruit candidates for suicide missions. But Bergen argues that bin Laden's greatest triumph was also the ruination of al-Qaeda, making him the target of the most relentless manhunt of our time and forcing his followers to the margins of civilized society. At the same time, the Bush administration's response to 9/11 was deeply flawed; the failure to close the trap on bin Laden at Tora Bora left him and his organization free to continue the fight against the West. Then, the Iraq war, against a country that had no part in 9/11, cost the United States an unprecedented level of international support, especially as the Bush administration abandoned the Geneva Convention in its treatment of prisoners. Bergen looks at the lessons learned on both sides of the war, notably the U.S. military's rediscovery of one of the lessons of Vietnam: Small units working closely with the indigenous population can achieve what large concentrations of conventional force cannot. The author concludes that, simply by surviving so long, bin Laden has created a movement likely to carry on his brand of anti-Americanism for the foreseeable future.

One of the deepest and most disturbing investigations of one of the defining issues of our era.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743278942
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
06/28/2011
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
163,122
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

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