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

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Overview

Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of 9/11 to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. He tells the story of this shifting war?s failures and successes from the perspectives of both the U.S. 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 ...

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

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Overview

Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of 9/11 to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. He tells the story of this shifting war’s failures and successes from the perspectives of both the U.S. 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.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. undermined its moral position in this war with its actions at Guantánamo and coercive interrogations.

In examining other strategic blunders the U.S. 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, and the Obama administration’s efforts in Afghanistan.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455839018
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter L. Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst and the bestselling author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know. A fellow at the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law & Security, he has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 40 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Don't waste your money...

    This book was a Big disappointment, I seldom read books written by ‘reporters’ a perfect example why. All that l found were opinions, implications and conjecture.…heavy on politics, supersized on downplaying Democrat failures and as expected grossly exaggerates Republicans failures.
    Think about ‘context of the situation’ something Bergan intentionally avoids…just prior to 9/11 the bulk of Bush’s key security appointments were being stonewalled by congressional Democrats, leaving Bush stuck with the Clinton leftover ‘experts’ ….the first session after 9/11 House Democrats set a one day voting on security appointments…for no other reason than head for the Tall Grass...perhaps Bush’s biggest mistake was not holding those who allowed al Qaeda become what is accountable…everyone was in the Clinton Administration at one time or another.
    Bergan also relies on a 9/11 Commission Report that was held up by Democrats for weeks until the scope of the ‘inquiry’ was limited to what happened, not how or why it happened, did not even mention the 1995 Federal Indictment for one Osama bin Laden for the first World Trade Center attack, nothing about a half dozen known al Qaeda attacks during the 1990s…by implication Bush’s fault.
    Also, Bergan nor the 9/11 Report mention a word regarding the highly touted Clinton/Gore ‘no profiling phased’ airport security ‘Safe for Americans to fly again’… just months after being implemented not one 9/11 terrorists was even asked a question….there many other Clinton failures but the point here is none made into this book.
    I believe most Americans what the truth good, bad or indifferent… books like Bergan’s do a disservice to our national security because few people take time really understand the issue, much less know who wrote and supported a policies that leads to ‘issue’…the bulk of Bergan’s conjecture relies entirely upon a known hack by the name of Clark one the biggest failures in our nation’s history with respect to national security throughout the duration of the Clinton era. Not once, according to Clinton, did he provide actionable intelligence yet Clark claims he did….the facts are 9/11 was a sealed deal when the Clinton/Gore Airport security was implemented long before Bush was elected President by then our intelligence had been eviscerated by Democrats who went so far as double the communication wall between intelligence agencies and the FBI.
    Last point for those who think the Iraq War was a mistake, phony for oil etc, that being the main messages in the hack job book, knowing our nonconventional war means had all but been gutted, Bergan fails to understand this region of the world which by the end of the 1990’s viewed the United States as paper tiger, far more fearful of al qaeda than American might….consequently our allies had no intention of providing intelligence on any of the known terrorist clans. Not one of our allies in the region thought we had the means or the will to defend ourselves much less them had they cooperated with our intelligence agencies….that was until the Iraq War commenced and they rolled over one after another like puppies getting their bellies scratched.
    Make no mistake this is the war of civilization…

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    Very Spotty. Not Recommended.

    Interesting parts about the war; however, much of it is a highly opinionated editorial on politics that is a constant reminder to question the author's objectivity.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    Educating

    As a OIF war veteran I found this book to be very informative and eye opening. A definite read.

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