The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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by Ron Suskind

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From Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author Ron Suskind comes a startling look at how America lost its way and at the nation's struggle, day by day, to reclaim the moral authority upon which its survival depends. From the White House to Downing Street, from the fault-line countries of South Asia to the sands of Guantánamo, Suskind


From Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author Ron Suskind comes a startling look at how America lost its way and at the nation's struggle, day by day, to reclaim the moral authority upon which its survival depends. From the White House to Downing Street, from the fault-line countries of South Asia to the sands of Guantánamo, Suskind offers an astonishing story that connects world leaders to the forces waging today's shadow wars and to the next generation of global citizens. Tracking down truth and hope within the Beltway and far beyond it, Suskind delivers historic disclosures with this emotionally stirring and strikingly original portrait of the post-9/11 world.

In a sweeping, propulsive, and multilayered narrative, The Way of the World investigates how America relinquished the moral leadership it now desperately needs to fight the real threat of our era: a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. Truth, justice, and accountability become more than mere words in this story. Suskind shows where the most neglected dangers lie in the story of "The Armageddon Test" —a desperate gamble to send undercover teams into the world's nuclear black market to frustrate the efforts of terrorists trying to procure weapons-grade uranium. In the end, he finally reveals for the first time the explosive falsehood underlying the Iraq War and the entire Bush presidency.

While the public and political realms struggle, The Way of the World simultaneously follows an ensemble of characters in America and abroad who are turning fear and frustration into a desperate—and often daring—brand of human salvation. They include a striving, twenty-four-year-old Pakistani émigré, a fearless UN refugee commissioner, an Afghan teenager, a Holocaust survivor's son, and Benazir Bhutto, who discovers, days before her death, how she's been abandoned by the United States at her moment of greatest need. They are all testing American values at a time of peril, and discovering solutions—human solutions—to so much that has gone wrong.

For anyone hoping to exercise truly informed consent and begin the process of restoring the values and hope—along with the moral clarity and earned optimism—at the heart of the American tradition, The Way of the World is a must-read.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Crowley
The rare writer who combines excellent reporting with a knack for novelistic writing about real people, [Suskind] skillfully traces several inter­woven stories of cultural clashes and cross-pollination, all of them pursuing the question of whether America and the Muslim world can ever look past their differences and find understanding…Much like Suskind's previous books about the Bush administration, The Price of Loyalty and The One Percent Doctrine, The Way of the World, though occasionally breathless, is a reportorial feat—particularly when it comes to chronicling the internal machinations of the administration's national security team.
—The New York Times
Mark Danner
…a complex, ambitious, provocative, risky and often maddening book. In a crowded, highly talented field, Mr. Suskind bids fair to claim the crown as the most perceptive, incisive, dogged chronicler of the inner workings of the Bush administration…Behind the highly promoted scandals in The Way of the World lies a complex web of intersecting stories, the plotlines of a varied traveling company of actors whose doings Mr. Suskind chronicles with meticulous care…These narratives and others perform, in Mr. Suskind's hands, an intricate arabesque and manage, to a rather remarkable degree, to show us, in this age of terror, "the true way of the world."
—The New York Times
Alan Cooperman
Let's put aside, for a moment, the question of whether investigative reporter Ron Suskind's new book is properly considered nonfiction (as he and his publisher assert) or fiction (as the Bush administration and various critics contend). It's unquestionably a narrative: a humorous, indignant, touching story whose "characters"—as Suskind revealingly calls them—learn that America's most effective defense against international terrorism is not torture or wiretapping but the "moral energy" that flows from truthfulness, generosity, integrity and optimism.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Suskind's take on the downfall of America's authority begins with what led to the attacks on September 11 and charts the country's subsequent tarnished international identity. Tackling tough issues with historic disclosures (including the accusation that members of the U.S. government forged documents and lied to win approval for going to war in Iraq), the Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter offers compelling and provocative stories. Unfortunately, Alan Sklar's narration will surely cause many listeners to lose interest. Sklar tends to drone and his dry, monotone voice bears very little passion or intensity. His uninspired reading lessens the impact of Suskind's masterful research. A HarperCollins hardcover. (Sept.)

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“The leading chronicler of the forty-third president.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“A vivid snapshot of a year, 2006-2007, in the life of a nation whose leaders have betrayed its high moral purpose. One of Suskind’s Washington players cries into the darkness, “Can the great beast self-correct?” Can America, Suskind asks, recover its missionary rectitude? He clearly thinks it can.”
“Incisive. . . . No journalist has more ably explored the dark crevices of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. . . . Suskind has shown that faith -- the wrong kind of faith, anyway -- can produce disaster.”
The Huffington Post
“Outstanding. . . . A searching, globe-hopping masterpiece of investigative journalism and empathetic prose. Amidst the ‘arabesque’ of richly drawn characters, Suskind reveals a few bombshell discoveries regarding the Bush Administration’s irresponsibility and outright lies.”
The American Prospect
“Ron Suskind has traced the history of the Bush years with a novelist’s ear. Now he looks at the tragedy through the eye of the victims.”
The Washington Post Book World
“A touching story. . . . Suskind is a skilled reporter. . . The moral of Suskind’s story, in short, is that nothing suceeds like truthfulness.”
The Boston Globe
“Ron Suskind does not think small. . . . A sweeping examination of moral authority in a global world and how a post-9/11 America seems to have lost its way.”
The New York Observer
“Moving. . . . Mr. Suskind is a prodigiously talented craftsman. . . . It’s all here: a cast of characters that sprawls across class and circumstance to represent the totality of a historical moment. . . . These hard times, Mr. Suskind’s book suggests, call for a nonfiction Dickens.”
“An explosive new book.”
The Today Show
“A bombshell book.”
Tim Rutten
“Suskind’s reporting continues to make him an indispensable chronicler of the Bush/Cheney debacle.”
Joe Conason
“There is much more to learn from Suskind’s reporting, including new evidence that Bush and other officials knew there were no WMD in Iraq.”
Andrew Sullivan
“An ambitious attempt to weave all the strands of our current conflict into a unified whole. . . . Ron Suskind’s new book has earned buzz because of his arresting argument that the Bush administration actually forged evidence to buttress its case for war.”
Christopher Buckley
“Suskind is a brilliant reporter and his investigation into the post- 9/11, pre-Iraq war period makes you think you’re reading about it for the first time. . . . It’s damning. Give this man another Pulitzer Prize.”
Clive Crook
“Extraordinary. . . . If Mr Suskind is correct, laws have been broken and President George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney are implicated. . . . This is—or ought to be—a Watergate-sized scandal.”

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Read an Excerpt

The Way of the World
A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism

Chapter One

Welcome Home

Usman Khosa awakes to the voices of his roommates in the kitchen. A hazy sun is shining in, giving the exposed brick above his bed an orange hue. He checks his night-table clock—7:15—and slips back into the deep sleep of a young man.

It is morning in America. Or at least in an apartment near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., where three young, well-educated men start a summer's day. They are friends, a few years out of Connecticut College, dancing through the anxious glories of first jobs and few obligations. It's a guy's world. Linas, a strapping Catholic, American-born, with Midwestern roots, is an economic analyst; David, Jewish and gay, with wavy brown hair and movie-idol looks, is a public relations staffer for an international aid organization. After breakfast, they slip out together, each in a blazer and khakis, Christian and Jew, straight and gay, into the flow of the capital's professional class.

Their Muslim roommate hears the front door shut and rises with a sense of well-being. He'd worked late, as usual, and then met some friends for dinner, a night that went late with loud talk and drink. He came south to D.C. from Connecticut just over three years ago, a day after receiving his diploma with its summa cum laude seal, to a waiting desk at an international economic consulting firm, Barnes Richardson, with offices across the street from the U.S. Treasury Department and a block from the White House. He finds the work fascinating because it is: taking sides in bloodless struggles between countries and their majorcorporations over product dumping and tariffs. Trade wars. It's the kind of conflict that smart folks thought the world was moving toward in the mercantile 1990s, when the Soviet Union's fall was to usher in a post-ideological age, a period when aggression would be expressed, say, with tariffs on imported cars and wheat dumping. It was a hopeful notion that issues of progress and grievance, the fortunes of haves and have-nots, would be fought on an economic field where the score could be kept in terms of GDP, per capita income, and infant mortality rates. It wouldn't turn out that way, as the few who saw the rise of religious extremism foretold.

And that's why the boy brushing his teeth this particular morning—July 27, 2006—is not just any young professional on the make. He is, notably, a Muslim from the fault line country of Pakistan—the home, at present, of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Pervez Musharraf and Mullah Omar, fifty-five nuclear weapons and countless angry bands of Islamic radicals. Usman, from this place, of this place, strives with an ardent, white-hot yearning to be accepted into America's current firmament of fading hopes. Like each fresh wave of newcomers, he presses mightily to make that hope new. Whether he means to or not, he's testing American ideals at a time of peril.

It's a fault of cultural nearsightedness, or worse, that he is not immediately seen as identical to immigrants glorified in oft-told tales of potato famines or Russian pogroms or, back further, a search to worship freely by some Mayflower stowaway. He is, after all, identical to them in every essential way.

But his journey involves a blue '78 Toyota Corolla. In Pakistan, a car is a symbol of a man who can move as he wishes, where he wishes. A new one is a rarity, a luxury, and Usman's father, Tariq, was given the car as a wedding gift from his father, who told Tariq that a married man should have a car, and he should be his "own man, beholden to no one."

The Khosas have a deep history in the region that now lies at the geographical heart of modern-day Pakistan, but the family is not among the few dozen elite who long ruled South Asia and cut deals with the British when the empire took over in the 1860s. The shaping hand of the Brits is still keenly felt in the region, particularly in its cutthroat academic tradition. Competition would be too generous a word. It was more emancipation through recitation, a test of classical British learning with a million contestants, a handful of winners, and enormous prizes, all determined by a crucible known as the civil ser-vice exam. In the vast country of India, a fraction of the highest scorers would win coveted acceptance into the civil service—the bureaucracy, running their country for the British—which came with grants of significant leverage over their countrymen and subtly stolen rewards. Even after India broke free in 1947, the civil service test remained, grandfathered in by the country's ruling elite, who could recall the posting of scores—the day, the minute, the sensation—like a family's second birth, cited often and judiciously from parent to child across eras.

Usman's grandfather, a very good student, finished one slot out of the money, so to speak, but carried the fervor of the runner-up into the newly created state of Pakistan. As a young man, he met Muhammad Ali Jinnah and thoroughly internalized the great man's vision of a Muslim state that would break away from Hindu-dominated India; an Islamic republic with mosque-state separations and protections modeled loosely on Western democracies, where religion would be largely a private matter and rigorous education all but deified. Jinnah's idea was that this balance would allow the growth of a professional class that would become the country's cornerstone of progress. Usman's grandfather embodied that vision. He became a lawyer, involved himself in countless public causes, and began to sell what land the family had built up in the past few centuries to educate his children in the finest regard Pakistan had to offer. Usman's father, Tariq, was the eldest and the first beneficiary, taking his college degree and that blue Toyota on an array of edgy professional missions and rising through Pakistan's competitive bureaucracy to become one of the leading law enforcement officials in the country. Like many bureaucrats, he moved between government houses, even had government servants, but acquired little cash, and so the remainder of the family's land was sold to educate his children at Pakistan's best schools. This meant that Usman's sister, two years his senior, starred at Lahore's finest private academy for girls and won a full scholarship to the London School of Economics. And that Usman, a blazing student at Lahore's exclusive Aitchison School—built a century before by the British to educate the children of India's feudal families—was given a full scholarship to Connecticut College. The problem came down to what wasn't covered: the costly flight from Pakistan to America.

The Way of the World
A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism
. Copyright © by Ron Suskind. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

RON SUSKIND is the author of The Way of the World, The One Percent Doctrine, The Price of Loyalty, and A Hope in the Unseen. From 1993 to 2000 he was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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