Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism


According to President Bush, “the American people are safer” as a result of invading Iraq. True, Saddam Hussein has been removed from power. But al Qaeda, the group that planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, remains at large. Meanwhile, the White House has conceded that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks.

Charles Peña argues that the war in Iraq is but one misstep in the Bush administration’s “global war on terror.” Terrorism is simply a tactic, ...

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According to President Bush, “the American people are safer” as a result of invading Iraq. True, Saddam Hussein has been removed from power. But al Qaeda, the group that planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, remains at large. Meanwhile, the White House has conceded that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks.

Charles Peña argues that the war in Iraq is but one misstep in the Bush administration’s “global war on terror.” Terrorism is simply a tactic, however, not an enemy. Trying to eradicate it is a quixotic quest that does not focus on those responsible for 9/11. Instead, the national security strategy should consist of three central elements: establishing homeland security against further attacks; dismantling the al Qaeda terrorist network; and enacting a foreign policy that does not attract new al Qaeda terrorists.

This approach requires restructuring U.S. forces and ending Cold War–era commitments that distract from the current, pressing threat. It also requires ameliorating the negative consequences of an interventionist U.S. foreign policy, which creates incentives and opportunities for terrorists to target the United States.

If we misdiagnose al Qaeda’s motivations or focus military efforts on the wrong targets, then we run the risk that the war against the al Qaeda terrorist threat (and the radical Islamic ideology it represents) will become a broader war against the Islamic world that could last generations and cost countless lives. With a foreword by Michael Scheuer, the bestselling author of Imperial Hubris.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliant and incisive demolition of the misguided strategy that the Bush administration concocted in the wake of 9/11. Charles Peña rightly reminds us that the danger to which we must respond is al Qaeda, not generic ‘terrorists’ or some contrived ‘axis of evil.’ In Winning the Un-War, he not only shows how we stumbled into our present fix, but also offers a hard-headed and persuasive prescription for getting out."

"Chuck Peña has always been one of the most clear-headed and persuasive analysts on al Qaeda and the war on terrorism. In Winning the Un-War, Peña brings his formidable analytic skills to bear in assessing where we stand in the fight against al Qaeda, why the threat of terrorism has actually grown, and how our country remains vulnerable even five years after 9/11. If you want to understand the mistakes that have been made in the war on terror and what to do to fix them, this book is required reading."

"Charles Peña’s Winning the Un-War makes a clearly written and cogently argued case for how best to counter the threat from al Qaeda that will be of great interest to both the specialist and the general reader. Peña has synthesized a great deal of research about the war against al Qaeda into an accessible and interesting book."

"The subject is of primordial importance, the writing lucid and compelling, the analysis thoughtful and informed, the recommendations logical and rational. Mr. Peña’s book deserves to be widely read and carefully considered."

"Not only does Charles Peña understand the nature of modern Islamic terrorism--and the threat that it poses--but he understands how to tackle it. His argument is lucid, intelligent, and necessary."

"A vitally important book for anyone who believes that safeguarding America requires more than ritualistic incantations about freedom's inevitable triumph. . . . Winning the Un-War is the most important book yet on the threat of terrorism and how to beat it."

"If President George W. Bush had hired Charles Peña to formulate U.S. policy against terrorism, the country would be much safer and the president would not be experiencing popularity akin to that of O.J. Simpson. . . . Pena convincingly, clearly, and concisely argues that an alternative program--intelligence, law enforcement, and limited military action to dismantle al-Qaeda; improvements in homeland security; and most important, a more restrained U.S. foreign policy to reduce the motivation for future anti-U.S. attacks--could reduce or eliminate the bull's eye that the Bush administration has painted on the backs of the American people."

"Peña goes well beyond criticizing the war; his purpose is to outline a new strategy appropriate to the real threat or threats most currently abroad in the world. . . . This is a work of clear-headed analysis characterized by temperate and well-considered language and thorough documentation rather than a polemic. . . . Highly recommended."

"Peña seriously advances the discussion . . . by outlining a strategy for confronting the real threat of al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups that still pose a serious danger to the United States. . . . Highly recommended."

"Peña has an eye for detail [and] a flair for language. His thesis is both simple and powerfully valid [and] its essence can't be said too often. Simply put, it comes down to this: it is America's actions in the world, not its ideology, that creates enemies." "Peña presents a provocative but well-documented indictment of current U.S. foreign policy, as well as the policymakers responsible for shaping it. Unlike other critiques of the administration's stewardship of American interests abroad . . . Peña's work is characterized by neither a militant anti-Americanism nor a reflexive pacifism. . . . The realist critique of Charles Peña raises questions that highlight the stakes in U.S. commitments overseas. . . . As American froeign policy navigates through the shoals of the coming years, it might well be that much-maligned realism alone offers the clarity of vision necessary to safely steer the ship of state."

"Peña's study represents an important scholarly critique from inside the ranks of the right wing of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. . . . Peña has brought together such a choice compilaiton of unimpeachable official sources, and cited them so pointedly, that the effect will be particularly persuasive to anyone who still needs to be convinced that the world might be different today if the Bush administration had not mismanaged U.S. foreign policy as badly as it has."

" [A] detailed and persuasive explanation of what has gone wrong in America's counterterror policy, why it went wrong, and how it may be put right."

". . . .thorough and well documented. . . . a level-headed and persuasive analysis of al Qaeda issues and the realities of the war on terrorism. If a reader desires insight into U.S. mistakes on fighting the war on terrorism since 9/11 and ways to fix them, this book comes highly recommended."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597970068
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Peña is a senior fellow with the Independent Institute, the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute. He is also an adviser on the Straus Military Reform Project, and the former director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute. In addition to regular appearances as a terrorism analyst on MSNBC, he has appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, NPR's Morning Edition, CNN's Newsnight with Aaron Brown, NBC Nightly News, and The McLaughlin Group. Peña is the coauthor of Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War Against Al Qaeda. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures     ix
Foreword     xi
Preface     xv
Acknowledgments     xix
Introduction: The Un-War     xxiii
Enemy at the Gates     1
A Dangerous Distraction     25
Clearing the Decks for War     49
A War Not Won by the Military     73
Yin and Yang of al Qaeda     97
Tao of Strategy     119
The Last Line of Defense     149
Afterword     171
Appendix 1     175
Appendix 2     187
Notes     189
Suggested Reading     227
Index     233
About the Author     241
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