This is a remarkable book well worth reading by anyone who wants to know how dangerous our opponents are and how difficult the war with terrorism could get. The author is described as "a senior U.S. intelligence officer with nearly two decades of experience in national security issues related to Afghanistan and South Asia." He was forced to publish the book anonymously because it is so different from the pre-September 11 analysis of his employing agency.
His own disgust with the American intelligence bureaucracy is evident in his acknowledgments when he cites Mark Helprin about men who "knowing very little or next to nothing, take pride in telling everyone else what to do." He continues with praise for young civil servants "whose work ethic, intellectual honesty, and personal courage inspire awe and-if unleashed-are more than match for America's foes, foreign or domestic. Too often, however, their work is stymied by senior officers of my own generation. Mostly men, these senior officers have made careers by keeping silent in the face of unfairness, avoiding risk, and refusing to make decisions . . . Fortunately, most of the Republic's younger civil servants recognize with Helprin that this behavior is `more than a pity, more than a disgrace, it is despicable'" (xiv).
The current strategy of focusing narrowly on Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and body counts "is the road to disaster, for the positions and force bin Laden has presented are a far more lethal and varied threat than that posed by any of those we have labeled as `terrorists' over the past quarter century. The strength of his personality and message is likely to lead to an enduring legacy that will long survive his departure from the scene" (xvii).
"The forces of bin Laden, then, are waging war on America in God's name; they have made it clear that their goal is not the tactical one of inflicting pain, but the strategic one of defeating the United States `in the same way in which the USSR suffered humiliation at the hands of the Afghan and Arab mujahedin in Afghanistan.' In the United States before the events of 11 September 2001, however, there was almost no recognition that bin Laden's war is well under way. The first step in countering the forces that bin Laden has established is to listen more patiently to what he said in the past and to understand the personal, historical, and geopolitical contexts in which he thought, spoke, and acted" (xviii).
Americans will find this book disturbing in part because the author uses American revolutionary war patriots' words to frame each chapter. His point is to drive home that the sincerity and intensity of our founding fathers can be matched by equal intensity and sincerity in Islam. He is arguing that the movement opposing us has a religious fervor, a systematic intensity, and a willingness to learn and use the advantages of a free society to defeat that very freedom.
This is a sobering view of a deeply religious movement with the passionate commitment of those who are doing God's bidding and a willingness to kill Americans by the millions if they can find the right mechanism with which to do it.
Anyone who reads this book will be deeply sobered by it and will reflect on how much bigger and longer our campaign to defeat the Reactionary Islamists will turn out to be.