International terrorists rarely make headlines today, write the authors, but senior national security advisor Peritz and Defense Department counterterrorism expert Rosenbach emphasize that this success required much pain, and the end is not in sight.
Post–World War II Islamic terrorism worried U.S. leaders but produced no coherent policy. Burned by the failed 1980 Iranian hostage rescue and 1993 Black Hawk Down massacre, military leaders insisted their forces not be involved. Budget cuts, little capacity for paramilitary action and unimaginative leadership hampered the CIA. Ironically, solving the 1993 World Trade Center bombing persuaded the FBI that its low-priority counterterrorism system was working. The events of 9/11 produced an avalanche of money and action, which have chipped away at terrorist networks, forcing them to concentrate on smaller, less-risky local attacks, locally planned, mostly by disaffected individuals. The authors provide step-by-step accounts of the capture or killing of dozens of terrorists, almost always in cooperation with other nations, principally Pakistan. America’s problems with Pakistan arise from its support of the Taliban, a local movement with no interest in international terrorism. The authors temper these successes with some unsettling reminders. We invaded Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda but ended up fighting the Taliban. A sideshow, the Iraq War consumed enormous resources to no good purpose. Targeted assassination, torture, prisoner rendering, indefinite detention and vastly expanded surveillance within America provide short-term satisfaction but store up strategic, diplomatic and moral quandaries which we are now experiencing.
A skillful combination of antiterrorism fireworks with perceptive analysis of our strategies, many of which remain inappropriate, wasteful and positively Orwellian.