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THE WAY OF THE KNIFE by Mark Mazzetti Kirkus Star


The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

by Mark Mazzetti

Pub Date: April 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59420-480-7
Publisher: Penguin Press

Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times national security correspondent Mazzetti demonstrates in horrifying, persuasive detail how the new-style warfare approved by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama has led to controversial assassinations by the U.S. government and blowback yielding new terrorists determined to harm American citizens.

The author pulls together the strands from the White House, CIA and Department of Defense, operating especially in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia to explain how the CIA shifted from a usually nonlethal spy agency to a "killing machine, an organization consumed with man hunting." At the same time, the DOD, which has traditionally run the combat wars, has assumed numerous other spying activities. Although the complete cast of characters is understandably numerous, Mazzetti focuses primarily on 20 warriors at the CIA, 10 at the DOD, two attached to the White House (including John Brennan, recently nominated by Obama as the new CIA director), 13 in Pakistan, six in Somalia and four in Yemen. Using wisely selected narratives within the big picture, Mazzetti juggles all those characters skillfully, opening the book, for example, with the capture of an American spy named Raymond Davis within Pakistan after a lethal roadway incident in the city of Lahore. Davis was a private contractor hired by the CIA to infiltrate Pakistan. His arrest by the Pakistanis took an especially ugly turn after American officials, including President Obama, lied to their allies about Davis' mission. Mazzetti includes plenty of context about the run-up to the new ways of American warfare by recounting the circumstances surrounding 9/11, as well as U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, since those sagas have been told so often at book length, Mazzetti wisely provides little-known coverage of the campaigns in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

A well-reported, smoothly written book for anyone who wants to understand contemporary American military might and the widespread hatred for the U.S. that has been the result.