February 9, 2011


Bergen, Peter, L., The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda (New York: Free Press, 2011) ("The goal of this book is to tell a history of the 'war on terror' in one volume. The organizing principle of this history is to examine not only the actions and strategies of the United States and its key allies, but also those of al-Qaeda and its allies, such as the Taliban." Id. at xvii. "The 9/11 attacks were not the beginning of al-Qaeda's campaign against the United States. They were the climax." Id. at 50. "[W]hen the FBI director Robert Mueller was asked in 2008 if he was aware of any attacks on America that had been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through 'enhanced techniques,' Mueller replied: 'I don't believe that has been the case.' The CIA's inspector general arrived at a similar conclusion when he judged that: 'it is difficult to determine conclusively whether enhanced interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,' which was the supposed standard necessary for the imposition of coercive measures on the al-Qaeda prisoners in the first place." Id. at 118-119. "Just as bin Laden made a large strategic error in attacking the United States on 9/11, so to President Bush--having presided over the campaign in Afghanistan that came close to destroying al-Qaeda--would make his own deeply flawed decision to attack Iraq, which breathed new life into bin Laden's holy war. Id. at 155. "[A] key reason the United States escaped a serious domestic terrorist attack had little to do with either the Bush or Obama administrations. In sharp contrast to sections of the Muslim populations in European countries such as Britain, the American Muslim community--generally a higher-skilled group of immigrants than their European counterparts--has overwhelmingly rejected the ideological virus of militant Islam. The 'American Dream' has generally worked will for Muslims in the United States, who are both better educated and wealthier than the average American. More than a third of Muslim-Americans have a graduate degree or better, compared to less than one in ten of the population as a whole." Id. at 246. "'The Taliban regime is out of business, permanently.' --Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2002." "'[The Taliban] have a dominant influence in 11 of Afghanistan's 34 providences.'--Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, in December 2009" Id. at 309. Certainly not the definitive one-volume history of the America War with al-Qaeda, but an interesting read and definitive for now. Also, see Thomas E. Ricks, "Determined to Strike," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 1/16/2010.).

Carter, Stephen L. The Violence of Peace: America’s War in the Age of Obama (New York: Beast Books, 2011) ("This book is a meditation on the morality of war--in particular, the views of Barack Obama about the morality of war." Id. at ix. "Some of my conclusions may be predictable. Others might be more troubling. President Obama's efforts to undergird America's military adventures abroad with a larger moral justification than self-interest is itself attractive. So is his emphasis in expanded research on future weapons systems. At the same time, his assertion of executive authority to prosecute warfare seem to me significantly broader than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. President Bush, to take a single example, never claimed the power to target American citizens for assassination. President Obama has. He has also expanded the battlefield, both geographically and technologically, and is prosecuting America's wars with a stunning ferocity. Obama, like Bush, described the work of our military is doing abroad as defense of the American people. This claim, as we will see, already presses the boundaries of the traditional understanding of the just war. Obama has adopted many of the controversial tactics of his predecessor-assassinations, rendition of suspects to other countries, and, possibly, secret prisons--and here, too, important moral questions arise. Obama, moreover, may even have adopted a rarely articulate theory of the previous Administration that holds, in the bald and tragic terms of just war theory, that it is not possible to wage just war against the United States." "Yet none of this is necessarily a criticism of President Obama, It many instead be a signal that the vehement attacks on his predecessor were overblown. . . . I have chosen the title, The Violence of Peace because I believe President Obama has learned what so many of his predecessors were also brought unwillingly to accept: that America faces real enemies in the world, and keeping the nation at peace, ironically, sometimes requires battle." Id. at x-xi. I am not sure this book works as a 'meditation' on the view of Barack Obama, and their are better meditation on the morality of war generally. Still, an interesting read. Also see, James Traub, "The War Presidents," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 1/30/11, at 20. "Carter has positioned himself at a very usual place:
the intersection between the high ideals of Christian and secular moral philosophy and the exigencies of a very grim war. Most of us would rather ignore both the pull of those ideals and the ugly reality of that war. We want satisfying answers. Carter has no such answers to offer -- only difficult questions which, once posed, can no longer be ignored." Id.

Woodward, Bob, Obama's War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) (See Bob Woodward's previous books on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the administration of George W. Bush.).

Booth, Martin, Islands of Silence: A Novel (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 20003) ("'For just one moment,' Rupert continued, 'I disregarded the only factor that differentiates us from the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. It is not self-determination or the ability to reason. It is not even the fear of death which I think is particularly human. It is morality.' . . . At that moment, I came to the realisation the nothing more substantial than a set of self-imposed guidelines for civilised behaviour kept order in our lives, breath in our lungs, a pulse in our veins." Id. at 25. "'The value of history is that it instruct. Warfare has never justified its morality. . . ." Id. at 137. "'This futility,' I continued, 'lies in the fact that whilst national borders may shift and kingdoms expand or contract, there is little else of benefit to be gained. Merchants may trade more widely in one land and less in another. A political or religious ideal may come to the fore at the expense of another declining, but, for the general citizen, war is nothing more than a change of master earned at the expense of human life and misery. War is the playground of kings and presidents, not for people.' . . . 'Whenever war is declared, the antagonists proclaim divine right on their side. No soldier has gone to war without the sure faith that his god is behind him, justifying his cause. The priests have condoned the killing in direct contravention of the holy commandment that all human life is sacred. Can the killing of a Muslim at the fall of Jerusalem in 1099 be claimed as a holy act? Or the death of a Christian crusader at Acre in 1291? The First Crusade had nothing to do with religious ideology. That was a hypocritical excuse, expressed by Pope Urban the Second. The real reason for the crusade was the fact that the population of Europe was expanding rapidly, causing the increasing demand for trade and the control of trade routes to the East. Religious zeal was merely used as a tool to mobilise fighters in the name of mercantile progress.'" Id. at 160-161.) .