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WINNER OF THE ARTHUR ROSS BOOK AWARD;
the "largest U.S. Book Award for International Affairs," sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Recently, in The New York Times, Tom Zeller listed The Age Of Sacred Terror and Richard A. Clarke's Against All Enemies as two of the key books addressing crucial issues now in the spotlight, thanks to the 9/11 commission and Condoleezza Rice's recent testimony. Here is a brief synopsis of what Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon cover in The Age of Sacred Terror:
The Bush Administration's foreign policy and security policies pre-9/11:
The Age of Sacred Terror points out the administration had clear views about world affairs; with an emphasis on developing a national missile defense system as well as a focus on China--but Al Qaeda and organized terrorist networks were not among the top tier of concerns.
Terrorism intelligence delivered to Bush officials pre-9/11:
Benjamin and Simon point out that in the early months of the administration, there was little threat reporting. However, in late Spring there was a surge of activity among Al Qaeda operatives; leading to increased administration interest and activity. In July, the FBI warned state and local authorities and the F.A.A. regarding airlines and airports. The warnings were based on credible, but not specific, threats.
The Bush Administration's foreign policy and security priorities post-9/11:
The book notes that removing Saddam Hussein was just "phase two". It suggests that there were good reasons to end Hussein's brutal regime, but terrorism was not one of them. Both Benjamin and Simon suggest that the war with Iraq has focused America's leaders away from the true threat of Al Qaeda.
Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon were spearheading America's counterterrorism efforts when a new breed of religiously motivated radicals first appeared on the world stage, more technically savvy, audacious, and violent than any seen before. Simon and Benjamin were the White House officials in the eye of the storm, helping coordinate the U.S. government's intelligence, military, and diplomatic actions. Just weeks after leaving the National Security Council, they predicted on The New York Times op-ed page in January 2000 that al-Qaeda would seek to carry out massive terrorist attacks against the U.S. No one knows the thinking of the new terrorists better, their hatred of the West, their sense of divine mission, or the goals behind their bloodshed.
As only such insiders can, Simon and Benjamin recount the major conspiracies of the last decade, successes such as the East Africa embassy bombings and near misses such as Ramzi Yousef's effort to destroy a fleet of American 747 jets while in flight over the Pacific. The book presents the authoritative history of the radical Islamic movement that led to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. It explains why the terrorists succeeded on September 11 in carrying out the most extraordinary terrorist attack in history, why the American public was caught shockingly unprepared, and why the U.S. government's decade-long effort to stop these terrorists fell tragically short. The Age of Sacred Terror explains why al-Qaeda and radical Islam will remain America's most dangerous threat, and presents concrete recommendations about what America must do to prevail against opponents who will use nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as soon as they can get them.
The Age of Sacred Terror is currently being taught in courses at Harvard University, MIT, Penn, Columbia University, NYU, UC Berkeley, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins/SAIS.
This book has also been added to the Air Force Chief of Staff's recommended "Reading List".
Praise for The Age of Sacred Terror...
“A lucid, passionate, shocking account of Islamist terrorism. Anyone interested in how the enemies of the West operate will want to read this book. And even those who are not, should.”
—Ian Buruma, author of Inventing Japan, 1853-1964
"The Age of Scared Terror provides a staggering account of the origins of al-Qaeda, its motives and its bloody history since the early 1990s. After reading this book no one should be in any doubt that a new and unprecedented form of terrorism dedicated to the mass destruction of human life now exists. The book is also the chilling story of how slow and reluctant the West has been to recognize and counter an enemy whose intentions are more deadly than any it has ever faced before. The events of September 11, 2001, changed the world: Ours has truly become the age of sacred terror. This book explains in great and compelling detail how those events were possible, how they might perhaps have been avoided, and how they could occur again. Everyone should read it—and be warned."
—Anthony Pagden, author of Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present
"Of the many books spawned by September 11, this one is in a class by itself. The authors range widely and authoritatively from history to current events; from fast-paced narrative to sharp, often original analysis; from deep behind enemy lines, where they get into the heads of the enemy, to the Situation Room in the basement of the White House where the American response is formulated (and where the authors logged so many hours themselves). In the phrase that has gained such currency since 9/11, here's a book that truly connects the dots. It does so in a spare, lucid style with flashes of real brilliance and with admirable fairness to all three administrations -- from Bush to Clinton to Bush -- that have grappled with a decade of steadily escalating terrorism."
-Strobe Talbott, former deputy Secretary of State and author of The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy
“With telling detail and crisp prose, Benjamin and Simon’s book may emerge as the best insider account.”
—Mark Strauss, The Washington Post
“These authors know ﬁrsthand how decisions are made within the White House’s National Security Council, irrespective of the political party in power.... [A] meticulously researched, well-written book.”
—Judith Miller, The New York Times
“[The] book’s most important and lasting contribution is its exploration of the relationship between al-Qaeda’s toxic message and the Muslim mainstream. [The authors] examine in considerable detail the gradual evolution of Islamist political thought, describing the timeless inﬂuence of Islamic thinkers such as the thirteenth-century theologian Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya and the eighteenth-century preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, whose ideas form the political and religious foundation of modern Saudi Arabia.”
—Ellen Laipson, Foreign Affairs
“[A] gripping account of al-Qaeda’s rise and America’s response.”