From Publishers Weekly
This propulsive biography is not bin Laden for beginners, but its central point is clear. Scheuer (Imperial Hubris), chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, argues that the West chronically underestimates bin Laden's "piety, generosity, personal bravery, strategic ability, charisma and patience." In creating a cartoonish enemy, the U.S. has "mindlessly" played into bin Laden's plans to provoke a war on Muslim soil to catalyze a jihad to "obliterate America from within, by making it economically weak, until its markets collapse." The depiction of bin Laden's evolution from devout student to militant leader is deeply detailed and dense, and readers unable to keep up with a dissection of Islam's diverse creeds and doctrines will feel overwhelmed at times, but Scheuer's project is lucid and important. Bin Laden "anticipated a war of attrition that might last decades" and has planned ahead. He has cultivated a multigenerational cadre of between 5,000 and 7,000 loyal warriors, many from the educated upper classes. The conflict with al-Qaeda will, by bin Laden's design, likely be multigenerational, and Scheuer takes a crucial step in revealing how the West keeps itself vulnerable by persisting in demonizing rather than understanding its formidable opponent. (Feb.)
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Scheuer, chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and a consultant to that unit until 2004, delivers an unnerving profile of the al-Qaeda leader. Unnerving not just because it lays out bin Laden’s genius in luring the U.S. into a financially ruinous “war on terrorism” but also because it shows a “pious, brave, intelligent, charismatic” man fully capable of leading an insurgent Muslim force against the West, a profile at odds with the more fanatical, marginalized figure often portrayed by mainstream media. Scheuer tracks bin Laden’s life from his Saudi childhood as the son of a remote but revered and very wealthy contractor all the way to his place as one of the pivotal political figures of our time. More to the point, as he has in previous books (Marching toward Hell, 2008), Scheuer argues that bin Laden’s success owes as much to America’s ineptness in the Mideast as it does to bin Laden himself, a sentiment that should warn policymakers and citizens alike. --Alan Moores