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The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror Hardcover – April 23, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0521875165 ISBN-10: 0521875161 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews


"Holmes is emerging as the foremost post-9/11 'character reader'.... The book is political psychology at its best... he writes directly, simply, elegantly, informally without ever becoming too colloquial."
Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science, Columbia University

"A brilliant dissection of the deeper causes of an American tragedy."
Bruce Ackerman, Professor of Law, Yale University Law School

"In these powerfully-argued essays, Stephen Holmes brilliantly illuminates not only why America's 'war' against Islamic terrorism has gone so wrong, but also what can be done to protect both the nation and its democratic institutions. No book could be timelier or more urgently needed."
Ronald Steel, Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California

“Stephen Holmes' impressively researched, deeply felt, and strongly argued book is an extremely valuable guide to answering the riddle of why the Bush administration reacted so disastrously to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and in doing so fell straight into the trap Al Qaeda had set for America.”
Anatol Lieven, Senior Research Fellow, New American Foundation

"The Matador's Cape, by one of America's most brilliant political philosophers, not only provides a devastating analysis of the current 'war on terror', but suggests new ways for the West to deal with the very real dangers facing it."
Tzvetan Todorov, Director of Research, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris

"The Matador's Cape is a trenchant critical analysis of the thinking inside the Bush administration and among its defenders about the response to 9/11 and the decision to go to war in Iraq. Stephen Holmes shows just how oversimplified, contradictory, and confused their thinking was--and how dangerous it is to our true interests in security and freedom."
Paul Starr, Co-editor of The American Prospect and author of Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism.

"The Matador's Cape - the title is an allusion to Osama bin Laden's boast that the 9/11 attacks were designed to bait the United States into a berserk overreaction - is a collection of previously published essays repackaged into a semi-coherent, but often sharp, narrative of America's "reckless response" to 9/11. Holmes identifies several reasons...for the administration's decision to declare war on terrorism rather than on Islamic radicalism."
-Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

"With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level...Holmes has done a wonderful job of clearing the underbrush and preparing the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject."
-Chalmers Johnson, tomdispatch.com

"Holmes provides numerous useful insights."
-David P. Nalbone, Contemporary Psychology APA Review of Books

"...the author certainly has achieved his purpose of highlighting why United States policymakers must re-examine counter terrorism strategies and policies. Holmes has effectively introduced more clarity and understanding to this tragic unfolding epic and thus has made an important contribution to the literature."
-American Review of Politics

Book Description

The Matador's Cape explains how the catastrophic turn in American national-security policy since 9/11 stems from Washington's chronic inability to bring 'the enemy' into focus. The author's breadth of knowledge about the War on Terror leads to conclusions that are at once sobering in their depth of reference and inspiring in their global perspective.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (April 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521875161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521875165
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,919,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on August 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Holmes, Professor at the New York University School of Law, has produced an exceptionally good book exploring the tangled arguments for the US and British governments' `war on terror'. He sums up that this war has been a disaster.

He describes the US state's "excessively violent, too broadly targeted, and patently counter-productive response to 9/11." He notes the odd assumption that "American immoderation will produce Muslim moderation." As he writes, "America's bellicose response to the 9/11 provocation was not only dishonourable and unethical, given the cruel suffering it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility."

Holmes demolishes the arguments used to try to justify the shift from getting Al Qa'ida to `America's gratuitous invasion and horrifyingly bloody occupation of Iraq'. He criticises idealist warmongering about the clash of civilisations, humanitarian intervention and democratisation. He notes, "Senators and Representatives who originally voted to approve a war on false pretenses have subsequently hesitated to criticize it, no matter how calamitous the outcome, because after-the-fact dissent embarrassingly reveals their own prior gullibility and lack of foresight."

He points out, "In Administration rhetoric, terrorism (a method for waging asymmetric war) is routinely opposed to liberty (a principle for organizing a modern society). The antithesis of liberty, however, is not terrorism but tyranny. So, when the Administration tries to place jihadism in the space vacated by Communism, turning it into the new global enemy of liberty, it confuses both itself and others.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. David Swan VINE VOICE on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In terrorizing America, Osama Bin Laden only got the ball rolling. Contrary to FDR's famous statement that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, George W. Bush seems to believe that fear should be the prime motivator in engaging Islamic radicals and of them we should be truly terrified. With much of America and Congress cowed, Bush was given carte blanche to push his right wing agenda including massive tax cuts on the wealthy, an erosion of civil rights and a stunning reelection win using a campaign of fear. It was Bush who was instrumental in bringing Bin Laden's dream to fruition by galvanizing the Islamic world against America and driving a wedge between the U.S. and its allies. The author writes, `The strength of the U.S. government, including its ability to project force abroad, not only depends on its reputation for invincibility abroad, it also relies on its domestic legitimacy.' What Bush has managed to do is completely tie down the military, demonstrate to the world its limitations and tar the image of the United States as a beacon for freedom and law.

The author devotes an entire chapter to Dept. of Justice lawyer John Yoo and with good reason. Yoo's views on presidential power can best be summed up by a quote from his book `The Powers of War and Peace' saying, "the President's authority under the Constitution did not differ in important measure from that of a king" In other words everything Americans know about checks and balances and the founding fathers desire to rid themselves of a king is wrong. To support his assertion Yoo cherry picks through historical documents, omits contrary facts and distorts reality. Yoo is to political discourse what creationism is to science.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
New York University School of Law research director Stephen Holmes presents The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror, a scholarly examination of the failures, mismanagement, and worse rampant in the Bush-Cheney administration's response to the September 11th attacks, especially the deleterious ramifications of the war in Iraq. The Matador's Cape strongly condemns acts of terror and genocide, yet examines with equal suspicion the Bush-Cheney's administration's insistence in sequestering its intelligence and decision-making process from the public - and therefore from any solid opportunity to vette or cross-check its ideologically driven conclusions, with disastrous results. Also discussed is the significant yet by no means unilateral role of religious fundamentalism in propagating terrorism, the impact of rising birthrates in the Islamic world contrasted with falling birthrates in the Western world, the harmful and psychologically twisted effects of the Bush-Cheney administrations embrace of torture, and much more. A measured, well-reasoned and deftly persuasive treatise about the need for an immediate reexamination of America's current administration and foreign policy. Highly recommended.
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