This book provides a very detailed description of that mysterious phenomenon called `al Qaeda' and offers a strategy to counter the threat that it poses to the U.S. and its allies. Bruce Riedel is by most rational standards an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. He has spent the better part of his government career engaged in the research and analysis of the Middle East and now resides at the Brookings Institute as one of their stable of expert.
Riedel provides a broad outline of al Qaeda including brief biographies of Osma bin Laden and his principal lieutenant Ayman al Zawahari. Perhaps more importantly he identifies the ideology behind the strategic thinking of al Qaeda. In the course of doing so he also explains the close alliance between al Qaeda and the still active Taliban religious movement in Afghanistan. In Riedel's analysis the strategic goal of al Qaeda is to drive the West from the Realm of Islam (Dar al Islam), to establish a Sharia based Caliphate over world wide Islam, and of course to eliminate Israel. Fortunately the majority of Muslims do not necessarily agree with this goal. Still it is a fact that many Muslims see the days of the Baghdad Caliphate (circa 800-1200 CE) as a golden age and often reflect that the age secular nationalism has brought Muslims more humiliations than triumphs.
Riedel's strategy for defeating al Qaeda and its cult of violence is multi-tiered and correctly centers on Afghanistan and Pakistan not Iraq. And he views the struggle as much ideological as military. In his opinion the present administration of George W. Bush blundered badly in its efforts to deal with the continuing threat from al Qaeda and indeed with Operation Iraqi Freedom did exactly what bin Laden had hoped the U.S. would do.
Riedel is clearly not a supporter of the Bush Administration and is in point of fact an advisor to Barrack Obama. Nonetheless this does not invalidate his arguments for how to cope with al Qaeda and to prosecute the real war on terror. This reviewer does not agree with all of his prescriptions for dealing with the al Qaeda Menace, but certainly admits his expertise and subject matter knowledge.