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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light, Hurried at Times, but Still worth the time, October 17, 2011
This review is from: The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda (Paperback)
I bought this book as a follow up to Stephen Coll's "Ghost Wars." Coll covers the intelligence war and the rise of Al Qaeda up to 9/11. Bergen carries on from 9/11 to present.

Unfortunately Bergen tries hard, but when compared with Coll he comes off second best by far. The book covers a lot of ground, but it at times has a hurried and rather disorganised style to it; he frequently jumps ahead in sidebar themes, while not providing the necessary context or providing it after he has introduced the subject. The case in point of the torture or detainees leaps right into the rights of non-combatants, the legal definitions, and the ex-post facto justification of the Bush regime for waterboarding... all of this is described without a general discussion of how the prisoners came to be in the hands of the Americans. He backtracks and gives details. This style can be slightly off-putting at times.

Bergen's central thesis is that Al Qaeda erred big time in attacking the US and that its policy of direct confrontation with the West was a complete and utter failure. Western powers and the US crushed Al Qaeda militarily and the particular brand of extreme interpretations of the Koran as favoured by the Wahabists, were soundly rejected by the vast majority of Muslims.

Some people have reviewed the book and said it is a damning indictment of the Bush adminstration. He is rather partisan at times in favour of Democratic Presidents and their reactions to 9/11. But the assertions of Bergen are hardly new and he develops his arguments in an empirical way. Nothing is controversial here unless you live in the manichean world of the contemporary United States where one side is all light and the other darkness -- by the tenor of American media Bergen is tame, calm-headed and reasoned.

The prose could be livened up a little as befits a book of type - mass market paperback. Not the best... I give it two-and-three-quarters stars out of five. "
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