Against All Enemies: Inside
America's War on Terror
Richard A. Clarke
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (March 22, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN: 0743260244
- Amazon.com Sales Rank: #6,036 in Books
Review by Donald N. Anderson (a version of this review is on Amazon.com):
This book is very well written and contains one key man’s inside impressions
of the events of a momentous period. I’m sure it will be used in the
future as a sourcebook for a glimpse at the attitudes of the players during this
Mr. Clarke is at his best describing the personal interactions and the
discussions with the various players. From his report it is obvious that
President Clinton was very connected and aware of the many terrorist problems
but was unable to accept the political fallout from a vigorous military or
covert pursuit of these terrorists. Instead he employed bold talk and a
legalistic approach through the courts. This proved only marginally
effective and may actually have encouraged the idea that the U.S. was too
morally weak to effectively respond. I suspect this impression will only
disappear when they see the overwhelming strength of our response to the first
atomic bombs that they have promised to detonate in the United States.
This book cannot be read in isolation, however, as it is rather selective in
what it reports from this period and instead focuses in support of the
author’s opposition to the current Iraq war. Of course no single book
provides a comprehensive picture of the Middle East’s problems, but as our
counter-terrorism czar, I had hoped this book would provide a brief
comprehensive overview of the terrorism problem. It was not to be.
Perhaps it was a further effect of the 9/11 horror, but Mr. Clarke seems focused
on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to the exclusion of any other Islamic
terrorists. His picture seems unnecessarily narrowed. Perhaps in the
counter-terror job with its constant drumbeat of intelligence intercepts with
their necessarily current selectivity makes taking a longer term viewpoint
A large number of books spring to mind to expand the readers knowledge beyond
Mr. Clarke’s selective focus, but I will only mention a couple of recent ones
and a wonderful series of summary columns (TIA Daily, 11 September – 15
September 2006) by Richard Tracinski called “What America Has Learned from the
War on Terrorism, Five Years In.” A very important recent book
“Because They Hate” by Brigitte Gabriel provides some seldom discussed
history of Lebanon and the rise of the terrrorists there (now the Hezbollah).
It broadens Clarke’s focus past the Iraq,and Afghanistan wars and al Qaeda.
Her personal history is riveting. A great recent book to put the terrorist
effort in its long term historical perspective is Andrew G. Bostom’s “The
Legacy of Jihad.” After reading this book you will never again think of
Islam as the religion of peace.
Mr. Clarke served in the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations so
some of his omissions seem to fit only a partisan mold since he mentions almost
nothing positive about the 3 Republicans and only a little negative about the
one Democrat. The book was written before the 2004 election, but the
author swore that he would not accept a position in the Kerry administration so
the job promotion aspect seems off-limits.
For example, Mr. Clarke faults Reagan for his non-response to the terrible
murders in Lebanon (a Iran/Hezbollah operations) but never mentions his dramatic
retribution for the killings in a German Disco. This retribution plus the
2nd invasion of Iraq may finally have influenced Qadhafi to abandon his WMD and
terrorist training programs.
Mr. Clarke changed his story from 2002 when he explained that the Clinton
anti-terror initiatives were carried forward with a five-fold increase in
funding for the CIA programs -- to this book when he could remember none of this
and gave the impression of a President completely disconnected from the
Mr. Clarke seems to have fallen under the influence of the famous Clinton charm
when he describes 8 years of primarily anti-terrorist talk favorably. in
contrast to the 8 months in which the 2nd Bush was searching for an initiative
that went beyond “swatting flies” and eliminated al Qaeda.
Mr. Clarke gives reasons for his disagreement with the current President
Bush’s reopening of the Iraq war. They are strong reasons as befits an
area where informed disagreement is intellectually respectable. I
disagree, but from his writing am not able to discern why he is less sensitive
to the feasibility, and historical-cultural context than I. I do agree
that the other countries of concern are Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia
although I would add Syria and the Sudan and move Iran to the top of the list.
Each of these countries, however, requires a different approach as Mr. Clarke is
no doubt aware.
I strongly recomend this book for those who have enough background to put it in
the full Middle East context.
I wish to thank Mr. Clarke for his many years of hard work in a difficult and
frustrating job that is vital to our country’s continued existence and safety.
There are a great many reviews of this book on Amazon.com. Many are quite
complimentary probably because the author is very critical about the Iraq war.