I just finished Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies, which is an insider’s look at America’s reaction to Islamic terrorism since the Reagan years. Many will recall that Richard Clarke was a top manager in the Counterterrorism Security Group in both the Clinton and W. administration, as well as being a perennial foreign policy bureaucrat since the Reagan years.
The book opens like a Tom Clancy novel: the White House has been evacuated, the Vice President has been removed to the East Wing bunker and a small group of weathered staffers attempt to manage the worst terrorist attack perpetrated on American soil. Clarke is recalling his day at the office on September 11, 2001. All too often, I had to remind myself that this was a non-fiction book; it seemed like a novelization of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.
The author and the book have been much assailed by the supporters of W., which is a loss for the country. Other books attack Bush in a clearly partisan way (I’m looking at you, Al Franken and Michael Moore). This book is different. Clarke is no bleeding heart liberal. He’s most certainly not a pacifist. Clarke is a reasonable intelligent man that’s spent a good deal of his life studying and reacting to terrorism. He was fighting the war on terror before it became the War on Terror. In short, he’s a very credible source of information. He outlines many, many failures of the bureaucracy and the American intelligence community over the past decade. Many of those still go unaddressed. At the end of the book, Clarke presents his cogent argument of why the Bush administration’s anemic invasion of Afghanistan and its baffling invasion of Iraq has critically damaged the effort to destroy al Queda.
Supporters and detractors of W. must read this book. Bush is campaigning on his record fighting Terror. Clarke suggests giving W. a failing grade. And so do I.