Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State (W.W. Norton), by Ali Soufan
Jun. 13, 2017
Osama bin Laden emerges from the pages of Anatomy of Terror as a strategic thinker, albeit blinded by preconceptions of his enemy, the United States, whose determined vengeance for 9/11 he underestimated. The bestselling author, a Lebanese-born former counterintelligence operative for the FBI, writes in swift journalistic strokes about the leading figures of Al Qaeda and its more militant offshoot, ISIS. “Radical Islam” isn’t monolithic, Soufan insists. He identifies several strains of Islamist fundamentalism at work and in conflict with each other. U.S. military intervention is sometimes necessary to thwart terrorists, he finds, but terrorism won’t recede despite battlefield victories unless viable counter-narratives take hold among disenchanted Muslims susceptible to extremist ideology. “Millions of Muslims around the world believe the West is deliberately suppressing their religion and stifling political change,” he concludes—beliefs only reinforced by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and conditions at Guantanamo. ISIS and Al Qaeda “imprison potential recruits in ideological echo chambers,” he writes. Alas, members of our government, from several administrations, have also spent their careers in echo chambers.