Austin Bay

"Counterstrike's" chapter on the exploitation of intelligence provides a historical accounting of the importance of understanding that every operation (diplomatic, military, economic, etc.) is also an intelligence-gathering and -expanding operation. This is an old truth the authors admirably illustrate. But the authors' most interesting comment is that "America must adopt a culture of resilience." They provide the barest sketch of what this means, but at least they acknowledge it. America has been slow to make this cultural adaptation.

Kevin McGrath's "Confronting al-Qaeda" (Naval Institute Press) was published prior to bin Laden's demise, so it must bear that degree of superficial staleness. The book would also benefit from "Counterstrike's" more detailed understanding of Iraq as an intelligence-gathering theater for the U.S. in its war with al-Qaida.

The book's utility lies in its insistence on waging politics to undermine the appeal of violent Islamist extremists. In this vein, McGrath echoes several recent books advocating potent information and counter-argumentation programs (e.g., Youssef H. Aboul-Enein's "Militant Islamist Ideology," published in 2010). McGrath notes "the political sentiments upon which al-Qaida capitalizes will always exist" so the U.S. goal should be to prey upon the internal divisions that exist within militant Islamist organizations. Al-Qaida would eventually be reduced "to a series of localized national movements" and lose its global veneer.

This may already be happening, in part because 10 years of war have damaged the organization and killed off senior leaders with global organization skills. Like Schmitt and Shanker, and for that matter, Bernard Lewis, McGrath knows the struggle will be onerous and long.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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