By Michael Schindler
If you want to cut through the spin and get to real answers and a real understanding of the “war on terror,” then you must pick up Peter Bergen’s latest book, “THE LONGEST WAR: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda.”
Bergen, a long-time journalist, is CNN’s national security analyst and the bestselling author of “Holy War, Inc.” and “The Osama bin Laden I Know.” (He actually first interviewed bin Laden in 1997.) He tells of the war on terror struggle not only from the U.S. perspective, but also from the point of view of al-Qaeda leaders and foot soldiers, which no book on the subject has done before.
I interviewed Bergen, and what I found most intriguing was his directness to answering questions. Bergen is true to his commitment to actually report the facts, and this is evident in his book as well. When I asked him whether the war in Iraq was “personal” for President Bush, he responded without political spin – and just delivered the facts: The issue is very hard to disentangle. Bergen shared how the evidence didn’t support Iraq actually having in its possession long-range weapons that would reach the United States, and there was only evidence of Iraq meeting with al-Qaeda once – and it was may years past. Was it justified? Not likely.
In the same breath, Bergen went on to state that while Iraq “failed every common sense test,” Bush did make the right decision on the Surge. The president bucked his advisors and pressed forward with this decision – and the result has been positive. Bush made the best out of what was likely a bad decision.
When I asked Bergen why we had yet to catch bin Laden – especially with all the very cool technology we have at our fingertips that can likely identify every single hair on a person’s head – he stated that it is likely because of technology that we haven’t caught him. “If we do catch him, it will be human intelligence. It has to be someone saying, ‘I know where he is going to be in six hours’…that’s tough.”
While Bergen didn’t come right out and state his appreciation for those serving this country, it is evident that he considers many of our men and women true heroes. He has spent time embedded with many of them in some of the most dangerous places in the world. “The Longest War” brings honor and doesn’t discount the lives sacrificed, while exposing the mistakes made.
So the real question that begs an answer is, “Will this war ever end?” In Berger’s opinion, “it won’t end. al-Qaeda won’t surrender.” But there is a solution and we are seeing it play out every day across the world – to make al-Qaeda irrelevant; and according to Bergen, this is happening as I write this. Watch the news: While you will see unrest in the Middle East, what you won’t see is someone burning an American flag – and no one in those countries is spouting bin Laden rhetoric. If there is anti-Americanism, it is limited.
The bottom line? I highly recommend this book. If you have ever wanted to understand the “war on terror” from both sides, “The Longest War” is the only book you will need. Pick up a copy today at any bookstore, including our own Edmonds Bookshop.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.