From one of our most trusted counterterrorism experts, a sweeping, insider's account of the decade-long chase for America's deadliest enemy.
This landmark history chronicles the dramatic, decade-long war against al Qa’ida and provides a model for understanding the ebb and flow of terrorist activity. Tracing intricately orchestrated terrorist plots and the elaborate, multiyear investigations to disrupt them, Seth G. Jones identifies three distinct “waves” of al Qa’ida violence. As Jonathan Mahler wrote in the New York Times Book Review, “studying these waves and the counterwaves that repelled them can tell us a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to fighting terrorism.” The result is a sweeping, insider’s account of what the war has been and what it might become.
Jones (In the Graveyard of Empires), an analyst at RAND and an adjunct professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, explores the waxing and waning of al-Qaeda in this sprawling narrative history. Drawing on court records from terrorism trials, government documents, and interviews with well-placed officials, Jones proposes a wave theory of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorism. The first wave began with the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa in 1998, crested on 9/11, and ebbed as al-Qaeda was flushed from Afghanistan. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 "provided an opportunity for redemption" and "triggered a new wave of attacks in the West." This second wave ended when Iraq's Sunni tribes united against al-Qaeda's harsh "punishment strategy." The third wave, characterized by "homegrown plots" inspired by al-Qaeda, began in 2007 and ended with the deaths of bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. Despite the reversals, Jones warns that the war on terror is far from over and that the goal of the U.S. should now be "prevent a fourth wave." The author's cycles, however tenuous, lead him to propose a preventive strategy of "implementing a light-footprint" and "helping local governments establish basic law and order." Jones's detailed history is a timely addition to the debate over the way forward against international terrorism.