America’s Uncertain Role in the World After 9/11


The long war helped Trump and his aides more significantly: When they took office, they were able to do so much damage because the conflict had “eroded the legal, political, cultural, and economic armor” that had previously protected American democracy. .

Ackerman’s arguments on all these points are convincing, though his focus is sometimes too selective; for example, in describing the rise of white nationalism, he almost ignores the more obvious and fundamental economic and social explanations for this trend – such as the financial crisis of 2007-8 and the election of the country’s first Black president. While the sense of causality is off, its long and brutal chronology is a reminder of how many terrible mistakes the United States made in the War on Terror. In fact, it is worth quoting at length the summary of these errors:

“In response to 9/11, America invaded and occupied two countries, bombed four people over the years, killed at least 801,000 people – the exact number may never be known – terrified millions, tortured hundreds, detained thousands, set aside thousands. The right to create a global surveillance network has dismissed its veterans with ruthless indifference, labeling or treating an entire global religion as criminals, criminalizing immigration, and declaring that many of its actions are legal or constitutional. It created at least 21 million refugees and spent $6 trillion on its operations.”

At a time when anti-Trump Republicans are being lauded by the mainstream media, it’s worth remembering how the last generation of Republican leaders set precedents, whether through anti-Muslim policies or moving towards revolution. The Iraq war, undermining legal safeguards and expert authority – that Trump would abuse so irrationally.

However, “Reign of Terror” does not serve well, with its long, condensed, and redundant chronological structure. (The book is so long that it contains both an introduction and a foreword, three dedications, and three epigraphs.) So many extra stories fit into this story that familiar parts sometimes overshadow more recent ones.

Adhering almost entirely to the narrative also means that “Reign of Terror” does not address some key analytical points. Most importantly, it lacks a discussion of how the United States behaved. NS They responded to al-Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks, and the threat of violent extremism. Moreover, while Ackerman occasionally hints at what he wants to happen now—while he calls for the “abolition” of the War on Terror—he gives readers no idea how to get there or how the United States can better protect itself from dangers. existing.

This failure to engage with difficult policy questions points to another problem with the book: Ackerman seems to have little interest in persuasion. From start to finish, his style is sarcastic and condescending; He portrays most of the actors in his series as daring, scheming, or just plain stupid. So Joe Biden has “delusions” as a senator; Bill Keller, when the editor of The Times exhibited “astonishing historical ignorance”; Obama comes across as an unprincipled opportunist, etc. Ackerman spends almost as much time attacking “liberals” (by which he means moderate centre-leftists) as he attacks Trump and his supporters: for example, he calls the coastal elites dismayed by Trump’s rise as “sophisticated.” ”—As if Ackerman weren’t part of this same social and professional demographic, says Ackerman, who lives in Washington and has worked for world-class publications throughout his career.

Anger and ridicule are appropriate, or at least understandable, responses to Trump and his spoils. I’m not sure moderate Democrats or the mainstream media deserve the same treatment. While the content of the book may satisfy readers who already feel exactly the same as Ackerman, it is likely to alienate those who do not.

All this condescension only distracts attention from many key points of the book. And he makes “Reign of Terror” a left-wing example of both the meanness and polarization that have characterized the Trump era, rather than the rejection of that era that a less disparaging explanation could offer. As a result, the book not only fails to provide a clear idea of ​​how the War on Terror should be waged, or how the Biden administration might eventually conclude – as the current massacre in Afghanistan shows, the answers are: more necessary than ever. The book also offers no way out of the vicious, self-perpetuating internal conflict that our foreign wars have helped ignite—a conflict that such writing can only sustain.


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