Monday, August 11, 2008

On Books

THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE by Ron Suskind, published by Simon & Schuster, the edition I reviewed was the 2007 Trade Paperback. It retails at $15.00 and is 375 pages in length.

Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist having won his award for his feature reporting in the Wall Street Journal. Here he reports on how our intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the White House, especially the President and the Vice President, reacted after the events of 9/11. His main point is that the desire to calm the public and to prevent another terrorist attack drove the intelligence agencies to ever greater lengths to match their leaders words with deeds, eventually leading to torture and the apparent fudging of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

His prose is smooth, conversational, and highly readable. His sources are at the very top and he uses their information to make the reader feel that they are at the table, or in the field, when the decisons are being made and/or the action is going down. This intense you-are-there style offers plenty of intensity and insight; in particular the interplay in the Bush cabinet and how its makeup guaranteed the end of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq (an outcome that Suskind, in this book, argues was pre-ordained, with or without the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al Qaeda).

This view is helped by Suskind's essential premise, regarding the power struggles at the top of the American government: "In these complex engagements of powerful men, it is important not to overlook basic human interaction..." (page 25). This personality-centric view of human history is crucial to Suskind's understanding of events post-9/11 (through essentially 2004) because it allows him to view history in a correct and profound manner as the results of decisions made by men which shape events, rather than the pendantic and limiting view that people are somehow shoved around by events. This latter view is obviously an incorrect way of viewing reality, for instance: does anyone believe that our recent history would be the same had Al Gore been at the helm on 9/11 rather than Bush? Case closed.

This book will change the way you view recent history and I recommend it to everyone who wants to understand what has happened to America in the last seven years.

One small note to Mr. Suskind and Mr. Tenet: the headquarters of Microsoft is located in Redmond, Washington, not Redmond, Oregon (page 342)!

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