Amid all the hoopla around Richard Clarke's testimony at the 9/11 commission, less attention has been focused on his actual book. Occasional Reason contributor Chris Lehmann writes in the Wash Post that Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror does good work in "fill[ing] in the considerable gaps in the White House record leading up to Sept. 11."
Beginning with the Reagan administration's financial and military support of the mujaheddin who led the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Clarke shows how Washington's military and intelligence sachems consistently underestimated the threat that a growing global network of Islamic extremists posed to America's interests and security. After the first President Bush left off prosecuting the first Gulf War, Clarke writes, he sent the wrong message to America's "Arab coalition partners and the world in general" by failing to attack Hussein's Republican Guard. What's more, Clarke writes, this "moral outrage" in turn forced the United States "to keep forces in Saudi Arabia to defend against a renewed strike on Kuwait by a reconstituted Republican Guard"—and the ongoing presence of the American military in Saudi Arabia, most especially near the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina, was what prompted Osama bin Laden to break definitively with the Saudis and declare holy war on the United States.
Clarke also revisits the "staccato drumroll" of 11 high-profile terrorist attacks that occurred under Bill Clinton, and the still haphazard official grasp on where the threat originated. By the time Clinton advisers had a clear fix on al Qaeda and bin Laden, with the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. intelligence repeatedly failed to pin down the network, while the domestic scandal of the president's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky invited cynical "wag the dog" charges when Clinton ordered anti-al Qaeda bombing attacks in Afghanistan and the Sudan.
Whole thing here.
David Frum has a different take in his "diary," writing that "while I began reading it with disapproval, I ended with dismay." That's one more thing for which Clarke can apologize.