Over at The Century Foundation‘s blog, Taking Note, Patrick Radden Keefe highlights five books that anyone who wants to dig into the DNA of the G.W. Bush era could use as a down payment on future penetrating exposes that we can expect once the incumbent office holders get back to baseball, ranching and oil-drilling.
Three of the books are high on my list — and two I have not read but will do so right away.
Here are Keefe’s big five, including America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy that was sponsored in part by the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program which I direct as my day job:
THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror turned into a War on our Ideals, by Jane Mayer. A definitive, harrowing narrative account of the development of torture as a tool in the war on terror, and the incremental series of legal obfuscations and outright lies that led to rendition, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.
ANGLER: The Cheney Vice Presidency, by Barton Gellman. A terrific companion to Mayer’s book; Gellman exposes the extent to which Dick Cheney and David Addington sacrificed the constitution and the rule of law in their efforts to hijack American policy and reshape the office of the presidency.
THE SHADOW FACTORY: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by James Bamford. A long-awaited followup from the definitive chronicler of the National Security Agency. Bamford exposes not only the legal transgressions of America’s biggest and most powerful spy agency, but the dangerous inefficiency associated with monitoring innocent American citizens rather than pursuing terrorists.
THE FOREVER WAR, by Dexter Filkins. Filkins’ extraordinarily vivid and immediate account of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq is not a polemic or analysis, but a lyrical act of witness, and a vital corrective to the sanitized, distant wars that Americans have been lulled into expecting.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, moderated by David Ignatius. This penetrating and wide-ranging discussion between two lions of American foreign policy deals only in part with the many missteps of the Bush administration, but the erudition and common sense of Brzezinski and Scowcroft, and their careful evaluation of the nature of America’s national interest, amount to an implicit (and sometimes explicit) repudiation of the from-the-hip neoconservatism that has dominated America’s relationship with the world in recent years. More importantly, Brzezinski and Scowcroft look to the future, and the promise of a new foreign policy.
I still need to read James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory and Filkins’ The Forever War. We all should.
— Steve Clemons