Courtesy Reuters

The War of Unintended Consequences

How (Not?) to Fight Terrorism

Surprise, Surprise

Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon:

Richard Falkenrath does not like our book The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right ("Grading the War on Terrorism," January/February 2006). He says it is "a disappointment" and "a polemic" filled with "sweeping assertions," riddled with "dubious claims," and tainted by "sloppy documentation." In parts, it is "superficial," "scattershot," and chock-a-block with "exaggerations, misinterpretations, and errors."

These charges do not surprise us. After all, The Next Attack sharply criticizes the Bush administration's conduct in the war on jihadist terrorism, and Falkenrath is a long-standing member -- albeit a junior one -- of the Bush inner circle. He worked on the administration's transition to power in 2000 and then in various positions dealing with weapons-proliferation issues and homeland security. According to an online biography, he was "one of the architects of the Department of Homeland Security and the principal author of the National Strategy for Homeland Security."

Since he left the government in 2004, Falkenrath has been a devoted defender of the administration and a reflexive critic of its detractors, including as a spokesman for the Bush campaign. Most recently, he criticized the final report of the bipartisan 9/11 Public Discourse Project (an organization created by the members of the 9/11 Commission) on the administration's counterterrorism and homeland security efforts. Falkenrath called the report, which gave the administration's performance mostly low to failing grades, "very superficial" and argued that its authors had "cheapened their own moral authority and reputation."

So it is hardly shocking that Falkenrath would loathe a book that reviewers for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist have praised lavishly. Beneath the impasto of pejoratives, we cannot discern an argument in Falkenrath's review of our book. His article is reminiscent of the classic Monty Python skit about the man who goes to the argument store in search of debate but whose every claim is met

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