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     Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the tar      Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the targeted killing of suspected militants. And it recounts how the president directed the mammoth machinery of spy agencies to hunt Awlaki down in a frantic, multi-million-dollar pursuit that would end with the death of Awlaki by a bizarre, robotic technology that is changing warfare—the drone.       Scott Shane, who has covered terrorism for The New York Times over the last decade, weaves the clash between president and terrorist into both a riveting narrative and a deeply human account of the defining conflict of our era. Awlaki, who directed a plot that almost derailed Obama’s presidency, and then taunted him from his desert hideouts, will go down in history as the first United States citizen deliberately hunted and assassinated by his own government without trial. But his eloquent calls to jihad, amplified by YouTube, continue to lure young Westerners into terrorism—resulting in tragedies from the Boston marathon bombing to the murder of cartoonists at a Paris weekly. Awlaki’s life and death show how profoundly America has been changed by the threat of terrorism and by our own fears.       Illuminating and provocative, and based on years of in depth reporting, Objective Troy is a brilliant reckoning with the moral challenge of terrorism and a masterful chronicle of our times.


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     Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the tar      Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the targeted killing of suspected militants. And it recounts how the president directed the mammoth machinery of spy agencies to hunt Awlaki down in a frantic, multi-million-dollar pursuit that would end with the death of Awlaki by a bizarre, robotic technology that is changing warfare—the drone.       Scott Shane, who has covered terrorism for The New York Times over the last decade, weaves the clash between president and terrorist into both a riveting narrative and a deeply human account of the defining conflict of our era. Awlaki, who directed a plot that almost derailed Obama’s presidency, and then taunted him from his desert hideouts, will go down in history as the first United States citizen deliberately hunted and assassinated by his own government without trial. But his eloquent calls to jihad, amplified by YouTube, continue to lure young Westerners into terrorism—resulting in tragedies from the Boston marathon bombing to the murder of cartoonists at a Paris weekly. Awlaki’s life and death show how profoundly America has been changed by the threat of terrorism and by our own fears.       Illuminating and provocative, and based on years of in depth reporting, Objective Troy is a brilliant reckoning with the moral challenge of terrorism and a masterful chronicle of our times.

30 review for Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    Scott Shane is a New York Times national security reporter whose new book OBJECTIVE TROY explores the evolution of the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) as its main weapon to counter Islamic terrorism. After invading Afghanistan and Iraq and having both incursions turn out poorly the Obama administration came into office with the fervent belief to avoid further use of “boots on the ground” in any large number in the Middle East. Events in the region did not necessarily cooperate Scott Shane is a New York Times national security reporter whose new book OBJECTIVE TROY explores the evolution of the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) as its main weapon to counter Islamic terrorism. After invading Afghanistan and Iraq and having both incursions turn out poorly the Obama administration came into office with the fervent belief to avoid further use of “boots on the ground” in any large number in the Middle East. Events in the region did not necessarily cooperate with President Obama’s vision and threats from the region necessitated a shift in strategy. The choice was rather simple; let the jihadists have their way and do nothing or reassert American troop strength. A middle road emerged, that of applying drones to the shifting balance of power in the Middle East and Southwest Asia to decapitate the leadership of groups that threatened the United States in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The implementation of the drone strategy successfully decimated al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, but the United States was confronted with a new enemy in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). One of the ramifications of this new geo-political threat was the emergence of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen educated in the United States and Yemen, who headed three separate mosques in America emerging as a radicalized jihadist who would be killed by a drone attack in 2011. The book centers on whether the U.S. government has the constitutional right to assassinate an American citizen if it deems them a threat to its national security. Shane explores the rise of al-Awlaki as a person who opposed the 9/11 attacks in 2001, seeing himself as a bridge between Islam and America. However, by 2005, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. support for Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his stay in London where his students were much more radical than those in the United States, al-Awlaki grew increasingly radicalized and became a jihadi spokesperson who by 2007 was calling for attacks against the United States as he concluded that his religious beliefs and the ummah (community of believers in Islam) took precedence over his loyalty to his country. After fleeing the United States because the FBI had learned he was not following his own moral code by engaging his sexual appetites he grew increasingly strident in calling for jihad against America. Once he was linked to Nidal Hasan’s attack at Fort Hood, TX, and Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s attempt to blow up an airplane with 289 passengers as it approached Detroit’s Metro Airport at Christmas in 2009, the Obama White House realized what a threat he had become. Further examination brought the realization in the Justice Department that it seemed no matter what the incident, be it 9/11, or other operations, Anwar al-Awlaki’s name seem to come up. The question for President Obama was how to counter act the growing threat. Shane explores the evolution of Obama’s thought process and the Justice Department’s reasoning as to the legality of killing an American citizen and the morality of killing by remote control. He discusses Obama’s comments as a law professor, state senator, and United States Senator to formulate how to deal with extremism. He approved of the attacks on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, but was against President Bush’s detention, rendition, and interrogation program which he immediately eliminated upon assuming the presidency. However he did not do away with the drone program. Obama was not an ideologue as some on the right have painted him, but a ruthless pragmatist when it came to the use of drones. Obama’s Justice Department’s finding concluded that al-Awlaki could be targeted because he posed “a continued and imminent threat” to American national security. In 2008 al-Awlaki set up a web site that markedly expanded his exposure “as his Islamic teaching was kindling volatile emotions across the English speaking world.” (177) His lectures appeared on You Tube and the Internet reaching everyone interested in his message, a message that was successful because of American actions in Iraq and Pakistan. His further success was due to his command of English and his knowledge of Arabic sacred texts, along with his disarming informal way of speaking. He employed the motivating power of religion with the universal quest of the young for identity as he created an attractive message for disaffected Muslims who saw him as their spokesperson, and many were willing to answer his call for jihad. Perhaps al-Awlaki’s most successful propaganda tool was his creation of Inspire, an online magazine that was written in a breezy style to promote suicide bombings and other terror tactics. Shane discusses its slick presentation and internet appeal providing instructions on how to make a bomb and calling for attacks against the west. Shane goes on to discuss the effect Inspire had on jihadi recruitment, future attacks, and how the western intelligence community tried to figure out how to respond. Shane does an exceptional job summarizing the constitutional arguments for and against the use of drones. He also discusses the legal arguments that were pursued by Anwar’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki who went to federal court to try and get his son removed from the drone “kill list.” Shane is very effective in discussing the legal nuances and reasoning whenever he brings up the constitutionality of whether an American citizen could become an assassination target by its government. By 2010 AQAP was a greater threat to the United States than al-Qaeda. With the links between the Detroit bomber and Fort Hood killings it was just a matter of time before the United States would kill al-Awlaki. In the end al-Awlaki has probably had a greater impact on the Jihadi world in death than when he was alive. His life, writings, and speeches continue to carry a great deal of influence on the web where he has an achieved a “prophetic martyrdom.” All you have to do is point to the Boston Marathon bombers-the Tsarnaev brothers who learned how to make a bomb from a pressure cooker on al-Awlaki’s website. Shane has written a very useful book that provides a great deal of insight into Obama and al-Awlaki and their approach to dealing with events in the Middle East. Further, he has provided a strong narrative for the reader to understand the future legal implications of what Obama has done by targeting the Muslim preacher. If there is a major criticism I can offer concerning the book it would be the illogical chronological approach that Shane presents. Approaching al-Awlaki’s life by offering his middle years first, leads to repetition as he discusses the other stages of his development. A straight chronology would have greatly benefited the reader in understanding the main subject of the book. Apart from that, I recommend Objective Troy to anyone who wants to understand the constitutional, social media, and world political issues that confront the United States in a region that brought us the “Arab spring,” but continues to fall into chaos.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlie - A Reading Machine

    A very tricky subject handled quite brilliantly. Scott Shane has written an interesting and accessible story about the links between the current Obama administration, the use of drones in hunting down terrorists, both domestic and international, and the origins of many of USA's foreign policies, regarding both the Middle East and Assassinations. Hard to put down and highly enjoyable from start to finish.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Putnam

    July 2016-I really wanted to get back and give this a more comprehensive review, even though by now I have forgotten a lot of what I wanted to say. I have to get my thoughts together on this one. I listened to it rather than read it, so I can't quote and don't have notes, as I was driving. But it deserves a thoughtful review. It's changed my thinking on a number of things and deepened it on others. I think every American should read this book. More soon. **** I believe this is one of the most imp July 2016-I really wanted to get back and give this a more comprehensive review, even though by now I have forgotten a lot of what I wanted to say. I have to get my thoughts together on this one. I listened to it rather than read it, so I can't quote and don't have notes, as I was driving. But it deserves a thoughtful review. It's changed my thinking on a number of things and deepened it on others. I think every American should read this book. More soon. **** I believe this is one of the most important books I will have read in 2016. One takeaway is that the responsibility for the breadth and depth of America's drone program belongs squarely with Obama. It cannot be outsourced to JSOC or to whatever dark forces you want to see at work in the CIA or NSA or leftover from Rove/Cheney/Blackwater/Blackops/whatever. That does not mean those elements are not involved. It just means that Obama was and is at the helm and he authored the program and totally knows what's going on though he may at times have delegated responsibility for the day-to-day and may not have been thrilled with every hit. The drone program rose to its heights because of the attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit in Obama's first year as president. The infamous underwear bomber that became something of a joke only because the guy's bomb did not go off as planned. The issue was that the bomb was undetectable by TSA. Even worse, though, was that the guy was actually on a no-fly list. Even worse, his father in (I think) Nigeria had gone to the US Embassy (or Consulate, I forget, sorry, it's been awhile and I'm an American idiot for not knowing which we have there) and denounced his own son. The father was a banker and a credible source, concerned that his son had been developing radicalized views and had recently made a trip to Sudan to contact radicals. He had received what seemed to be a goodbye message and the father believed that his son was traveling to America on a legitimate passport. So, the US had all the information it needed to stop this guy, but due to one thing and another, all this info was lost in the shuffle and the guy sailed through. So, naturally Obama hit the roof. The whole presidency could have gone down as a result of this one incident in his first year. If that plane had blown, the Republicans would have been all over him. Although TSA and all the security measures were Bush's construction, it had not failed before and the fact that it failed so soon in his presidency would have been laid at his feet. Obama's real concern and interest lay with domestic policy--fixing the economy, which also was worse than he thought, thanks to Bush, and fixing healthcare. Also climate change. So the last thing he wanted was boots on the ground in Yemen, which was what dealing with an increased terror threat would lead to. (As an aside, Shane comments on Obama's poor handling of the press in the whole situation--he was on vacation when this happened and did not appear to reassure the public. In general Obama and his staff have done terribly with the press IMO on this and other complex issues. But throughout the book Shane comments how badly Obama has communicated about how he has handled terrorism. Obama has killed hundreds of top terror agents through the drone program but has not publicized this, often due to agreements with the countries in which the drone program has operated... even though individually, newspapers have often reported the hits, there has been no public accounting of the figures... and his record in this area... so the public does not have a good sense of what he has accomplished--if you want to think of this type of thing as an accomplishment... more about that later.) Enter the drone program. Via drones, you can limit collateral damage and narrow your targets. By Obama's lights, this was much better than the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths that occur with an on-the-ground war, even if civilians were killed in drone strikes. To date, perhaps a couple of thousand civilians have been reported killed by drones... accounts vary depending on who is reporting. But that is small by any accounting compared to traditional warfare. However, obviously no one is looking at it from the POV of those on the ground. If you are a member of a small village in a remote area who happens to have a cousin visiting, you are probably not thinking of him as a terrorist but as a cousin. You might not have any idea about buildings in New York. You might not have any idea of where New York is (soldiers fighting in Afghanistan reported their shock at discovering that tribal peoples had often not even heard of the Trade Towers--our own ethnocentricity is what's shocking, really). And suddenly more than half your village is wiped out by a rocket. That's surreal and of course beyond enraging. So then the book begins tracing the development of Anwar al-Alaki from an ordinary US immigrant who seemed quite well-adjusted to a radicalized imam and eventually a terrorist leader. As well, the Obama administration's commitment to killing him. And the Justice Department's collusion in justifying the decision to execute him without trial. Which justification has been released, but so heavily redacted that the reasoning behind it cannot be discerned. Which is odd, you know? If there is a reasoning that can be seen as legal, you think they'd stand behind it and it wouldn't need to be redacted for security reasons. What "security concerns" can there be in a legal decision? Show us the reasoning, I say, or scrap the decision and never, ever do that again. Anyway, so on this whole questionable scaffolding, al-Alaki gets executed by drone, and then, shortly after, his son, age 16, who has never shown any history of terrorism and who has never really even lived with his father, and who has been highly involved with the pro-democracy Arab Spring movement, which is the opposite of terrorism, is also executed by drone, supposedly by accident, according to JSOC. Obama, to his credit, was furious about this, and at that moment some of the control he had delegated was taken back or at least re-delegated. But still. Out of hand and unforgivable. My thing with al-Alaki is that well, yes, he was sending people after American lives. He would have been hard to capture and bring back for trial. But under US law he was entitled to that trial. And the thing is, Jesus himself was only a rebel until he was killed. It was not until his martyrdom that he developed any force as a spiritual figure. Al-Alaki on the other hand was already an imam with considerable weight. Martyr him and you have a mess. WEAKEN him and that's another thing. The US had all kinds of info on Al-Alaki regarding his corruption with prostitutes and the like. A trial with pictures in which he confessed to these would have been a golden opportunity. In fact arresting him much earlier on and going through that would have been so much smarter. What idiots. In any case, this book is well worth the read for the inside look at the tradeoffs, muff-ups, hard choices, personal moral failings, not to mention Republican obstructionism, that have got us into a lot of unnecessary entanglements. If you want to understand more than the headlines that will continue to plague us, I urge you to read this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    The author should read Dirty Wars and reconsider his premise. Just because Washington tells you it's so, doesn't mean it is. There is no proof that Al Awlaki had involvement in terrorist activity.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    The title of this book is insufficiently descriptive; what this book really is is the first full-length biography of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American AQAP operative, media personality, and first American ever to be deliberately killed by a Predator drone. I was waiting for someone to do such a biography (Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars covered some of the broader points), and this was really satisfying in depth and scope. Not only is it a retelling of Awlaki's life and the sensational turns it took, it The title of this book is insufficiently descriptive; what this book really is is the first full-length biography of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American AQAP operative, media personality, and first American ever to be deliberately killed by a Predator drone. I was waiting for someone to do such a biography (Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars covered some of the broader points), and this was really satisfying in depth and scope. Not only is it a retelling of Awlaki's life and the sensational turns it took, it also intertwines it with Obama's own life and his ultimate decision to kill him. Such a narrative strategy easily runs the risk of becoming hackneyed or strained, but in this case is done in a very artful and compelling manner. The author gets amazing access, to Awlaki's family, his tribe in Yemen, CIA operatives and White House officials, and correspondingly the level of information is great. To his credit he also segues into philosophical reflections on the War on Terror era that are deeply thoughtful, moving, and impeccably written. The story never bogs down in the details, which in the hands of a less-skilled writer could have become burdensome, but instead is told in an absolutely gripping and poetic fashion throughout. There are still things about Awlaki's life, particularly his own apparently-tortured and conflicted inner life (I assume?) that we'll never know, but this is probably as comprehensive an investigation as will ever be carried out. I really recommend this book to anyone, whether interested in War on Terror issues or not. Its an excellent story, compellingly written, deeply thoughtful and compelling but, thanks to the philosophical commentary and reflections it contains, (and which the title undersells), it is also one of those rare books that has the potential to change the way one looks at the world and interprets both past and future.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This book was excellent on many levels. Its’ an examination of two areas: the American Muslim, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the decision to use drones to kill him in Yemen. Let us first examine the tragic life story of Awlaki. He was born in the U.S., but his parents came from Yemen. His father got an engineering degree in the U.S. and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps – getting a degree, and then possibly re-locate to Yemen and apply his skills there. His father had settled back in his ancestral This book was excellent on many levels. Its’ an examination of two areas: the American Muslim, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the decision to use drones to kill him in Yemen. Let us first examine the tragic life story of Awlaki. He was born in the U.S., but his parents came from Yemen. His father got an engineering degree in the U.S. and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps – getting a degree, and then possibly re-locate to Yemen and apply his skills there. His father had settled back in his ancestral home and was supporting his sons’ studies in the U.S. Awlaki did not wish to pursue a career in engineering; instead he gravitated to Islamic studies in the American universities he attended. He then became an imam, first at a Mosque in San Diego then at one in Virginia near Washington DC. The author points out that he took on a rather conservative outlook on his faith, unlike his parents and siblings. When 9/11 happened he condemned it and also realized that it was an opportunity to attain status in the media. He spoke fluent English and Arabic. Awlaki was featured in several interviews and talk shows, and started to see himself as a constructive bridge between Islam and the United States - and the West in general. This “bridge” started to unravel for external and personal reasons. The invasion of Iraq did not help. Among other things, like marital issues, there was a conflict between the father and son; his father kept pushing Awlaki to get a technical degree (thus pursuing a secular lifestyle). Also his father was financially supporting his son, his son’s wife and their children. Awlaki felt he could no longer reside in the U.S. and left for England for a few months where he encountered and was influenced by a brand of Islam far more extremist than that found in the U.S. After, he left to re-unite with his wife and family at his father’s house in Sanna, Yemen. There he joined up with Al Qaeda members and to paraphrase George Bush’s phrase of “You are with us or against us”; Awlaki felt that a true Muslim must reject the non-Muslim world – either convert the infidel or destroy him. Awlaki was a very effective preacher and his sermons started to proliferate on the internet, particularly in the English speaking world. He also went from preaching to operational. He met with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the infamous underwear bomber. Awlaki told him to detonate his underwear bomb on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit over the U.S. Fortunately Abdulmutallab was physically subdued by passengers when the plane was landing in Detroit. It was at this stage that the Obama government decided to kill Awlaki using drones in Yemen. It took over two years of surveillance to do this. The author discusses at length the moral and constitutional ramifications of this act. Some pointed out that by killing Awlaki it would make him into an even greater hero in the extremist Muslim world. This would appear to have happened as there are now thousands of YouTube videos of Awlaki’s sermons to choose from. And along with the inflammatory rhetoric there are instructions in his videos on how to make homemade bombs. Among others, the brothers Tsarnaev used these for the Boston Marathon bombings. Awlaki struck me as an ill-adjusted individual in pursuit of some sort of fame, adulation, and recognition. When it was no longer possible to do that in the U.S. he sought a platform in the dark-side of extremist Islam. In some ways his life parallels that of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Muslim cleric who came to the U.S. in the late 1940’s and was shocked by their liberal attitudes (like young women dancing...). Qutb called for a return to traditional Islam and wrote several texts on the subject which to this day continue to motivate extremists. Both Bin Laden and Awlaki read Qutb and believed in his call for a return to the true and original Islam. Now Awlaki has added to this literature in cyberspace – and with instructions on how to make home-made bombs. This is a disturbing book that points out the many dilemmas and the moral ambiguity faced by the U.S. government, and all of us, when encountering fundamentalist Islam.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    5-stars An absolutely fascinating book that adds a lot of context to a significant amount of news we’ve heard since September 11, 2001, regarding the Global War on Terror. More specifically, it’s a detailed examination of two men set on a collision course: The man who would be President, Barrack Obama, and the first citizen of the United States to be hunted down and executed without a trial, Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki’s story is quite incredible. His name would turn up time and time again in almost 5-stars An absolutely fascinating book that adds a lot of context to a significant amount of news we’ve heard since September 11, 2001, regarding the Global War on Terror. More specifically, it’s a detailed examination of two men set on a collision course: The man who would be President, Barrack Obama, and the first citizen of the United States to be hunted down and executed without a trial, Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki’s story is quite incredible. His name would turn up time and time again in almost every major story starting with 9/11. I read each chapter multiple times. This is truly fascinating, must-know stuff. Highly Recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Oglesby

    This detailed but accessible book accounts for the rise to prominence and radicalization of Anwar al-Awlaki. His message became central to many of the terror plots between 9/11 and the rise of the Islamic State and those seeking a better understanding of his story should look here. Shane uses a compelling narrative style to paint a picture of the troubled imam who went from the “moderate” cleric interviewed extensively after 9/11, to the main terrorist threat to America. The author uses first-ha This detailed but accessible book accounts for the rise to prominence and radicalization of Anwar al-Awlaki. His message became central to many of the terror plots between 9/11 and the rise of the Islamic State and those seeking a better understanding of his story should look here. Shane uses a compelling narrative style to paint a picture of the troubled imam who went from the “moderate” cleric interviewed extensively after 9/11, to the main terrorist threat to America. The author uses first-hand accounts to establish the course of this change and, where information is scarce, present the reader with what’s available and lets them decide for themselves what seems most plausible. When discussing the complex and politically charged issues of drone strikes and Obama’s foreign policy Shane takes a nuanced view appropriate to the material. He describes the fundamental pros and cons of drones as a national security tool and does a good job of keeping his opinions out of the narrative. In all, the book is a good primer on radicalism and AQAP. It’s written to appeal to a broad audience who are interested in national security matters and warrants a read by anyone who wants an overview of al-Awlaki’s life and times.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Quinn

    In the wrong hands a book with this kind of subject matter can become a pulpit for someone on either extreme side of the political aisle. Fortunately Scott Shane leaves it to the reader to determine where they stand on the issue of drone warfare in general and the targeted killing of an American in particular. (Shane provides a sense of where he comes out on these issues but he isn't overbearing.) This book primarily tells the story of Anwar al-Awlaki, from his early years as a student and later In the wrong hands a book with this kind of subject matter can become a pulpit for someone on either extreme side of the political aisle. Fortunately Scott Shane leaves it to the reader to determine where they stand on the issue of drone warfare in general and the targeted killing of an American in particular. (Shane provides a sense of where he comes out on these issues but he isn't overbearing.) This book primarily tells the story of Anwar al-Awlaki, from his early years as a student and later an imam in America (who condemned the 9/11 attacks) to his later career as an imam in Yemen where he called for the killing of all Americans. The transformation is remarkable and Shane tells his story very well. Interspersed within the Awlaki narrative are the stories of the drone pilots and the issues they face. Shane also takes us through Barack Obama's positions on terrorism as he begins his first campaign for presidency and Obama's policies while in office. Shane gains access to members of Obama's inner circle and tells the stories of what's happening behind the scenes as the U.S. ramps up its drone strikes. The reading experience reminded me of Kai Bird's excellent book The Good Spy. Bird's book challenges the notion of what a good person really is and how the same person can be viewed across the spectrum of good and evil depending on who's doing the viewing. Here, Shane raises issues about the many collateral consequences of drone warfare. This book deserves a wide audience. Edit - I would also add Rise and Kill First (by Ronen Bergman) to the books that overlap well with Objective Troy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Shane did a thoughtful and methodical job of showing how Al-Alwaki became radicalized, and then carefully explained the Obama administration's actions while trying to adhere to constitutional legality - all the missteps, ill-thought decisions, and failed jokes in awkward press conferences - leading to the assassination of an American citizen whose right to a trial was not honored and a precedent we need to confront. Shane isn't pro-or anti-Obama, that is not the point. Obama's and his DOJ's choi Shane did a thoughtful and methodical job of showing how Al-Alwaki became radicalized, and then carefully explained the Obama administration's actions while trying to adhere to constitutional legality - all the missteps, ill-thought decisions, and failed jokes in awkward press conferences - leading to the assassination of an American citizen whose right to a trial was not honored and a precedent we need to confront. Shane isn't pro-or anti-Obama, that is not the point. Obama's and his DOJ's choices here have changed everything.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Day

    I gave myself a new challenge. I want to start reading at least one nonfiction book per month (or so) about a topic I know nothing, or very little, about. After I listened to a Fresh Air interview about this book, I thought it seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. This book was fascinating–exhaustively researched and meticulously reported by Shane, who covers terrorism for The New York Times. The content is dense and full of foreign policy nuance that I am, admittedly, not well-versed I gave myself a new challenge. I want to start reading at least one nonfiction book per month (or so) about a topic I know nothing, or very little, about. After I listened to a Fresh Air interview about this book, I thought it seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. This book was fascinating–exhaustively researched and meticulously reported by Shane, who covers terrorism for The New York Times. The content is dense and full of foreign policy nuance that I am, admittedly, not well-versed in, but that’s why I read it. It’s two books in one really: the first about how an American citizen can become radicalized, and the second about the rise of drone warfare in the past decade and the moral balancing act that this new weaponry demands of those who use it. Shane made the multi-layered, murky content as clear as you could hope for–the book was so well-organized, I was never confused about what was happening, when it was happening, or who we were supposed to be following. It sounds obvious, but I’ve a lot of nonfiction that neglects the reader. A loose story structure may still contain interesting facts, but you can’t see the forest for the trees. Luckily, none of that happens here. Shane writes powerfully and candidly, not letting us forget the bigger themes at stake. He closes the book with a nod to the rise of ISIS and leaves the reader, uncomfortably, with that final thought.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Objective Troy is a review of the history of the drone, their use by President Obama, and the rise and fall of Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American targeted and killed by a drone. It explores the maturation of Obama's thought process, from his campaign promises to the real world problems of protecting the American public. It also delves deeply into al-Awlaki's history, covering him from a typical American youth to a hate spewing terrorist. Another, really thought provoking theme throughout the bo Objective Troy is a review of the history of the drone, their use by President Obama, and the rise and fall of Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American targeted and killed by a drone. It explores the maturation of Obama's thought process, from his campaign promises to the real world problems of protecting the American public. It also delves deeply into al-Awlaki's history, covering him from a typical American youth to a hate spewing terrorist. Another, really thought provoking theme throughout the book is the question of the legality of the use of drones. And the question of the deliberate targeting of an American citizen in the camp of the enemy. Shane handles the subjects very thoughtfully. He covers all sides of the arguments fairly and thoroughly. I found myself leaning for the use of drones, then against their use, and back and forth several times. In the end, I don't really know where I stand on the use of drones, but I do know that this book gave me much to think about in the future to resolve the issue in my head. And that is what makes this book so good. It is a rare book that doesn't have an author who tries to get you to take his point of view. Shane manages to not do this very well. It was a very thought provoking book. Great job!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This is an important book, written by a New York Times journalist, and referencing many sources. Objective Troy is a parallel biography of Anwar al-Awlaki (labelled Objective Troy once identified as a terrorist and targeted by our armed forces), President Obama, and conflicts including our use of drones. It is compelling to read, and once begun, I was compelled to finish this short volume. I did not know much about him or his work, though his arc of radicalism is pretty well documented here. I d This is an important book, written by a New York Times journalist, and referencing many sources. Objective Troy is a parallel biography of Anwar al-Awlaki (labelled Objective Troy once identified as a terrorist and targeted by our armed forces), President Obama, and conflicts including our use of drones. It is compelling to read, and once begun, I was compelled to finish this short volume. I did not know much about him or his work, though his arc of radicalism is pretty well documented here. I did not know our drones also killed his teenage son. You will find much good and bad, here, too. Recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won an ARC of this book from a goodreads drawing. This book is an example of "narrative" journalism, more interested in some kind of story than actually finding the truth. If you want a true picture of drone based warfare, go somewhere else.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Absolutely essential reading, both as an overview of the GWOT, and of the expansion of executive branch power in the 21st century. Belongs next to The Looming Tower on my book shelf

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    A well researched and reported book. The flow is good and Mr. Shane does not get too technical in his explanations. He seems to follow the pattern however of decrying the national security state, blaming Obama for its abuses and his use of it fighting the war on terror, and giving a mild scolding to the Bush administration for creating the thing in the first place. Mr. Shane, unlike other authors however, makes it perfectly clear that Obama was not a pacifist as many of his supporters like to be A well researched and reported book. The flow is good and Mr. Shane does not get too technical in his explanations. He seems to follow the pattern however of decrying the national security state, blaming Obama for its abuses and his use of it fighting the war on terror, and giving a mild scolding to the Bush administration for creating the thing in the first place. Mr. Shane, unlike other authors however, makes it perfectly clear that Obama was not a pacifist as many of his supporters like to believe, and that the Christmas Day bomb changed his view on the tools that he can use. Very good book, and can't wait to read more books on the history on the War on Terror in the future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    It has been a week of more random shootings, "terrorism" in all its guises and the myriad responses of sorrow, lunacy, apathy, belligerence. I am reading the book Objective Troy, by Shane Scott, and it has been illuminating and riveting. It tells the story of Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen targeted by the Obama administration for extra-judicial killing by drone. Al Awlaki began as a religious but moderate muslim, acting as Imam at mosques in California and D.C. But over time, he developed It has been a week of more random shootings, "terrorism" in all its guises and the myriad responses of sorrow, lunacy, apathy, belligerence. I am reading the book Objective Troy, by Shane Scott, and it has been illuminating and riveting. It tells the story of Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen targeted by the Obama administration for extra-judicial killing by drone. Al Awlaki began as a religious but moderate muslim, acting as Imam at mosques in California and D.C. But over time, he developed much harder and more radical views and eventually left the US for Yemen, where he pursued his career as thinker and apologist for the jihadis. In the end, his view was that every muslim had the obligation to attack and kill the unbelievers who attack Islam. For him, there is no talk of People of the Book, nor any distinction between governments and the people who pay taxes to that government (nor even their children). It is a heartless view and I cannot say I understand how it has come to be. But humiliation and disregard and stupid intervention on the part of Western governments, most notably the US, seems to be at the root of it. At one point in the book, Scott describes a village that was targeted by an early drone effort (presumably there has been some refinement of the process). His vivid description of the couple Al Queda members, amidst 21 children and a dozen women, who were all killed gave me a glimpse and the frisson of the fury and hatred this sort of attack fuels. But Scott also describes Obama's calculations in developing the drone program and how he and his administration defend these killings. I could see it--a little. The author says that people, especially liberals, mistake Obama by failing to appreciate that he is not an ideologue but a pragmatist and can engage in practical calculations that aim to respond to the world we have, rather than being guided by ideological/moral/idealistic concerns. This is probably a relevant skill set for a president and, as always, I admire Obama's ability to think things through, however ugly the realities. But if I come back to myself, I cannot agree that drone strikes are acceptable, that government assassination is a viable strategy. I think often that there are worse things than death. One of those things is to lose one's soul. Killing one's enemies puts the soul at risk. I don't oppose all war, but squandering our moral foundations for nativist delusions, for our standard of living, for our fear is, I think, a way merely to put off our defeat even if in the short run there is a victory. In this regard, I read another article this week: An Invitation to Collective Suicide: From ISIS to World War IV, by Andrew Bacevich (published by Common Dreams). As you can see from the title, this is a strongly worded article, that paints a dire picture that I, unfortunately, find convincing. Among the things the article points out is the degree to which the US is the creator of ISIS by having gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 and, as he says, making a hash of it. No doubt. I knew that way back when. For those who think force is the only way to go, one caveat is that if the West is to fight, they must go big. And that reminds me, that in the midst of the Iraq war, we were soon nudging up against the limit of human loss Americans would tolerate. Iraq might lose hundreds of thousands of people, but when our losses nudged up to 4,000 we were getting close to done. The article says the American dead in the end were about 7,000. It also points out that we lost 58,000 in Viet Nam. So Bacevich goes through an estimate of costs--in lives, in time, in money. It is nothing that can be accomplished cheaply in any dimension. I don't know that he says precisely this, but even bombing the entire Middle East back to the Stone Ages, will leave bitter survivors dreaming of revenge. He also points out that in the event, our current volunteer army will not work and a draft will be needed. I have sometimes thought that we should have had a draft from 2001 and that might have put a curb on our adventures abroad. But the darker thought also occurs: The army just approved women for all combat roles. It might seem a little paranoid, but then again... Is that what the Pentagon is envisioning? I think our days are much darker than we allow to surface in consciousness. Maybe it is just that I am getting old and lacking the buoyancy of youth.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abu Kamdar

    This book is very well written and has a strong narrative flow. More importantly, it is well-researched and very detailed. It provides a detailed record of the events leading up to the radicalization of Anwar al-Awlaki. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this book in countering terrorism, and preventing radicalization.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    My first impression of Shane's thesis of linking Obama, al-Awlaki and drones was You don't get poetic license for that shit, dude. But Shane does a great job for the most part. I can't abide by moral equivalence when it comes to drones vs. jihad. Some (a trickle for a NYT reporter) of that nonsense seeped through the pages. He showed admirable impulse control! I can see that droning is clearly making us more enemies and ratcheting up the recruiting (Ft. Hood, Detroit, Boston...). OTOH, there are My first impression of Shane's thesis of linking Obama, al-Awlaki and drones was You don't get poetic license for that shit, dude. But Shane does a great job for the most part. I can't abide by moral equivalence when it comes to drones vs. jihad. Some (a trickle for a NYT reporter) of that nonsense seeped through the pages. He showed admirable impulse control! I can see that droning is clearly making us more enemies and ratcheting up the recruiting (Ft. Hood, Detroit, Boston...). OTOH, there are some terrorists who are so so nasty and effective (al-Awlaki was the poster boy) that they really need to die in order to prevent more death and destruction. So there are tactical vs strategic reasons to consider, natch. This book really helped me understand how Obama went from the naif, anti-Bush to Drone Master-in-Chief. Surprised at how much he takes that proverbial buck stopping on his desk. Naif or honorable? Troy was especially helpful on how the Obama Admin got targeting a US citizen for assassination all constitutional. Amen. Obama, the pragmatist, punches with a lot more sang froid than he is credited with by his cacophonous detractors on the right. He does fight terror within his paradigm and his limits. Some respect due. I don't understand why Shane unchron'd the narrative. Maybe I'm lit. thick? The author repeated the al-Awlaki stuff unnecessarily to fit his outline. Too many extra words, bro! Finally, this may constitute the al-Awlaki bio unless someone can crack more sources. If you are interested in Anwar and his ilk, please read Troy(slapping my hand each time I want to click on Inspire!). I would like more on the prostitutes (typical jihadi-in-the-making with a naughty thirst quenchable in the West going against his doctrine) and his fellow-traveler Yemenis. Cognitive dissonance makes us all cray-cray. Some more than others!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    An investigative report on Obama’s handling of Islamic terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki This book describes the rise and fall of one of most wanted terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki, and how his killing became so controversial, and bitter exchange of words between the supporters of Obama and the republicans. Why did the handling of Awlaki, a neutralized American citizen, a Muslim who vowed to destroy America is so extra-judicial? The fact that he was an American citizen makes all the difference. No criminal ch An investigative report on Obama’s handling of Islamic terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki This book describes the rise and fall of one of most wanted terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki, and how his killing became so controversial, and bitter exchange of words between the supporters of Obama and the republicans. Why did the handling of Awlaki, a neutralized American citizen, a Muslim who vowed to destroy America is so extra-judicial? The fact that he was an American citizen makes all the difference. No criminal charges were filed against him, and he was not given due process where he would have had an opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. But for many Americans it did not matter, they welcomed his demise since he was sending terrorists to attack America. In the media it sparked a debate about this unsettling precedent where law, the constitution and political process were in a collision course. Barack Obama’s campaign during his bid to the White House criticized the excesses of George W. Bush’s counterterrorism efforts. He was especially critical of Bush’s targeted killing of Muslim terrorists planning to attack America. At the end, Obama embraces the same ideology! Awlaki’s active life spanned four presidencies and it raised the dangers of both terrorism on U.S. soil and American response to it. In the process it defined the nature of conflict between America and the Islamic organizations like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban and others that support terrorism.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Shane examines the careers of President Barack Obama and American born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He also examines the discusses the development of terrorism and drone warfare since 9/11. We see the process that led to the killing of an American citizen using drones with out a trial or due process. I felt that the author was sympathetic in his treatment of Obama. This was a free advance review copy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne Martin

    this book, with solid research behind, will amaze you. The parallels drawn between Awlaki, born and raised in the US and Obama, growing up in Indonesia are very interesting. Still, the way Awlaki focused on destruction is terrifying, leaving no path for sympathy or compassion. Many questions are left open at the end, but they must be asked. The horror of Paris on Nov. 13th will remain in our thoughts and no one knows what the future holds.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emma S

    I really liked this book. The author does a good job weaving together the narrative about Awlaki's life and radicalization with the geopolitical and strategic considerations behind the rise of the drone. It is grippingly told and fascinating to read. I received the book as an evaluation copy in a Goodreads Giveaway.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan Walker

    This is a very interesting story of Anwar al-Awlaki, a man who committed mass murder of his fellow citizens. The book also shows President Obama's issues on terrorism. This was written by a New York Times reporter who has covered terrorism for over 10 years. A fascinating read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kai Tinley

    A much better book than either the title or the cover would make you think.

  26. 4 out of 5

    J.R. Thornton

    Very interesting Eye opening account of the rise of AQAP, the complications of drone warfare in combating terrorism and the situation in Yemen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    This book tells the story of radical Islamists imam Anwar al-Awlaki and the US government war against him in the backdrop of the larger issue of President Obama’s war on terror using drones for targeted killing of Al Qaeda members. The author Scott Shane is a New York Times reporter who specializes in issues of national security. Shane does a masterful job in his research for this book and his work really shows. I don’t think there’s any other book length treatment that is as detailed concerning This book tells the story of radical Islamists imam Anwar al-Awlaki and the US government war against him in the backdrop of the larger issue of President Obama’s war on terror using drones for targeted killing of Al Qaeda members. The author Scott Shane is a New York Times reporter who specializes in issues of national security. Shane does a masterful job in his research for this book and his work really shows. I don’t think there’s any other book length treatment that is as detailed concerning al-Awlaki like this book thus far. Other than passing news headlines most American don’t really know about al-Awlaki and the shadowy war the US pursued against him. The subject of this book is already interesting enough to be picked up and read. I really appreciated the amount of information that the author gathered on al-Awlaki. The author gives a good biography of how this American born Yemeni turned from a young man growing up between the cultures of Yemen and America and into a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). You get a feel of how al-Awlaki became radicalized but also the confusion of a young man in transition after September 11th. At one point al-Awlaki even condemned Al Qaeda for the attacks, even communicating to his own brother and friends that the terrorism was un-Islamic. But later you see al-Awlaki dabble more into darker themes prevalent among radicals. As I was reading this book it occurred to me how Anwar al-Awlaki walked the same paths as many other Al-Qaeda jihadists before and after him. Due to a religious crisis in their early adulthood these guys become more serious about Islam then found radical Islam appealing. They aren’t necessarily ignorant or economically impoverished contrary to some Western narratives of the undercurrent of Islamic terrorism; instead al-Awlaki, like Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri came from families who were well to do compared to most of their countrymen. Like al-Zawahiri, al-Awlaki was also educated. We must not dismiss these terrorists own claims that they were really driven by religious ideologies. Another fascinating pattern that I got from reading this book is also the prevalence of sexual immorality among certain key Al Qaeda terrorists. The book mentioned about the FBI’s surveillance on al-Awlaki when he was a cleric back in the United States and how that led them to discover how he sought the services of prostitutes. This was going on while he was an imam of a famous mosque in the Washington DC area but al-Awlaki’s activities with prostitutes goes back to his early days of being a young imam in the San Diego area in which he was arrested twice by the police for soliciting prostitutes. This was before September 11th. It reminded of how 9-11 hijacker Muhammad Atta infamously went to adult clubs and sought un-Islamic entertainment. Or 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s sexuality. As the book pointed out, it wasn’t just these jihadists; Major Hasan who was involved with the Fort Hood shooting also has some embarrassing dirt in this area. The author did somewhat entertained the idea that this potential blackmail by the FBI didn’t help in al-Awlaki’s road of becoming radicalized. But I think given the intelligence the last decade and a half of jihadists and sexual immorality I don’t think we can make too much of an argument here of what caused al-Awalki’s radicalism. I also thought the book was interesting in how it set al-Awlaki and Obama as foils given how in some sense they both have parallel similarities: Both were American citizens who have a minority background and struggled with their identity given their backgrounds. Both were educated in the states and sought to make sense of American values. Whereas Obama eventually embraced America and became the president of the United States, the younger al-Awlaki ended up vowing to attack the country instead. I appreciated the book’s discussion of the legal complexity that Obama’s administration faced concerning what to do with al-Awlaki and also Obama’s path in desiring to pursue a different course than Bush’s war on terror. Obama didn’t want to have large footprint with large contingents of American boots on the ground nor did he wanted America to be known for torture of Al Qaeda prisoners. This book tells a believable story of how Obama eventually came to see the value of the drone in targeting Al Qaeda as the alternative to Bush’s strategies. Here though I must fault the author of being at times being too “pro-Obama.” For instance, the author defended Obama for continuing his vacation in Hawaii after news of the underwear bomber that tried to down a US plane as serving the purpose of not getting the country riled up. I think there’s many other instances in which the president continued his vacation when major events happen to believe the author’s defense of the president. Certainly readers who are familiar with the political outlook of the New York Times would expect the author’s biases. The author’s biases also show when he talked about how some libertarians criticized Obama’s statists overstretched with the drones and the author said something to the effect of “libertarian fantasies.” I think these libertarians bring up legitimate concerns. Overall I recommend this book. It is insightful to see “Al Qaeda 2.0” being described. The book makes readers think about the morality of using the drone and its setback.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book takes a look at a man named Anwar al-Awlaki, showcasing his life and how he played a big role in American terrorism, while he was alive, and so much more when he was dead. It also looks at President Obama, before and after he came into office, showcasing his role in all of this too. This was a very political book, but even still this book could be compelling when it wanted to be. Shane is a journalist and the reader can really see his investigative journalism shine through and be put t This book takes a look at a man named Anwar al-Awlaki, showcasing his life and how he played a big role in American terrorism, while he was alive, and so much more when he was dead. It also looks at President Obama, before and after he came into office, showcasing his role in all of this too. This was a very political book, but even still this book could be compelling when it wanted to be. Shane is a journalist and the reader can really see his investigative journalism shine through and be put to work. This book was an exposé into American terrorism and Shane covered it well; even if politics isn’t your thing, he writes this book so convincingly and so well that the reader is engrossed in the story. He pulls you along for this ride, feeding the reader facts after facts, and giving the reader just enough information so as not to completely bog down the writing. There were a few dry spells throughout the book, but there was always enough spark in Shane’s writing to pick the reader back up. He separates his book by years, mostly the years Obama was president, but he also takes it years back for a more comprehensive look on terrorism between the U.S. and Yemen. This book is definitely not for everyone, but it definitely was interesting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A well-written, well-researched, nuanced and readable book, detailing the evolution of Obama’s views and policies on terrorism and the evolution and fate of Awlaki. Shane describes the thinking and tactics of both and how they justified it. He also brings up the interesting fact that approving a drone strike on Awlaki was easier than approving a wiretap on him. Of course, Shane also covers the lawsuit filed by Awlaki’s father after his son ended up on the “kill list.” The US refused to let it pro A well-written, well-researched, nuanced and readable book, detailing the evolution of Obama’s views and policies on terrorism and the evolution and fate of Awlaki. Shane describes the thinking and tactics of both and how they justified it. He also brings up the interesting fact that approving a drone strike on Awlaki was easier than approving a wiretap on him. Of course, Shane also covers the lawsuit filed by Awlaki’s father after his son ended up on the “kill list.” The US refused to let it proceed because Anwar refused to recognize the court’s legitimacy and Awlaki would have been granted a trial if he simply surrendered to US forces, something Awlaki obviously refused to do. While entitled to due process, the White House and Justice Department decided that killing Awlaki was legal since he posed a threat to US interests and because capturing him in AQAP territory in Yemen was impossible. There is a considerable difference between wartime actions and peacetime law enforcement, and there is also the question of whether or not US citizenship protects or should protect someone that conspires to launch terror attacks against their country. And while there is much speculation over the “kill list,” this list is simply a collection of designated combatants, not a list of people who arbitrarily “deserve to die,” and there is considerable debate by officials and lawyers before anyone is put on it. Awlaki’s son was not simply in the wrong place at the wrong time: he was next to a known AQAP commander by choice. Awlaki was thus killed “on the basis of secret intelligence and without criminal charges or a chance to defend himself in court.” Whether or not this is justifiable is left up to the reader. Shane explains in detail the legal reasoning behind the targeting of Awlaki. There was the assumption that acts of terror are obviously plotted in secret, the US government’s need to respond to an imminent threat against its citizens versus Awlaki’s “private interest” in staying alive, due process vs. judicial process, the possible precedent of Tennessee v. Garner (the analogy of a police officer killing a fleeing suspect) and the infeasibility of capturing Awlaki alive. In contrast to the infamous Bush-era OLC “torture memos,” the Obama Justice Department hoped to frame their opinion as narrowly as possible (even though critics would later claim that Awlaki’s killing was an alarming precedent for some sort of “open season” on American citizens) NSC lawyers ended up approving the rationale. And, of course, the Obama administration would still fight for years to keep the legal opinion classified. Given the subject matter---Barack Obama and Islamic terrorism---Shane covers much of the political controversy associated with the two. He explains the rationale behind Obama’s much-criticized refusal to publicly use terms like “Islamic terrorism”; rather than naivety or political correctness, Shane writes, it was simply a tactic meant to separate terrorists from the larger Islamic community (something Obama’s predecessor had also done) Shane also points out the omission was so easily recognized by Americans because the American media and populace had by Obama’s presidency become so used to hearing words like “Islamic” and “terrorism.” This controversy might reveal more about America’s national psyche than it does about Obama’s own views. Much of Shane’s narrative also covers how widely Islamic terrorism has come to dominate the American media and popular culture in the post-9/11 decade. Shane also explains the ideas behind criticism of the drone strikes: the idea that “stories trump facts” and the outrage behind the idea of “flying killer robots and to the arrogance of casually invading another country’s airspace.” Conventional warfare---saturation bombings and ground invasions---produces “statistics, not stories; when the number of dead climbed into the thousands, individual tales got lost. Drone strikes, with tolls of two or five or ten, were far easier to grasp and retell as detailed personal accounts.” There are only a few problems with the book itself; there are a few typos, and some sections are breezy and conversational. Shane suggests that the US could have identified Awlaki’s son by drone and simply called the strike off, but this seems like a bit of a stretch. Shane also compares Obama’s election-year rhetoric to his actions as president and this theme often seems a bit over-emphasized since there’s a considerable difference between being directly responsible for the national security of an entire country as a president and debating legality with lawyers, professors, and activists as a constitutional scholar and presidential candidate. “Like Bush and his advisers---indeed, like the American people, Obama and his aides have themselves been radicalized by the threat posed by Islamic radicals,” Shane writes.Shane is somewhat critical of the drone program but seems to exempt Obama when he discusses its alleged shortcomings, and in other sections acknowledges its upside. He also seems to pin the legal justification for the strike on the lawyers who drew it up, even though the president was the one who assigned them to it (apparently against their personal wishes) Elsewhere Shane writes that al-Qaeda’s lax recruitment “standards” make it “surprisingly susceptible to infiltration,” although, of course, there’s a difference between AQAP foot soldiers and higher-ups. Elsewhere he asserts that the US intelligence community is wracked by infighting without going into details. And, of course, juxtaposing Obama with Awlaki doesn’t always work smoothly, and Shane’s account of the government’s deliberations are dry and plain since the decision reached was actually pretty easy. Also, Shane sometimes inserts firsthand accounts of his own reporting into the narrative, which only breaks up the flow. A compelling, insightful and clearly written work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    There are two narratives here: one is the tale of an American-born Imam who became radicalized and began organizing terrorist attacks, and the other describes President Obama and his use of drones to target Al-Quaeda. The targeted killing of a U.S. citizen without trial raises a host of uncomfortable legal and moral issues, as does the fact that drone strikes often kill innocent civilians, inflaming sentiment against America. On the other hand, the alternatives to fight small terrorist cells don There are two narratives here: one is the tale of an American-born Imam who became radicalized and began organizing terrorist attacks, and the other describes President Obama and his use of drones to target Al-Quaeda. The targeted killing of a U.S. citizen without trial raises a host of uncomfortable legal and moral issues, as does the fact that drone strikes often kill innocent civilians, inflaming sentiment against America. On the other hand, the alternatives to fight small terrorist cells don't seem much more appealing: the misguided invasion of Iraq has killed over a hundred thousand civilians, and commando infiltrations such as the one that killed Osama Bin Laden are rarely possible and are also likely to result in deaths besides those targeted. I thought the book did a good job describing the challenges facing the president, and the costs and benefits of using drones.

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