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Terrorism, Afghanistan, and America's new way of war /
Norman Friedman.
Annapolis, Md. : Naval Institute Press, c2003.
327 p. : ill.
1591142903 (alk. paper)
More Details
Annapolis, Md. : Naval Institute Press, c2003.
1591142903 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
This item was nominated for the following awards:
First Chapter

The Attacks

The air-traffic controllerswere astonished. First one, then two, then ultimately four large airliners were entirely off course, and their pilots were not answering repeated calls. It soon was obvious what was happening: all four had been hijacked. One and then a second airliner, both from Boston, crashed directly into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York, their jet fuel starting immense and uncontrollable fires. Initially radio commentators ascribed the first crash to a tragic navigational error, caused perhaps by some problem in the airplane's computer. When the second airliner crashed into the other tower, it became horribly clear that the crashes were planned attacks. A third airliner, from Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., also badly off its planned course, hit the Pentagon. In each case, the airliner was bound for the West Coast and hit a target not too long after takeoff, when it was heavily laden with the fuel which caused much of the damage.

Aboard a fourth airliner, from Newark, United Flight 93, hijackers offered passengers a chance to use cell phones and air phones to contact their loved ones before being killed. Those who did so found out about the three previous crashes, and at least some of them decided to act. They seized control of their airplane, preventing a fourth attack-apparently on the White House or Capitol Building-but the hijackers managed to put the airplane into a fatal dive. All aboard were killed.

Within less than two hours, then, the United States had been hit, on its own soil, three times, initially it appeared that as many as six thousand Americans had died, including those on board the airliners; later the estimate was cut to a still-horrific three thousand. The two towers of the World Trade Center, which had survived a 1993 bombing, collapsed in less than two hours. Huge flames and columns of smoke made it impossible for helicopters to rescue anyone who reached the roof. Those above the floors where the aircraft hit died; they either were burned alive or had to jump to escape the fires. Remarkably, many of those in lower floors made it out of the buildings, helped by heroic firemen and policemen-many of whom died as the buildings fell. Even after the collapses, a column of smoke and dirt hung for days over lower Manhattan, reminding everyone of the crime.

The fires from the World Trade Center trapped thousands in lower Manhattan. The Coast Guard Auxiliary managed to round up small boats to evacuate many of them, either to New Jersey or midtown Manhattan. The New York City government blocked cars from the bridges and tunnels leading from Manhattan, for fear that terrorists would car-bomb them and thus create further damage. Many New Yorkers found themselves walking home, often several miles, from work.

For days after the attacks, no one was sure how many had escaped the World Trade Center. Friends and relatives put up thousands of Xeroxed sheets with photographs, names, and descriptions, asking for information on those still missing. In a very few lucky cases, survivors of the 1993 attacks, seeing one airplane strike the other tower, had immediately started down. Others had unfortunately heeded security announcements that they should avoid panic and stay where they were. No one had imagined that these huge structures could be brought down. Afterward, the Xeroxed sheets acted as a reminder, ensuring that no one could forget the human cost of the attacks.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York made a particular difference. His calming presence, both on the streets and in constant broadcasts, including press conferences, helped restore the confidence of badly shaken New Yorkers. Many in the city saw 11 September as only the beginning of a sustained terror campaign. Numerous false alarms, such as one leading to the evacuation of the Empire State Building, did not help. It probably did help considerably that measures taken immediately after the attacks, such as the creation of checkpoints at the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan, seemed to reduce the likelihood of other kinds of attacks.

The Pentagon was luckier than the World Trade Center. Apparently hampered by numerous obstructions, the pilot attempting to crash into the building hit somewhat short, bouncing into the base of the building rather than into an upper floor. Fortunately, too, the airplane hit a section of the building which had just been renovated and which was, therefore, largely unoccupied. It was also significantly better fireproofed than unrenovated parts of the building. Even so, 184 personnel were killed. The Navy's command center, on the fourth floor, was destroyed and all its occupants killed.

As an office building in a major city, the Pentagon was not protected by antiaircraft weapons, nor was it fortified. Even so, some in the Muslim world touted the attack as a triumph over the greatest fortress in the world, the central symbol of U.S. military power. For a time, there was speculation that the Pentagon had been struck as a target of opportunity, the pilot having failed to find the White House or Capitol, but it now seems that it was the intended target. The pilot of the third airliner circled several times near the Pentagon to lose altitude before he struck; presumably he would have maneuvered elsewhere had the White House been his assigned target.

After the three targets were hit, it appeared that more was still to come. Rumors abounded. For example, it was reported, incorrectly, that the State Department had been hit by a massive truck bomb. Surely other hijackers were aboard other aircraft, with other targets in mind. Given the narrowly averted fourth attack and the possibility that more were on the way, the Federal Aviation Administration quickly ordered all U.S. air space closed down, for the first time in American history. Aircraft were ordered to land at the nearest airport, where they would be held until the situation was clarified. Airliners en route from abroad were turned away, many landing in Canada. The borders were closed, both to keep out additional attackers and, if possible, to catch any fleeing ones.

There was certainly anecdotal evidence that more had been planned. Some passengers leaving grounded airliners apparently left box-cutters at their seats; similar weapons had been used to seize control of the crashed aircraft. There were many reports of Arabic-looking passengers fleeing as passengers left the aircraft. At this stage there was no means of detaining them, so there was no way of knowing how many other hijacking teams were in place.

The damage inflicted was on the scale one might expect from a small nuclear bomb. Indeed, one might see the three successful attacks as strategic in character. Whoever had mounted them had made cruise missiles out of innocent civilian aircraft, murdering not only those on the ground but also the crews and passengers.

In the hours after the attack, it seemed entirely possible that the government itself would be the next target. During the cold war, a major if not often publicly discussed issue was continuity of government: how to ensure that some sort of government would survive a nuclear attack. This was more than an academic question. If an attacker imagined that he could destroy the entire U.S. government at one blow, then he could preclude any sort of retaliatory attack, since such an attack could only be authorized by the president. Making it clear that continuity of government was assured was necessary, therefore, to underpin the U.S. ability to deter a potential nuclear attacker.

This question now returned. At the moment of the attack, President George W. Bush was out of Washington, visiting a school in Florida. It appeared that the first airliner hitting the World Trade Center was a random tragedy, perhaps the result of a pilot's heart attack. When the second airliner bit the center, Bush realized that the country was under attack; later he said that his reaction was that "they had declared war on us, and I made up my mind at that moment that we were going to war." Almost immediately he appeared on national television to say that "terrorism against this nation will not stand." Bush soon left for Washington aboard Air Force One.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney was in his office in the West Wing of the White House. When American Airlines Flight 77 turned toward the White House, the Secret Service rushed him into the bunker below, where he was soon joined by other officials, including Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. It was from the bunker that Mineta ordered all airliners flying over the United States grounded.

With the president in the air, the White House received a threat to Air Force One. The threat was credible because the airplane's code name, "Angel," was used; later it seemed that a staffer had added the code word to describe a phoned message. Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice both urged President Bush not to risk returning directly to Washington. Given the attacks already carried out, it was apparent that the terrorists hoped to decapitate the U.S. government. Bush agreed, and Air Force One turned to land at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Meanwhile, other elements of cold war continuity of government plans were carried out. For example, congressional leaders were evacuated from Washington. Later, Vice President Cheney would be kept at a secret and secure location specifically to foil any successful decapitation of the U.S. government simply by hitting Washington, D.C. Cold war plans to set up a shadow government, which would operate in the event Washington itself was destroyed, were revived.

At Barksdale, President Bush met reporters and then appeared on television. Then Air Force One took him to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command, from which he could conduct a secure closed-circuit meeting with his National Security Council (NSC), whose members sat in the bunker under the White House. He had already told Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld that those responsible would have to be punished. Probably only the CIA could offer any quick options at this point.

President Bush returned to Washington the next evening, 12 September. That Friday, the fourteenth, he spoke at the National Cathedral, promising war against the terrorists. Then he flew to visit Ground Zero in New York and met with the families of some of the World Trade Center victims.

The sadistic character of the attacks, which became more and more obvious as evidence emerged (particularly about the one failed attack, the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania), infuriated Americans. Surely, telling the passengers that they were about to die was a particularly inhuman touch. There had been other cases of sadistic hijackings, the murderers smirking as they killed passengers one by one, but in all previous cases, it seemed, the hijackers had had some policy objective in mind. They wanted to trade their passengers for something-for the release of prisoners, for example. Thus the usual advice to victims of a hijacking had always been to be passive, to go along with the hijackers' commands. But the 11 September hijackers were simply murderers, and cooperation merely led to death on a much larger scale.

Looking back, it might seem that those who had planned the attacks wanted to induce a violent U.S. response, that that was in large part the attackers' objective. At the time, however, it was thought that the attackers had sought to damage the United States, particularly the U.S. economy. For example, the Stock Market, already in decline, fell dramatically after the 11 September attacks. The U.S. travel business almost collapsed, in part because major corporations decided that it was safest to forbid travel by their key executives. A major element in post-11 September U.S. national policy, then, was to restore confidence that the government could indeed protect the population. Efforts included a new emphasis on homeland security in national policy. On the theory that they were an essential element of the U.S. national transportation system, the airlines were offered help to offset their loss of business.

Considerable planning had gone into the attacks. At least four separate hijackings, mounted from three widely separated airports, had been coordinated. In this the attackers had been very lucky. Had the aircraft been subject to lengthy takeoff delays, one attack might have been carried out before the other aircraft had even become airborne. U.S. air traffic could have been shut down at that point, aborting further attacks. At the least, passengers on the other flights might have become aware of what a hijacking was likely to mean.

The attacks demonstrated what many had sensed, that the U.S. domestic airline industry just did not take security very seriously. Boston and Newark Airports, from which three of the attacking aircraft had come, turned out to be particularly porous, with hundreds of missing identification cards in circulation.

There was speculation, moreover, that the World Trade Center attack had been particularly carefully planned-with engineering factors in mind. Months later analysts would argue that the floors the aircraft had hit had fallen within a narrow critical band. That is, had the airplanes hit higher up they would probably have destroyed only the upper parts of the buildings. Had they hit much lower down, presumably the buildings would also have survived, as insufficient structural damage would have been done. New York had already experienced an airplane crash into a major skyscraper: in 1945 an Army Air Force B-25 bomber, far smaller than the jefliners of 2001, had hit the Empire State Building, fortunately causing only limited damage. With this experience in mind, the designer of the World Trade Center had planned against a jet airliner hitting the buildings. What he apparently had not taken into account was the heat a jet's fuel might generate. The two keys to the buildings' destruction were the intense heat generated by tons of burning jet fuel, which had weakened the buildings' structure, and the cumulative effect of the weight of the upper floors as they collapsed, once heat had weakened the structure.

It now seems that the extent of the disaster was possibly accidental. The pilots had relatively little choice in where they struck. They probably tried to hit about the midpoint of the visible sections of the towers, given that surrounding buildings covered much of the towers' lower parts. Although the towers were set well away from neighboring buildings, it seems unlikely that inexperienced pilots (who had seized control from the legitimate ones) could have adjusted altitude quickly enough to have made use of the opening between buildings.


Excerpted from Terrorism, Afghanistan, and America's NEW WAY OF WAR by Norman Friedman Copyright © 2003 by Norman Friedman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-02-01:
Friedman starts with a sweeping, fast-paced description of the attacks and responses to September 11, 2001, followed by an account of US intelligence failures and missteps in dealing with bin Laden and al-Qaeda prior to September 11th. The next chapter attempts to offer a brief history of Islam and the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, culminating in a brief history of Afghanistan with emphasis on its ethnic makeup and relationship with Pakistan during and after the Soviet invasion. Friedman then discusses the US "revolution in military affairs" and its applications to the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. After a discussion of US coalition building in the run-up to the war in Afghanistan, Friedman offers a description of that war, lessons learned, and the path forward. In short, the author tries to cover far too much in too few pages. While he provides great detail in some instances, especially on military strategy and weapons systems, the book lacks depth and proper documentation of facts versus opinions in other cases. The connections among the different parts of the book are unclear, and the author's political bias is palpable. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended. E. A. Turpen Henry L. Stimson Center
This item was reviewed in:
Reference & Research Book News, November 2003
Choice, February 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
The Attacksp. 1
Warning and Decisionp. 30
The Sword of the Dispossessedp. 43
The Afghan Basep. 67
The Terrorist International and Its Predecessorp. 88
A New Kind of Warp. 108
Coalitionsp. 136
Objectivesp. 151
Striking Backp. 157
Lessonsp. 212
Now What?p. 229
Notesp. 251
Bibliographyp. 309
Indexp. 315
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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