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Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

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Two New Books for Summer Reading
For those who are interested in terror finance, stateless areas, intelligence reform and thoughtful insights, there are two new books out that should be added to the summer reading list even if they do not get the authors on Oprah or 60 Minutes.

I do not do book reviews on this site, but these two help add to an understanding of the issues on this blog and the community that follows these. For full disclosure, both main authors are friends of mine, with whom I have dealt extensively in recent years. However, I would read these books regardless of personal ties.

Neither book tries to answer all the questions, but at least they ask many of the right questions and help map out serious areas of weakness that remain almost five years after the 9-11 attacks. You may not agree with everything in here (I do not), but thought-provoking, intelligent analysis is bound to lead to thoughtful dissent and discussion. These two books fill that role.

The first is John Cassara's "Hide & Seek: Intelligence, Law Enforcement and the Stalled War on Terrorist Finance," (Potomac Books) which is timely, given the current debate over how the war on terror finance is actually going. Like my colleague Vic Comras, I tend to view the effort as too tied to the formal financial structures of the West and too little focused on the Islamic banking structure, commodities and informal value transfer systems. John gives an account of his career and the ultimate frustration of a professional dealing directly in this area.

The second is by Richard Shultz and Andrea Dew: "Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat" (Columbia University Press), which looks at the changing nature of the wars the United States and its allies are fighting and will be fighting in coming years. An example of how poorly we do things is the recent triumph of radical Islamists in Somalia. It is an academic look at the challenges the armed forces and intelligence community face in trying to combat the modern threats that are no longer centered on nation-states, but on the transnational actors that have proved to be effective in the new type of asymetrical warfare that is now reality.

It is still amazing to me that almost five years after being attacked by a nonstate terrorist group, operating out of a failed state, the Pentagon and others are only now seriously trying to understand and come up with strategies for dealing with these inter-related phenomena. Yet it is true. In my dealings with some of the new principal actors, it is surprising how little literature they have read and how little effort has been made to find those who really understand these issues. These are conflicts we will be fighting for the next generation. It is time to get serious about understanding them, and Shultz and Dew provide a good basis to start the debate.
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