Author(s): Mark Mazzetti
A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter’s riveting account of the
transformation of the CIA and America’s special operations forces into
man-hunting and killing machines
The most momentous change in American warfare over the past decade
has taken place away from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, in
the corners of the world where large armies can’t go. The Way of the Knife
tells the previously untold story of that shadow war: a campaign that
has blurred the lines between soldiers and spies and lowered the bar for
waging war across the globe. America has pursued its enemies with
killer drones and special operations troops; trained privateers for
assassination missions and used them to set up clandestine spying
networks; and relied on mercurial dictators, untrustworthy foreign
intelligence services, and proxy armies.
Washington has embraced this new approach to war as a lower-risk,
lower-cost alternative to the messy wars of occupation, championing it
as a clean and surgical way of conflict. But the knife has created
enemies just as it has killed them. It has fomented resentments among
allies, fuelled instability, and created new weapons, unbound by the
normal rules of accountability during wartime.
Mark Mazzetti tracks an astonishing cast of characters engaged in the
shadow war, and reveals how two proud and rival entities, the CIA and
the American military, are elbowing each other for supremacy. The CIA,
created as a Cold War espionage service, is now more than ever a
paramilitary agency ordered by the White House to kill off America’s
enemies — in the mountains of Pakistan and the deserts of Yemen, in the
tumultuous civil wars of North Africa and in the chaos of Somalia. For
its part, the Pentagon has become more like the CIA, dramatically
expanding spying missions everywhere. Sometimes, as with the raid that
killed Osama bin Laden, their efforts have been perfectly co-ordinated.
At other times, including in the failed operations disclosed here for
the first time, they have not. For better or worse, their struggles will
define American national security in the years to come.