[BOOK REVIEW] The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

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The Way of the Knife Book Cover The Way of the Knife
Mark Mazzetti
Political Science
Scribe Publications
April 17, 2013

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. The Way of the Knife is the 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 relied on mercurial dictators, untrustworthy foreign intelligence services, and proxy armies. This new approach to war has been embraced by Washington as a lower risk, lower cost alternative to the messy wars of occupation. 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. At the heart of the book is the story of two rival entities, the CIA and the American military, elbowing 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. 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 coordinated. Other times, including 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.

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti describes how since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, USA policy makers have steadily broken the wall separating the work of soldiers and spies.  This very interesting and informative book is nonfiction, but reads as an intriguing espionage novel . This well-researched book explores in detail the internal workings and missions of various government espionage agencies.  Mark Mazzetti is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for the New York Times.  He currently serves as the Washington Investigations Editor for the Times.

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth describes how the CIA has slowly shifted its focus from intelligence gathering to lethal operations.  The book also describes how the USA military has a secret army that has grown into conducting intelligence operations of its own.  This includes the tensions that have arisen between this secret army and the CIA.  The author presents the deteriorating relationship between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).

secret army

This book explains the goals and objectives of these intelligence agencies. The book also names the people who played a role in the creation of various programs. One of these programs includes the assassination of the enemies of the United States. Main characters mentioned in this book were with the CIA, Department of Defense, White House, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The prologue offers a quick look at “the war beyond.”

The chapters cover the following topics:
1. Permission to kill
2. Marriage between spies
3. Men with cloak and dagger
4. Rumsfeld’s spies
5. Angry bird
6. A true Pashtun
7. Convergence
8. A war by proxy
9. The Base
10. The Scalpel’s edge
11. The scramble for Africa
12. The unraveling
13. The doctor and the sheik
14. Fire from the sky.

Several covert missions are mentioned including the hunt and eventual demise of Osama Bin Landen in a US Navy SEAL raid.
This book is well written and it is clear that the writer has done excellent research on this subject. The book flows easily and the story is compelling that keeps you turning pages.

SUGGESTED READING:  My review of Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield.  The plot is similar to this.