Suskind opts for a softer, more literary touch in new book

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Now that The Big Test is over, I can finally get back to my reading.  And what better way to restart the odessey than with the followup to The One Percent Doctrine.  Suskind’s new book has received a lot of hype as it get digested in what he aptly calls the global news cycles, but much of that hype has concentrated on his charge that the White House ordered the fabrication of the Habbush Memo that was ultimately used to justify prosecuting the Iraq War.  Suskind’s book is actually more than about that, however.  In relating vignettes of characters as varied as an Afghan teenager to former Agency operatives trying to mount a nuclear sting operation to the late Benazir Bhutto, Suskind unrelentingly stresses that America’s current predicament in the world is by far the result of the loss of its moral authority as it attempts to navigate the complex paths of the post-9/11 world.  But there’s a seeming naviete in his belief that American altruism and self-interest can work well together without resulting in mutually contradictory consequences.  Either way, the Habbush episode seems forced and oddly out of place with the tenor of the rest of the book, coming as it does in the dying moments of the third section.  For me, the best moments are his recounts of the wars within and between individuals caught on different planes of the cultural encounter.  America can only begin a new conversation with the world, it seems, if it starts “caring more about what others think’ than making others follow its diktat.

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