"If, like me, you grew up in America in the shadow of 9/11, you've probably spent most of your adult life reckoning with its legacy. Ackerman lays out how tragedy was used–by Republicans, by Democrats, by a culture that values some lives much more than others–to peddle lies, hatred, and death in the form of the 'War on Terror.' Deeply researched and passionately argued, this is necessary reading for anyone looking to grapple with both the roots and the continuing effects of early 00's American imperial violence abroad and xenophobia at home."
Named a best nonfiction book of 2021 by the New York Times critics, The Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, and Foreign Policy
"Upsetting, discerning and brilliantly argued." —The New York Times
An examination of the profound impact that the War on Terror had in pushing American politics and society in an authoritarian direction
For an entire generation, at home and abroad, the United States has waged an endless conflict known as the War on Terror. In addition to multiple ground wars, it has pioneered drone strikes and industrial-scale digital surveillance, as well as detaining people indefinitely and torturing them. These conflicts have yielded neither peace nor victory, but they have transformed America. What began as the persecution of Muslims and immigrants has become a normalized, paranoid feature of American politics and security, expanding the possibilities for applying similar or worse measures against other targets at home. A politically divided country turned the War on Terror into a cultural and then tribal struggle, first on the ideological fringes and ultimately expanding to conquer the Republican Party, often with the timid acquiescence of the Democratic Party. Today's nativist resurgence walked through a door opened by the 9/11 era.
Reign of Terror will show how these policies created a foundation for American authoritarianism and, though it is not a book about Donald Trump, it will provide a critical explanation of his rise to power and the sources of his political strength. It will show that Barack Obama squandered an opportunity to dismantle the War on Terror after killing Osama bin Laden. That mistake turns out to have been portentous. By the end of his tenure, the war metastasized into a broader and bitter culture struggle in search of a demagogue like Trump to lead it.
A union of journalism and intellectual history, Reign of Terror will be a pathbreaking and definitive book with the power to transform how America understands its national security policies and their catastrophic impact on its civic life.