Synopses & Reviews
A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter’s explosive account of the transformation of the CIA and America’s special forces into competing covert manhunting and killing operations — the new American way of war.
Osama bin Laden’s demise was merely one sensational moment in the first decade of America’s shadow war, the transformation of the national security apparatus into a machine calibrated for manhunting operations. Beyond the “big wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, America has pursued its enemies with killer robots and special operations troops; trained privateers for assassination missions and used them to set up clandestine spying networks; and relied on mercurial dictators, unreliable foreign intelligence services, and ragtag proxy armies. The shadow war has blurred the lines between soldiers and spies, lowered the bar for waging war around the globe, and changed for good how America fights its battles: This is the new way of war. A new military-intelligence complex has emerged.
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: from the sustained bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan and the deserts of Yemen and North Africa to the simmering clan wars in Somalia. For its part, the Pentagon has turned into the CIA, dramatically expanding spying missions in the dark spaces of U.S. foreign policy, like Iran. The countries where radical groups have carved out wide, remote swaths of territory are often the very places most openly hostile to American intervention. Where the soldiers can’t go, the United States sends drones, proxies, and guns for hire.
Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Mazzetti examines these secret wars over the past decade, tracking key characters from the intelligence and military communities across the world. Among the characters we meet in The Way of the Knife are a young CIA officer dropped into the tribal areas to learn the hard way how the spy games in Pakistan are played, an Air Force test pilot who fired the first drone missile in the Nevada desert, a chain-smoking Pentagon official who ran an off-the-books spying operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a woman from the horse country of Virginia who became obsessed with Somalia and convinced the Pentagon to hire her to gather intelligence about al Qaeda operatives there. Gripping, newsbreaking, and powerfully told, The Way of the Knife reveals the true nature of American warfare in the twenty-first century — a model that is here to stay.
"The story of how the CIA got back into the killing business is as chilling and dramatic as a spy novel — except it's true. Mark Mazzetti has laid out an extraordinary tale, tracking the spies as they track the terrorists. The Way of the Knife is as close as you'll ever get to the real thing." Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War
"The Way of the Knife provides a stunning, inside account of the CIA's transformation after 9/11 from an intelligence agency into a global clandestine killing machine. Mazzetti, who is one of America's best national security reporters, has written a frightening, must-read book." Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
"The United States fought three wars after 9/11: Iraq, Afghanistan and the one in the shadows. This is an authoritative account of that that third war, conducted by the CIA and military Special Operators in Yemen, East Africa and, most of all, Pakistan. If you want to understand the world we live in, you need to read it." Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Generals
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
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 used them to set up clandestine spying networks; 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 and has been championed 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, fueled instability, and created new weapons unbound by the normal rules of accountability during wartime.
Mark Mazzetti tracks an astonishing cast of characters on the ground in the shadow war, from a CIA officer dropped into the tribal areas to learn the hard way how the spy games in Pakistan are played to the chain-smoking Pentagon official running an off-the-books spy operation, from a Virginia socialite whom the Pentagon hired to gather intelligence about militants in Somalia to a CIA contractor imprisoned in Lahore after going off the leash.
At the heart of the book is the story of two proud and rival entities, the CIA and the American military, 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 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 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.
About the Author
Mark Mazzetti is a national security correspondent for The New York Times. In 2009, he shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the intensifying violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Washington’s response, and he has won numerous other major journalism awards, including the George Polk Award (with colleague Dexter Filkins) and the Livingston Award, for breaking the story of the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mazzetti has also written for the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. He lives in Washington, D.C.