Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe

Jane Harman. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-75877-4
Former Democratic congresswoman Harman, who now heads the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, debuts with a well-informed yet familiar analysis of U.S. national security shortcomings since the fall of the Berlin Wall. She documents the failure of security experts, herself included, to properly gauge the threat of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups in the years before 9/11; critiques the CIA’s use of “black sites, enhanced interrogations, and targeted killings abroad” during the “war on terror” (a sobriquet that played into the hands of the terrorists, Harman writes, “by elevating them from criminals to combatants”); and laments how a strengthened executive branch has undermined Congress’s role in intelligence and security matters. She also links the Trump administration’s botched response to Covid-19 to pre-9/11 intelligence failures, labels the passage of Obamacare a “Pyrrhic victory” because it cost the Democrats their House majority in the 2010 election, and faults Democratic lawmakers for failing to acknowledge FBI overreach in the Trump-Russia probe. Though she accurately identifies instances where “policies designed to protect America are actually making us less safe,” Harman doesn’t break new ground in her analysis or provide many actionable fixes. This call for reform disappoints. (May)
Reviewed on : 01/13/2021
Release date: 05/18/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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