cover image Surprise Attack: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 to Benghazi

Surprise Attack: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 to Benghazi

Larry Hancock. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-61902-566-0

Ample warnings preceded Pearl Harbor and every subsequent attack on U.S. soil and U.S. forces, writes Hancock (Nexus: The CIA and Political Assassination), a veteran national security journalist, in this detailed, technical, and pessimistic analysis of American defense policy. Accounts of incompetence miss the point, he adds, and generalized warnings are futile in the absence of good threat intelligence, actual alerts, and prepared defenses. American war planners after 1945 assumed that the U.S.S.R. would start the next war without warning; the result was a vast, expensive, worldwide early-warning system and a huge military equipped with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. This impressed Stalin—who never planned a sneak attack—but did not prevent other surprises. In Hancock’s dog-eat-dog world, rational powers (U.S., U.S.S.R., China, Putin’s Russia) obsessively mirror each other’s actions and in the process accumulate nuclear weapons, bomber fleets, or missiles far beyond any necessity. Irrational players such as al Qaeda, ISIS, and even Pakistan simply follow their bliss. Hancock stresses that even without warnings, every attack would have failed if sensible alerts and defenses had been in place. He is not shy about suggesting improvements, but admits that since American leaders may never get their act together, more surprises are likely in store. [em](Sept.) [/em]