America’s Secret War | George Friedman

Summary of: America’s Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between the United States and Its Enemies
By: George Friedman


In ‘America’s Secret War,’ George Friedman presents a comprehensive examination of the United States’ geopolitical picture in the age of terrorism. Delving into the complex dynamics of Islamic fundamentalism, global geopolitics, and the rise of al-Qaeda, Friedman explores the critical political events that laid the groundwork for the September 11, 2001 attacks. From the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan to the role of Saudi Arabia in supporting terrorism, the book sheds light on how America’s policies and the geopolitical landscape influenced al-Qaeda’s ascension. This mobile book summary will guide you through an engaging depiction of the global struggle between the United States and its enemies, illuminating the roots of modern terrorism and its implications for the contemporary world.

The Fourth Global War

The attacks on September 11, 2001, were just a part of al-Qaeda’s three-pronged assault on the United States. The group’s success was due to its stealth and discipline, as well as its non-national identity, which made identifying specific plans or timing difficult. The attacks marked the beginning of what the United States recognized as the “Fourth Global War,” which started when the Cold War ended in a politically polarized atmosphere. This resulted in a dependence on Western support and military power for politically unstable Muslim nations in the region.

The US-Soviet Proxy War

In 1979, when the United States was preoccupied with containing the USSR, Islamic rebels upended the Iranian government and began basing it on Islamic law. Fearing that the USSR would collaborate with Iran or invade Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter funded the Afghan guerillas to fight against the Soviets. When Ronald Reagan took over, he continued the same Afghan policies. William Casey, his appointed CIA head, encouraged young Muslims, especially Saudis, to wage jihad in Afghanistan, believing that Muslim fundamentalism would unsettle the Soviets. The US also entered into mutual agreements with Afghanistan’s Muslim fundamentalists and the Saudi-backed mujahideen, asking Pakistan to provide support. By 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, and the foundations for Al Qaeda and the Taliban had been laid.

The Roots of al-Qaeda

After the fall of the USSR, the Islamic fighters in Afghanistan pivoted towards Islamic fundamentalism, dedicating themselves to breaking the US’s psychological dependency and generating confidence among the Islamic masses. Through covert foreign policies and playing two sides against each other, the US inadvertently bolstered conservative Saudi Arabian Wahabis by moving troops onto Saudi soil, leading the trained Islamic troops to challenge Saudi leaders and establish a global religious Muslim empire, culminating in the rise of al-Qaeda. The root cause of this growth lies in the disenfranchisement of the guerilla warriors who were abandoned by the US without identity papers or any welcome home.

Al-Qaeda’s Vision for Islamic Unity

Al-Qaeda aimed to establish an Islamic caliphate, with Afghanistan as its model, and a centralized Muslim ruler with military, political, and religious powers. To achieve this, Osama bin Laden organized a small and decentralized al-Qaeda group that sought to motivate Islamic nations to defeat the US. The Taliban would serve in the government, while al-Qaeda acted as the military arm. Using its deep understanding of the Islamic world, al-Qaeda sought not Arab unity but Islamic unity, making it distinct from other terrorist groups. Their goal was to evade US intelligence and carry out successful terror missions.

The United States’ War on Terror

Following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush decided to initiate a war on terror. The war began with the invasion of Afghanistan, a logistical nightmare that required access to Pakistan and other former Soviet countries. The United States also needed Russia’s support for military bases in two former republics. The decision to invade Iraq was not well-supported by many in the administration. The book reflects on the reasons behind the war and the challenges the United States faced at the time, including the difficulty of stopping terrorism in a society with many unguarded targets.

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