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Photo by Jonathan Simcoe

Book Review: The Ongoing War

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. Simon & Schuster;; 288 pages; $26.

It is often said that 9/11 changed America. The aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil has precipitated a Global War on Terrorism, and many lives have been lost in the effort to find those responsible and to eradicate the threat. While euphemisms have been coined, in effect, the United States has been in a constant state of war for more than 15 years now, with no end in sight. And, perhaps more significantly, America’s worldview and its core values have changed in ways that are dark and disturbing.

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War by Mark Danner examines how this has come to be and what it means for the United States. He examines what he calls the “state of exception” that has characterized the Global War on Terrorism and that appears to have become both perpetual and self-perpetuating, slowly eroding some cherished foundations of the nation. He identifies the corrosive effects of this on the body politic and challenges the reader to consider whether what we have been doing is counterproductive—not only to our stated objectives but, more importantly, to our own well-being.

Spiral confronts readers with some difficult questions to ponder. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would sacrifice essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Those words may be even more relevant now than when originally spoken.

Reviewer: Mayer Nudell, CSC, is an independent consultant on crisis management, contingency planning, and related issues. He is coauthor of The Handbook for Effective Emergency and Crisis Management and No One a Neutral: Political Hostage-Taking in the Modern World.