THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN while I was Director of Studies at the Changing Character of War program at Oxford University, 2005–2007. Having spent breathless years in Washington, D.C., operating in the crisis atmosphere following the attacks of September 11th, it was refreshing to get away. Those who were responsible for the protection of the American people were understandably focused on the specter of another attack; but daily threat briefings were not conducive to strategic thought. Without the opportunity to be a part of the Oxford University community, I would never have been able to write this book.
The specific idea for the project first germinated in 2003, when I was the Specialist in Terrorism at the Congressional Research Service. One day a senior senator asked if I could provide a broader historical perspective of al-Qaeda's campaign, as a counterpart to the anxious picture he was getting in dozens of briefings. I responded that al-Qaeda, like its predecessors, would eventually end, and discussed some possible scenarios. Although I was soon swept up in other short-term matters, that conversation started me thinking. In a sense, then, from concept to final publication the book has taken six years. Despite its remaining flaws, the manuscript has gone through five drafts and been cut by 40 percent from its original length. My apologies, dear reader, if you think I should have done a sixth.
Many people helped me along the way. First, I am grateful to my colleagues at the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service. I enjoyed the stimulating intellectual environment and mentorship of the excellent analysts with whom I was privileged to work, in particular Larry Nowels, Francis Miko, Carol Migdalovitz, and Rhoda Margesson. Second, I am thankful for my students and colleagues at the National War College, particularly David Auerswald, Frank Mora, Bard O'Neill, Mark Pizzo, Harvey Rishikof, and Omer Taspinar. My friend Karen Wilhelm, Col. (ret.) USAF, slogged through the entire first draft, emailed to her from Oxford. She deserves (another) medal; I am particularly indebted to her for all the late nights and weekends that I spoiled.
In Oxford, I have had a wonderful group of colleagues in the Changing Character of War (CCW) program. The Director, Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls, could not have been more kind or supportive. I am deeply in his debt. I am also grateful to professors Henry Shue, Guy Goodwin-Gill, and Anne Deighton. My former