A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone
Now out in paperback!
Objective Troy has won the Lionel Gelber Prize, awarded each year to "the world's best nonfiction book in English on foreign affairs." The jury of scholars and writers from five countries wrote:
Featured Review"Authoritative, nuanced chronicle of Mr. Awlaki’s life and the Obama administration’s decision to end it.....engagingly detailed." Steve Coll in The New York Times
- "Authoritative, nuanced chronicle of Mr. Awlaki’s life and the Obama administration’s decision to end it.....engagingly detailed." Steve Coll in The New York Times
- "Scott Shane’s “Objective Troy” (the title refers to the military’s code name for Awlaki) is a lucid and richly informed account of how these two men came to occupy their respective places in the history of the drone age." Paul Pillar in the New York Times Sunday Book Review
- "A gripping, deeply reported tale of sex, religion, radicalization, and betrayal. " Nick Baumann in Commonweal magazine
- "Anyone interested in understanding the allure of radical Islam, and thinking about ways to counter it both on and off the battlefield, would do well to study this work." Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Weekly Standard
- "Scott Shane has done a masterful job of fleshing out the missing link in the evolution of Al Qaeda." Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower
- "The writing is riveting, the intelligence sources are impeccable and the book is quietly elegant—echoing the human story told in Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower." Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy
- "Scott Shane has written a bracing story about America's most notorious extra-judicial killing." Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and The Finish
- "No one has written a better book about Obama's war against terrorists. Shane is a superb reporter and a wonderful story teller." Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden
- "Scott Shane is unsurpassed in shedding clear light on America's darkest secrets, including the gripping human drama behind a drone strike that changed history." Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
Description of Objective Troy
Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11 but ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the targeted killing of suspected militants. And it recounts how the president directed the mammoth machinery of spy agencies to hunt Awlaki down in a frantic pursuit that would end with a missile fired using the robotic technology that has changed warfare—the drone.
Scott Shane, who has covered terrorism for The New York Times over the last decade, weaves the clash between president and terrorist into both a riveting narrative and a deeply human account of the defining conflict of our era. Awlaki, who directed a plot that almost derailed Obama’s presidency, and then taunted him from his desert hideouts, will go down in history as the first United States citizen deliberately hunted and executed by his own government without trial. But his eloquent calls to jihad, amplified by YouTube, continue to lure young Westerners into terrorism—resulting in tragedies from the Boston marathon bombing to the murder of cartoonists at a Paris weekly. Awlaki’s life and death show how profoundly America has been changed by the threat of terrorism and by our own fears.
Illuminating and provocative, and based on years of reporting, Objective Troy is a brilliant reckoning with the moral challenge of terrorism and a masterful chronicle of our times.
For a study guide to Objective Troy for professors assigning the book and students reading it, click here. Professors: For information on how to order a desk/examination copy of the book, send an email here.
Click here to see a collection of the government documents that Scott Shane used in the reporting of Objective Troy, posted by The National Security Archive.
Excerpts from Objective Troy
...Anwar al-Awlaki, fourteen years younger, was the rising idol, preaching an ideology indistinguishable from Bin Laden’s but in a refreshingly blunt, clear, and informal style. His usual choice of English limited his influence in the Arab world, but it gave him the same international appeal that made Apple and Toyota borderless brands. He addressed English-speaking Muslims in the West as an imam who knew from experience their lives and insecurities. The fact that he had been imprisoned for eighteen months in Yemen, and his notoriety in the American media after Fort Hood and the airliner attack, only burnished his appeal to followers. They believed he was speaking Islamic truth to infidel power...
...Those who did not already know Obama well soon discovered that he was neither a pacifist nor an ideologue, though both opponents on the right and admirers on the left consistently misunderstood this. At heart, for better or worse, Obama proposed to be a ruthless pragmatist, especially when it came to counterterrorism. If the staggering expenditure of young lives and national treasure in the two big wars was meant to make America safe from terrorism, he thought, it was a perverse way to go about it. Occupying Muslim countries for years with a small city’s worth of heavily armed and sometimes trigger-happy Americans was proving ineffective or counterproductive... But inaction was not an option, given the dire news from Pakistan...
The Rise of the Drone
...By 1981, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems was a decade old and had the money and clout to draw as keynote speaker the famous Hungarian-born physicist known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller. At a press conference, the seventy-three-year-old Teller declared that “the unmanned vehicle today is a technology akin to the importance of radars and computers in 1935.”....Teller said that in addition to being small, cheap, and expendable, “unmanned vehicles become really useful when they are intelligent"; they could carry “every extra sensory organ that you can dream of”; they could “be used for reconnaissance, for attack or for defense—for anything you please.”...