Praise for Objective Troy
Review by Jury for Lionel Gelber Prize
“Shane’s masterpiece is a rarity among foreign affairs books, flowing dramatically like a novel, carrying the academic weight of a thesis, and laying out enough policy dilemmas to fill a month of Sunday talk shows. The story of Anwar al-Awlaki is, in some ways, the story of Americans and Arabs in the age of terror, brought into sharp relief by the Obama administration and its unpredicted—and unpredictable—drone policy, which has redefined the meaning of war and reset its price.”
Review by Steve Coll in The New York Times
In his authoritative, nuanced chronicle of Mr. Awlaki’s life and the Obama administration’s decision to end it, Scott Shane, a New York Times reporter who covers terrorism and national security, calls Mr. Awlaki’s deliberate killing by his government, without a trial or court order, an example of the “dirty hands” concept in ethics....Mr. Shane provides the first full biography of Mr. Awlaki, drawn from diverse sources; his account of Mr. Awlalki’s radicalization is admirably restrained about his subject’s elusive inner motivations, yet also engagingly detailed..... A well-sourced, judicious chronicle of the administration’s historic decision to kill Mr. Awlaki.
Review by Deborah Pearlstein in The Washington Post
...its more important contribution is the light it sheds on the larger puzzle of terrorism.....Awlaki didn’t hate U.S. freedoms, as President George W. Bush would say of terrorists; he counted on them. What he hated was U.S. policy.Yet as significant a conclusion as this might be, and consistent with the warnings of dozens of counterterrorism experts who regularly point out the strategic downside of excessive detention and targeting, Shane also determinedly avoids the pat answer that Awlaki was driven to violence by the United States’ actions. Rather, the why in Awlaki’s case is an unavoidable mix of motives, political, yes, but also religious, sexual and ultimately personal. The book is in this respect an admirable embrace of human complexity and an acknowledgment that there are aspects of Awlaki’s thinking we may never fully know. The book delves deeply into a single life and still comes up with questions. This is perhaps its greatest service. It is an object lesson in the limits of the search for a root cause.
Review by Paul Pillar in the New York Times Sunday Book Review
At the time he died in September 2011, Awlaki was probably the most prominent jihadi terrorist in the world apart from Osama bin Laden. The president who announced that death, Barack Obama, has become identified with drone strikes since they are the principal tool his administration has used to fight international terrorists. 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.
Shane brings to the subject many years of experience reporting on terrorism and national security affairs for The New York Times....Shane offers a detailed and convincing narrative of what otherwise might be an incomprehensible transformation in the life of Anwar al-Awlaki....Governmental policy has not facilitated the needed debate about drones and counterterrorism, but this readable and skillfully reported book will surely move us toward that fuller discussion.
Review by Nick Baumann in Commonweal magazine
In Objective Troy, Scott Shane tries to answer these questions with a gripping, deeply reported tale of sex, religion, radicalization, and betrayal. In the telling, he reveals a strange truth: the key to understanding Awlaki’s actions, and his fate, is recognizing how American his story is....
THE EVIDENCE that Awlaki was actively plotting to kill Americans was, as Shane reveals in the book, overwhelming. But it was also secret. There was no role for the courts, let alone the public—or a jury of his peers—in determining Awlaki’s fate. The congressional intelligence committees are briefed on these operations after they occur, but the decision is the president’s, and the president’s alone....I’m glad I’m not in the position of making these sorts of life-or-death decisions, but I don’t think we can let our leaders off the hook so easily....
The reason we know as much as we do about the killing—and other drone strikes—is because of the efforts of reporters like Scott Shane. Read his book.
Review by Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare
Remarkable....Objective Troy is a gripping read. It’s also one of the more informative accounts of the development of American counterterrorism—and the development of America’s terrorist enemies—that I’ve read in a while. Shane has done a great deal of reporting in a great deal of depth, from the high echelons of the White House to Yemeni friends and family of Awlaki. It’s a very impressive work across a number of axes.
Review by Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Weekly Standard
As for Scott Shane, he strives for journalistic neutrality throughout. This is not to say that he withholds his opinions and judgments; indeed, he freely dispenses them, but for the most part also aims to ground them in the formidable body of evidence he has assembled. I found myself quarreling with some of his conclusions, but not the central ones. The story he tells of Anwar al-Awlaki’s life and death is deeply instructive, as is his account of Barack Obama’s decision-making. 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.
Review by Kirkus
Shane's reporting is superb, and the way he frames the public policy debate makes the narrative compelling from start to finish.
Review by Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower
Scott Shane has done a masterful job of fleshing out the missing link in the evolution of Al Qaeda. The life of the American-born imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, serves as a cautionary tale about the conflict between Islam and the West, and about America’s role in the Middle East. Years after his assassination by an American drone strike, Awlaki’s voice continues to summon young Muslims to the fight.
Review by Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy
Scott Shane has written a 21st century morality tale about a president steeped in Constitutional law and his hunt for a charismatic American terrorist—who just happens to be a ‘skirt-chasing mullah.’ But this murder mystery is alarmingly all true. 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. Shane's Objective Troy is destined to become a classic text on both the Obama Presidency and drone warfare.
Review by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and The Finish
Scott Shane has written a bracing story about America's most notorious extra-judicial killing. Here is by far the best reporting on the subject, from Anwar al Alwaki's gradual evolution into a violent extremist to the Obama administration's internal struggles -- moral and legal -- over how to use the drone, a troubling but undeniably effective new weapon. Thorough and exceedingly fair, chocked with surprising detail, Objective Troy asks all the right questions, and will leave any reader wondering whether the United States, just because it can remotely assassinate terror threats, should.
Review by Arthur Holland Michel in Bookforum
What’s most remarkable about Awlaki’s violent ascent and fall, which is chronicled in a dark and fascinating new book, Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Droneby Scott Shane, is that he might have just as easily become a champion of reconciliation..... Shane points out that despite efforts to scrub Awlaki’s toxic teachings from the Web, a search of his name on YouTube today still produces tens of thousands of results. As long as his message is accessible online, young men and women will keep reading his blog posts and watching his sermons, and some will take up arms. And as long as the Internet remains the most important frontier in the war on terror, Awlaki’s story will remain relevant, and Objective Troy a crucial read.
Review by Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden
No one has written a better book about Obama's war against terrorists. Shane is a superb reporter and a wonderful story teller. I literally could not put this book down. It will join a short list of books that helps all of us to really understand the wars against terrorist groups that have defined US foreign policy since 9/11.
Review by Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
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. It's a story that had to be told, and must be read.