Since we’re heading into the second decade of the war on terrorism, I thought I’d add to Mary’s fine recommendation that everyone read Crisis and Leviathan. I can’t strongly enough echo her suggestion, and it’s a perfect one for this time in particular. But I fear this particular crisis, to say nothing of its responding leviathan, will persist longer than it takes to absorb that excellent book cover to cover, including its endnotes.
To understand the broad nature of U.S. defense and foreign policy, see Ivan Eland’s The Empire Has No Clothes. The United States has always had a militarist strain, but it’s also had an anti-militarist heritage, competing over the soul of America with a greater claim to the traditions that underlie the nation’s founding principles. Arthur A. Ekirch’s The Civilian and the Military documents the entire national history.
For more by Higgs, see his polemic but very insightful writings in Resurgence of the Warfare State, covering the first half of the decade after 9/11. Also see a great collection of essays he coedited with Carl Close, Opposing the Crusader State, to understand with a wider context that perpetual war and foreign intervention are unnecessary.
For a quick overview of U.S. policy since 9/11, I suppose I should humbly recommend my own policy report, What Price War? Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Costs of Conflict.
A lot can be learned about the background of U.S. intervention leading up to 9/11 in Robert Dreyfuss’s Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam as well as Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris. To grasp the motivation behind suicide bombings beyond the caricatures we get in the press, see Robert Pape’s indispensible Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Peter Bergen’s The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda is a terrific primer on the intelligence failures involved in the U.S. dealings with its main enemies. I must also suggest James Bamford’s A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies, James Bovard’s Terrorism and Tyranny, and Andrew Bacevich’s Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War for some important material on the governmental response to 9/11.
Over 900 articles can be found at the Independent Institute‘s archive on national defense and foreign policy. And don’t miss OnPower.org for hundreds of more important reading suggestions.