Bin Laden’s Legacy

Why al Qaeda is winning its war against the West—and America has been playing right into its hands

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has grown weaker: It has been bogged down by costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has spent billions of dollars on security to protect air travel and other transport, as well as the homeland more generally. Much of this money has been channeled into efforts that are inefficient by design and highly bureaucratic, a lack of coordination between and among the government and an array of contractors making it difficult to evaluate the return on the enormous investment that we have made in national security. Meanwhile, public morale has been sapped by measures ranging from color-coded terror alerts to full-body hand searches.

Now, Gartenstein-Ross details the strategic missteps the U.S. has made in the fight against al Qaeda, a group that U.S. planners never really took the time to understand. For this reason, America’s responses to the terrorist threat have often unwittingly helped al Qaeda achieve its goals. Gartenstein-Ross’s book explains what the country must do now to stem the bleeding.

  • Explains in detail al Qaeda’s strategy to sap and undermine the American economy, and shows how the United States played into the terrorist group’s hands by expanding the battlefield and setting up an expensive homeland security bureaucracy that has difficulty dealing with a nimble, adaptive foe
  • Outlines how al Qaeda’s economic plans have evolved toward an ultimate “strategy of a thousand cuts,” which involves smaller yet more frequent attacks against Western societies
  • Shows how the domestic politicization of terrorism has weakened the United States, skewing its priorities and causing it to misallocate counterterrorism resources
  • Offers a practical plan for building domestic resiliency against terrorist attacks, and escaping the mistakes that have undermined America’s war against its jihadist foes

Clearly written and powerfully argued by a prominent counterterrorism expert, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what al Qaeda is really after and how the United States can thwart its goals—or help unwittingly to achieve them.

Bin Laden’s Legacy was widely received with positive reviews.  Georgetown University’s Bruce Hoffman has called Bin Laden’s Legacy “an important and timely work … one of the few books to probe systematically the movement’s strategy and its effect on the U.S. and its allies.” Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al Qaeda said that “Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has written an analytically sharp, fluidly written account of al Qaeda and its affiliates in the post-bin Laden er. It makes for sobering and essential reading.” Clark Kent Ervin, former Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security said “this book is an important contribution to the post-bin Laden debate about how to fight terrorism smarter and cheaper at a time of constraints on America’s power and purse.”

See a list of full reviews and interviews below.


The Long War’s Long Tail,” Foreign Policy.

Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror,” National Defense University Press Blog.

Book Review: Bin Laden’s Legacy,” Small Wars Journal.

A Counterterrorism Net Assessment: Bin Laden’s Legacy,” Fear, Honor, and Interest.

Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror,” Asmea Scholars.


Special Abu Muqawama Q&A with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross,” Abu Muqawama.

After Bin Laden, Same as Before?,” National Review.

Author Asks, Has Osama Won,” NPR.


Beyond our Fears: Building Peace in a Post-9/11 World,” America Magazine

Remembering 9/11,” CQ Researcher

It’s Time to Rethink Counterterrorism Spending,” Businessweek