Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Patrick Lang
The Portable Pat Lang
Patrick Lang, author
It’s a sign of humility that this illuminating collection from Lang, an Army colonel and retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s global human intelligence service, isn’t titled I Told You So. In the many clear-eyed essays and other writings within, Lang surveys the U.S.’s 21st century intelligence gathering and military strategy, often stating, in pieces from the early 2000s, hard truths about Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries that would be borne out over long, painful years. Today these warnings that weren’t heeded offer an urgent reminder of what went wrong.

Lang demonstrates his independence, boldness, and acute understanding from the start, with a 2002 piece declaring the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate covering Iraq’s capacity for weapons of mass destruction “the worst constructed, most illogical and indeed dishonest document of its kind that I have ever seen.” Weight of evidence justifies the heated tone, as Lang breaks down, in that essay and others, the intrusion of bureaucrats and politicians into the ways that intelligence is “collected, collated, analyzed, and disseminated.” As he considers the nation’s mistakes and misapprehensions in the face of terrorism and counterinsurgency, Lang writes with clarity and insight (“To be blunt, our foreign policy tends to be predicated on the notion that everyone wants to be an American”), drawing on a host of historical examples, lessons from his own career, and deep knowledge about the Middle East and Islam.

“The Al-Qaeda that most Americans imagine does not exist,” Lang writes in a 2006 essay worth celebrating for its prescience. Elsewhere, he sounds the alarm not only that the U.S. couldn’t succeed in Afghanistan but that even defining a “win” was impossible. In speeches, book reviews, proposals, and other forms, Lang writes with inviting prose and rare persuasive power, for an audience of intelligence and military experts and strategists but also lay readers, never simply relying on his credentials. Engaging short fictions set in other eras round out the collection, each offering insights.

Takeaway: Prescient, clear-eyed essays about what could—and often did—go wrong for the U.S. in the Middle East.

Great for fans of: Richard H. Shultz’s Transforming US Intelligence for Irregular War, Thomas E. Ricks’s Fiasco.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A