Every now and then I read a book and feel “every American should have to read this.””  That is how I feel about Black Flags, the work of Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick. The book details the rise of the Islamic jihadist group that broke away fromEl Qaeda – or more accurately failed to get its full support by being too bloodthirsty – and set out to create a Muslim caliphate that would include Syria, Iraq and Jordan, among others. It also relates the debates within the Bush and Obama Administrations as they struggled to develop coherent Middle Eastern policies. As usual, nothing is as simple as campaign sound bites might make it seem. The realists battle the ideologues and too often lose.

Mr. Warrick writes clearly, entertainingly and insightfully into what happened and why. He provides no clear answers. But anyone reading this book will emerge far more informed about what is going on in the Middle East and why collaborating with our allies to deal effectively with the Islamic rising is probably far more important to Americans than any domestic policy issues being debated in the current Presidential campaigns.

Hugh Menzies