If you want a quick, painless, reasonable, graphic history of America’s War on Terror, I recommend After 9/11: America’s War on Terror (2001-).  It’s too mainstream for my taste, and I would have preferred more of an international perspective.  But it’s a good primer on the #1 issue of the Naughts.

I learned a lot of details.  But the one big insight I gathered is that for the first two years of the War on Terror, Democrats and moderate Republicans took it for granted that the usual rules of politics would not apply to the War on Terror.  They assumed that on this One Special Issue, Bush would:

1. Not tell lies.
2. Try hard to do a good job.
3. Think long term.
4. Value success over popularity.

Then ever-so-gradually, it dawned on Democrats and moderate Republicans: Bush was treating the War on Terror as if it were a normal issue!  Leading politicians were stunned.  The various members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission actually sound hurt.  The President and his inner circle are being as venal and irresponsible about terrorism as politicians routinely are about everything else?  Horrors!

Of course, the critics’ reactions might just be grandstanding.  But somehow hearing the story chronologically makes their disillusion more credible.  For most, After 9/11 will probably just confirm their worst fears about Bush.  For me, though, After 9/11 confirms my worst fears about politics-as-usual.