The Closing of the American Border is a provocative, behind-the-scenes investigation into the consequences of America’s efforts to secure its borders since 9/11. Basing his conclusions on extensive interviews with former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge, former secretary of state Colin Powell, other Bush administration officials, and many of the innocent people whose lives have been upended by the new border security and visa rules, Edward Alden offers a striking and compelling assessment of the dangers faced by a nation that cuts itself off from the rest of the world.
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"This is the book we've been waiting for--and which should be required reading at Homeland Security and in the Congress. `Seven years after 9/11,' Edward Alden writes, `it is much harder for a terrorist to enter the U.S. It is also much harder for everyone else.' America's greatness rests on the `tired and huddled masses,' which were among the world's most gifted and ambitious. Keep them out, and you'll keep out the country's most critical natural resource. Al-Qaida would like that, America should not."
-- Josef Joffe, author of Uberpower
"Edward Alden's fascinating book tells the story, for the first time, of how the most open nation in the world began to close itself off. Evenhanded, fast-paced, and powerfully written, Alden's book is based on a tremendous amount of original research and reporting that goes inside the corridors of power in Washington and far beyond. The picture that emerges is deeply disturbing: zeal-driven confusion and overreach, repeated disregard for the U.S. Constitution, and thousands of innocent people arbitrarily detained or jailed. This important book should be read by policymakers and ordinary Americans alike."
-- Amy Chua, Professor of Law at Yale Law School and author of World on Fire
"Opportunity for all, openness, freedom--for the past century, those three values have been America's gift to the world. In this penetrating, impeccably researched, and devastating book, Edward Alden shows how America sacrificed each one after 9/11, in a bid for security that has yielded far less than it has cost. This is a superb case study of how the conduct of policy can drift depressingly far from the worthy intentions that gave rise to it."
-- Edward Carr, The Economist
"Illuminating. . . . Sensible, carefully constructed roundup of recent border security measures by the U.S. government, analyzing their degrees of success and failure. Alden examines how America went from the most open country in the world to a nation hostile and unwelcoming to foreigners. . . . The author brings home the sobering consequences of closing America's borders. . . . Alden's cogent analysis forces a closer look at these developments. A useful study that informs without grinding an ax."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"This is an outstanding and important book--well written, vividly detailed, and completely convincing. I've been waiting for the writer who would put together the full picture of what America did to itself in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks--how it changed from the country that attracted the world's talent to the country that detains, deports, and discourages talented foreigners who have no conceivable connection to any terrorist threat. Edward Alden now tells exactly that tale, and if enough people read it, it should change the way Americans talk and think about this issue."
-- James Fallows, author of Blind Into Baghdad
A provocative, behind-the-scenes investigation into the consequences of America's efforts to secure its borders since 9/11
On September 10, 2001, the United States was the most open country in the world. But in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil, the U.S. government began to close its borders in an effort to fight terrorism. The Bush administration's goal was to build new lines of defense against terrorists without stifling the flow of people and ideas from abroad that has helped build the world's most dynamic economy. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.
The Closing of the American Border is based on extensive interviews with the Bush administration officials charged with securing the border after 9/11, including former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge and former secretary of state Colin Powell, and with many of the innocent people whose lives have been upended by the new border security and visa rules. A pediatric heart surgeon from Pakistan is stuck in Karachi for nearly a year, awaiting the security review that would allow him to return to the United States to take up a prestigious post at UCLA Medical Center. A brilliant Sudanese scientist, working tirelessly to cure one of the worst diseases of the developing world, loses years of valuable research when he is detained in Brazil after attending an academic conference on behalf of an American university.
Edward Alden goes behind the scenes to show how an administration that appeared united in the aftermath of the attacks was racked by internal disagreements over how to balance security and openness. The result is a striking and compelling assessment of the dangers faced by a nation that cuts itself off from the rest of the world, making it increasingly difficult for others to travel, live, and work here, and depriving itself of its most persuasive argument against its international critics—the example of what it has achieved at home.
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