The Matador's Cape

America's Reckless Response to Terror

The Matador's Cape

The Matador's Cape delves into the causes of the catastrophic turn in American policy at home and abroad since 9/11. In a collection of searing essays, the author explores Washington's inability to bring 'the enemy' into focus, detailing the ideological, bureaucratic, electoral and (not least) emotional forces that severely distorted the American understanding of, and response to, the terrorist threat. The author's breadth of knowledge about the War on Terror leads to conclusions about present-day America that are at once sobering in their depth of reference and inspiring in their global perspective.


"Holmes is emerging as the foremost post-9/11 'character reader'…. The book is political psychology at its best… he writes directly, simply, elegantly, informally without ever becoming too colloquial."
Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science, Columbia University

"A brilliant dissection of the deeper causes of an American tragedy."
Bruce Ackerman, Professor of Law, Yale University Law School

"In these powerfully-argued essays, Stephen Holmes brilliantly illuminates not only why America's 'war' against Islamic terrorism has gone so wrong, but also what can be done to protect both the nation and its democratic institutions. No book could be timelier or more urgently needed."
Ronald Steel, Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California

“Stephen Holmes' impressively researched, deeply felt, and strongly argued book is an extremely valuable guide to answering the riddle of why the Bush administration reacted so disastrously to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and in doing so fell straight into the trap Al Qaeda had set for America.”
Anatol Lieven, Senior Research Fellow, New American Foundation

"The Matador's Cape, by one of America's most brilliant political philosophers, not only provides a devastating analysis of the current 'war on terror', but suggests new ways for the West to deal with the very real dangers facing it."
Tzvetan Todorov, Director of Research, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris

"The Matador's Cape is a trenchant critical analysis of the thinking inside the Bush administration and among its defenders about the response to 9/11 and the decision to go to war in Iraq. Stephen Holmes shows just how oversimplified, contradictory, and confused their thinking was--and how dangerous it is to our true interests in security and freedom."
Paul Starr, Co-editor of The American Prospect and author of Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism.

"The Matador's Cape - the title is an allusion to Osama bin Laden's boast that the 9/11 attacks were designed to bait the United States into a berserk overreaction - is a collection of previously published essays repackaged into a semi-coherent, but often sharp, narrative of America's "reckless response" to 9/11. Holmes identifies several reasons...for the administration's decision to declare war on terrorism rather than on Islamic radicalism."
-Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

"With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level...Holmes has done a wonderful job of clearing the underbrush and preparing the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject."
-Chalmers Johnson,

"Holmes provides numerous useful insights."
-David P. Nalbone, Contemporary Psychology APA Review of Books

"...the author certainly has achieved his purpose of highlighting why United States policymakers must re-examine counter terrorism strategies and policies. Holmes has effectively introduced more clarity and understanding to this tragic unfolding epic and thus has made an important contribution to the literature."
-American Review of Politics