The Finish is very different from other Bowden works such as “Black Hawk Down” and “Killing Pablo” (Escobar) both of which focused on the tactical nature of warfare or paramilitary police work. What sets Bowden’s latest work apart from other works on the bin Laden raid is that it look s at the strategy and the strategists who planned the raid.
I liked this book because its author clearly points out how members of the military, government agencies and the political leadership carefully winnowed thousands of leads before committing to raid OBL’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The Finish is loaded with the details and partially filled out decision matrixes that went into the raid’s planning. It is not based on sourcing from within SEAL Team Six or the Army’s Night Stalker aviation battalion. Despite this, Bowden is able to put readers right next to the executives and senior managers who planned and presented all sides of the proposed mission.
Mark Bowden’s portrait of the specialized Navy SEALs on this and other raiding parties is not the Hollywood image of buffed up “kill-em-all” frogmen but rather scholarly warriors who maintain mission focus despite frequent rotations in and out of combat operations to their homes in the Continental United States.
Bowden was given access to the president for his latest work. The biggest surprise in the author’s narrative was that the president made bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice a high priority early in his presidency.
Bowden uses comments from military officers and other high level sources to paint President Obama as a measured risk taker who encourages staff to present well-reasoned arguments for and against scenarios, not as someone who obviously shoots from the hip.
The Finish is a book I suspect I’ll loan out to friends who share my interest in world affairs. It deserves a place alongside Steven Coll’s “Ghost Wars” (which details the US involvement in the war in Afghanistan) that includes a great deal of information on Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.—Jim Forbes on 10/30/2012.