American Reboot: Bridging CIA Books and Political Books
Mar 27, 2022 | By Will Hurd
I’ve lived the kind of stories you read in CIA books: I snuck into a terrorist training camp to conduct reconnaissance and was almost beaten to death by a mob after they pulled me out of a car. My experiences as an elected official could fill the pages of political books, since my name has been on a ballot for public election eight different times. In all of these situations, I had a feeling of nervousness because I didn’t know the outcome of the situation I was in. I experienced a similar feeling on the eve of releasing my first book, American Reboot, into the wild.
My first boss, in my first overseas assignment as an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), asked me before I conducted my first operation, “Are you nervous?”
I replied, “Yes sir, very.”
“Good.” He said. “The day you stop being nervous before you kick off on an op is the day you need to stop doing this job. You’re nervous because what you are about to do is really important. It matters.” He then slapped me on the back and issued the directive that is a common directive issued throughout the Central Intelligence Agency before an officer begins an operation, “Don’t f*ck up.”
Trying To Be A New Entry Among the Best Political Books
Whether I f*cked up or not is in the readers hands. However, I wrote American Reboot because we are at a point and time when it comes to our politics, national security, and issues affecting our society it is almost impossible to get big things done. This dysfuction is threatening American democracy. I’m part of the 72 percent of Americans who say the country is headed in the wrong direction and we can’t let this continue.
Unlike the journalist Bob Woodward, who has forgotten more about politics and what the government has or hasn’t done than I will ever know, I’m never going to win a Pulitzer Prize. Woodward’s extensive writing on American politics is an example of how illuminating history can influence current affairs.
From All the President’s Men, about the various aspects of the Watergate crisis of President Nixon, to Peril, the third book in his trilogy about Donald Trump, his insights into the inner workings of the White House and the administrations of various presidents have provided deep insights into the political landscape and decision-making processes behind major events in the history of America.
I wanted to shed a light on how an individual member of Congress, an African-American Republican, managed the relationship between leaders in government, the president and constituents. Additionally, I wanted folks to see how regardless of the issue affecting society there is a way to get big things done. I hope folks consider American Reboot as similar to great Political books like:
- American Carnage by Tim Alberta: A deep dive into the political transformation of the Republican Party, Alberta chronicles the rise of President Donald Trump and the internal battles that have defined the GOP in the modern era.
- Advise & Consent by Allen Drury: A Pulitzer Prize-winning political novel, Drury paints a vivid picture of the U.S. Senate, exploring the intricacies of power, ambition, and the challenges of governance through the lens of a contentious Supreme Court nomination.
- The Conservative Heart by Arthur C. Brooks: Brooks articulates a vision for a compassionate conservatism, arguing for policies that not only respect free-market principles but also address social welfare, emphasizing the importance of human dignity and potential.
- A Republican Looks at His Party by Arthur Larson: Written during the Eisenhower era, Larson offers a thoughtful critique and analysis of the Republican Party, discussing its history, principles, and the need for a more progressive and inclusive approach to politics.
How Political Books Shape our Understanding of Government
In my journey from the back alleys of foreign countries, the halls of Congress, and the boardrooms of international businesses I’ve encountered the complexities of human nature. These experiences have shaped my understanding of the world and are a central theme in my book, reflecting the best and worst of what drives us as people. Through these experiences I’ve become aware of five generational defining challenges that we must address if we want this century to continue being the American century.
I wanted to explore with the reader how I came to these conclusions and tell the stories that lead me to reconize the risk our nation was facing.
I’ve learned to not obsess over so called reviews, but it’s important to be open to criticism and feedback even though so many people seek their 15 minutes of fame by being nasty. However, early reviews of American Reboot have been good:
- In his review of American Reboot, journalist Gilbert Garcia, who has been writing about political parties for the past three decades wrote, “The book is a memoir that also serves as a set of prescriptions for an ailing U.S. political system.”
- In another review, former Chairman of the Republican Natonal Committee Michael Steele, who has interacted with thousands of government officials explains, “You want to get this book!”
Dechiphering Current Affairs through Political Literature
When I’ve talked about my first time writing a book, I’ve explained how the process began in June of 2019. That’s before a global COVID-19 pandemic, ridiculous political arguments about what we should do about it, and a contentious presidential election that resulted in an attempted insurrection at our capital in Washington, DC that many believed could have led to a civil war.
The last draft was completed and sent to the printers in August 2021. That’s before the country was hit with the worst inflation in 40 years, intense culture wars distracting us from focusing on important issues like why is education important,why is tech important, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin that could still erupt into a world war.
While I address many of these current affairs, I didn’t want American Reboot to be a policy book. I address major issues like the threat of China to our way of life, the problems within the Republican Party, the contentious debates on border security and immigration, how the US economy is not working for everyone, and how the US is losing its edge in technology innovation.
Even though the book is not fiction, I wanted it to read more like a novel than a dry policy paper. One way I hope I accomplished this feat is by telling story upon story about my time in the Central Intelligence Agency and how that has influenced my world view.
Top CIA Books Every Intelligence Enthusiast Must Read
I am proud to have joined the Central Intelligence Agency when I graduated college at 22 years old. I was recurited by a former CIA officer who trained during the Vietnam War and was a legendary American intelligence officer helping the intelligence community battle the Soviet Union during the Cold War. His stories of his time collecting intelligence and recruiting Soviet secret agents rivaled any spy thriller, and they had me hooked. I had been in the CIA almost a year before the events of September 11th impacted America forever. I had the honor of serving in South Asia and the Middle east.
While American Reboot is far from a deep history of the CIA like Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner where he details the history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its creation after World War II, through the Cold War years and the War on Terror. I try to give insights on the everyday life of a CIA officers who is responsible for recuriting spies and stealing secrets. I even tried to tell some stories even Ian Fleming would have put in one of his spy novels.
I hope folks begin to view American Reboot in the same category of many of the CIA books which should be required reading for every potential CIA recruit:
- The Art of Intelligence: A memoir by a former CIA officer Hank Crumpton, providing an insider’s perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and inner workings of the intelligence world, from the streets of Afghanistan to the corridors of power in Washington.
- Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying: Veteran CIA officer James M. Olson delves into the ethical quandaries faced by intelligence officers, emphasizing the need for clear moral guidelines derived from public consensus, and illustrating the murky choices they often confront in real-world operations.
- First In: Gary Schroen provides a riveting first-person account of the CIA’s war in Afghanistan post-9/11, detailing the agency’s efforts to pave the way for the defeat of the Taliban and initiate the war on terror, offering an unparalleled insight into the early retaliation against terrorism and the reclamation of Afghanistan
- At the Center of the Storm: Former CIA director George Tenet provides an insider’s perspective on the challenges, decisions, and controversies of the post-9/11 era, defending the agency’s actions and shedding light on the intelligence community’s role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
- The Unexpected Spy: A compelling memoir of Tracy Walder’s journey from her college sorority to the CIA and later the FBI, detailing her experiences in tracking terrorists, preventing chemical attacks, and confronting both external threats and internal challenges like sexism.
- Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988: Jane Mayer, who covered Reagan for the Wall Street Journal, and Doyle McManus, who covered Central America for the L.A. Times, joined together to write this politcal thriller about the Iran-Contra affair.
We are in this boat Together
Photo: Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze (1851) – Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This phrase is the title of my final chapter. As a nation we must realize this. The world is getting crazier by the day, which makes the principles I outline in the book even more relevant than when I first began to write the words.
Many of the things I wrote about were essential leadership lessons I learned from my mom. If we had a foreign policy where our friends loved us and our enemies feared us then there wouldn’t be thousands of innocents dying needlessly in Ukraine. If we had a domestic policy based on empowering people not the government then the cost of things Americans need everyday wouldn’t be rising faster than their wages.
- Haley Byrd writes, “Hurd is a strong storyteller. He shares compelling memories of growing up in an interracial family in Texas, vivid accounts from his nine years as a CIA officer, and behind-the-scenes details of his attempts to overcome Congress’ top-down legislative process,” and
- General William McRaven writes, “Funny, thoughtful, brutally honest.”
Even folks who don’t agree that things can get better give approval of the logic I use in the book and appreciate that it was well-written. The American book review magazine Kirkus said: “Hurd’s plea for a kinder, gentler GOP is well reasoned but quixotic given the party’s current rabidity.” I appreciate the reviewer’s perspective, but I respectfully disagree.
We don’t have to let things stay on the wrong track. There is a better way to keep American democracy flourishing. As I explain in the first chapter, it’s time for us to get off the ‘X.” This is a lesson we are taught in the CIA and I explain it fully in the book. It basically means we need to stop doing what we are doing and do something different. If you agree, then purchase my book. When you are reading it and come to a point you like or agree with, then share that with your friends.
The only way we are going to change things is if we work together. So, buy American Reboot so you can learn the plan, and then let’s start a movement.
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