Streets Without Joy: A Political History of Sanctuary and War, 1959-2009

Blending historical research with policy analysis, Innes investigates the concept of sanctuary in Washington’s understanding of how warfare should be conducted, against conventional and unconventional opponents alike.

Available August 2020. Pre-order:

Innes - Streets Without Joy

America’s wars after the Al Qaeda attacks of 11 September 2001 were marked by a political obsession with terrorist “sanctuaries” and “safe havens”. From mountain redoubts in Afghanistan, to the deserts and wadis of Iraq and urban safe houses in Bali, Madrid and London, American policymakers maintained an unwavering focus on finding and destroying the refuges, bases and citadels of modern guerrillas.

It was a pre-occupation embedded in every official speech and document of the period, a corpus of material that provided politicians, diplomats, soldiers and ordinary citizens with a new logic for thinking and talking about the world. As an exercise in political communication, it was a spectacular success. For seven years, between late 2001 and January 2009, President George W. Bush and those around him – Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and others – set terms of reference that cascaded down from the White House, out through the institutions of government and into the hearts and minds of Americans. Sanctuary was the red thread running through all of it, permeating the decisions and discourses of the day.

Where did this obsession with sanctuary come from? How did it become such an important feature of American political life? The answers can be found in the historical record. Between 1959 and 2001, generations of Americans experienced sanctuary in wartime as a world of Viet Cong supply lines and domestic American sanctuary activism, of Central American insurgencies and terrorist training camps in Libya, of Kurdish enclaves in Iraq and humanitarian safe havens in Rwanda and Bosnia. They witnessed the effects of sanctuary in one conflict after the next. They discussed the issue repeatedly in internal memoranda and reports, openly in public speeches and popular protests, and later, with the benefit of hindsight, reflected on it in their memoirs.

In a new political history, Michael A. Innes examines this neglected body of precedent, illustrates how it was widely available to decisionmakers on the eve of the 9-11 attacks, traces the ways in which they put it to work afterwards, and explains how they used it to redefine American foreign policy, enemies real and imagined, and the world.

Available August 2020. Pre-order: