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Announcing the 2011 Book Prize Winners


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As an organization that believes in the power of ideas, The Washington Institute takes pride in honoring three books every year that illuminate the often-obscure world of Middle East affairs for specialists and general readers alike. Since 2008, the Institute has selected books that exemplify its commitment to outstanding scholarship and cutting-edge insight. By offering one of the most lucrative literary prizes in the world, the Institute hopes to reward outstanding writing and to stimulate new contributions to the field. The 2011 Book Prize winners bring new light to some of the most important and contentious issues of our time. (Learn more about Book Prize eligibility and deadlines here.)

Winners were chosen by a three-person jury: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Affairs; Ellen Laipson, president and chief executive officer of the Stimson Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security; and Walter Russell Mead, the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.

Winners of the 2011 Washington Institute Book Prize

Gold Prize: $30,000
The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda
Peter L. Bergen (Free Press)
Read more about The Longest War on the Simon and Schuster website.

Prize Jury Commendation:
"Peter Bergen draws on years of meticulous reporting, to uncover the thinking of al-Qaeda's top strategists and the pitched battles in Washington over U.S. policy. The ten-year war against al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is now the longest in American history. Yet while terror groups remain a threat, Bergen's riveting account shows how American grit thwarted al-Qaeda's drive to become the acclaimed champion of Islamism -- at a price Americans still ponder and debate."

Silver Prize: $15,000
The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hizbollah, and the Iranian War against Israel
Michael J. Totten (Encounter Books)
Read more about The Road to Fatima Gate on the Encounter Books website.

Prize Jury Commendation:
"Michael Totten's narrative of the rise and fall of Lebanese democracy is a harrowing tale, grippingly told. It revolves around Hizballah's brazen challenge to the Lebanese state, Lebanon's own disastrous politics, and the ceaseless maneuvers of Israel and Syria. Totten's storytelling is energetic and engaging, yet his analysis is always thoughtful and on-target. Lebanon's present sad chapter hasn't ended; this book is the finest introduction to the turmoil yet to come."

Bronze Prize: $5,000
Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia
Stéphane Lacroix (Harvard University Press)
Read more about Awakening Islam on the Harvard University Press website.

Prize Jury Commendation:
"The terra incognita of Saudi Islam is explored in a scholarly way for the first time by Stéphane Lacroix. Drawing on interviews with Islamists who rarely give them, and on hard-to-find texts, Lacroix goes beyond post-9/11 generalizations, to paint a complex landscape of the struggle over the role of Islam in the Saudi kingdom. This unique and deeply informed work is bound to influence America's own sharp debate about Saudi Arabia’s relation to Islamism, in the kingdom and beyond it."

About the Authors

Peter L. Bergen
Peter L. Bergen is a print and television journalist; the director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C.; a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security and CNN's national security analyst. He has reported on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and counterterrorism and homeland security for a range of U.S. and international publications and television networks. Bergen has traveled repeatedly to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to report on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In 1997, he produced bin Laden's first television interview, in which he declared war against the United States for the first time to a Western audience. Bergen was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award in 1994.

Michael J. Totten
Michael J. Totten is a foreign correspondent and foreign policy analyst who has reported from the Middle East, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, the New York Daily News, City Journal, LA Weekly, Commentary, the Jerusalem Post, Beirut's Daily Star, Reason, and Azure. He has visited Iraq seven times and is a former resident of Beirut.

Stéphane Lacroix
Stéphane Lacroix is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris.