At the very beginning of the book, Understanding the Department of State, it is clearly stated that Don Philpott, the former editor of International Homeland Security Journal aims “to gather the information from as many sources as possible” to make his readers understand the Department of State (DoS), one of the most significant agencies of the United States (p. ix). In his book, Philpott compiles and assembles information obtained from federal, state and local websites, as well as national and international agencies and organizations. It is significant to indicate that it is an unusual book, as it does not cover the author’s comments or interpretations on U.S. foreign policy, and it solely gives the information as it is. In this respect, it can be said that the book has an encyclopedic character.
Understanding the Department of State includes three main parts and ten chapters. In Part I, “Structure and Role,” the mission statement of the Department is provided as an introduction to the agency. The organization of the DoS, and its entire scope of responsibility, from the fight against terrorism to regional stability, weapons of mass destruction to visas, are clearly defined in the same part.
Part II, “Major External Issues,” covers some specific issues that play a decisive role in U.S. foreign policy. The chapter on terrorism is the longest, and focuses mainly on the U.S. fight against terrorist organizations whose threats have reached a global scale, i.e. the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The main emphasis is on ISIS, “the greatest terrorist threat the world has probably ever known” (p. 75), how it was created and some of its bloodiest attacks. Accordingly, al-Qaeda can be considered as the ancestor of ISIS; the Iraq War resulted in the transformation of al-Qaeda and the creation of ISIS, a more dangerous terrorist organization than its predecessor. As a result, the U.S. fight against ISIS is far different from the U.S