Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan

Edited by Aaron B. O’Connell. Univ. of Chicago, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-226-26565-0
In this critical anthology, O’Connell (Underdogs), a historian and Marine lieutenant colonel, brings together a group of uniquely qualified and talented authors to examine U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. The essays collectively consider a diverse set of issues, including the influence of Washington policy, strategy, training Afghan forces, legitimacy, reconstruction efforts, and special operations. The pieces also reflect their author’s professional expertise, academic training, and practical experience of service in Afghanistan. What unites the volume is that each issue is analyzed through the prism of both national and bureaucratic cultures. For example, Robert Neuman, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan (2005–2007), details a litany of strategic short-sightedness and cultural insults by senior U.S. leaders as evidence of why the war degenerated into a quagmire. All but one of the articles concludes that the cultural obstacles were so significant that success in Afghanistan was destined to be elusive. This is a difficult read about the complex subject of culture as applied to a complex nation-state. Much of it deals with the inability of Americans to solve Afghanistan’s problems. However, for those interested in U.S. national security issues and the limits of power, O’Connell’s volume is necessary reading. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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