Showing posts with label Al Queda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Al Queda. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Ghost Wars took a long time for me to read. Somewhere around 5 years actually. Some time at Ft Benning, it seems like a lifetime ago, I purchased this book then started reading it. Got about a third of the way through then lost interest. Put the book aside on the shelf.

Not too long ago I picked the book back up. This time I had a much better understanding of Afghanistan from reading various books and such as well as real life experience. Also I am a touch older and just maybe more patient. Anyway I finished the book yesterday.

This book starts in the end of the Soviet Afghan War. It goes into great lengths discussing the intertwined, hypocritical and generally dysfunctional relationships between the CIA, their Afghan "Warlord" partners, Pakistan, Pakistani Intelligence, the Arab gulf states particularly Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden. It goes through how this combination of more or less cooperative forces ultimately defeated the Afghan Communists (though one could argue what defeated them was Russian aid ending but I digress) then created a coalition government then fell into civil war and total chaos. Ultimately this lead to the rise of the Taliban then Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda element arrived. It also touches on the rise of modern fundamentalist terrorism as it related to the rest of the story. To the usual format.

The Good: Very informative. It also covers a period in Afghanistan's recent history that is easy to gloss over. The period after the Soviet Afghan war is admittedly easy to miss but it lead to the rise of the Taliban then 9/11 which lead to our misadventures in Afghanistan. I got a ton out of this book. A real understanding of how many things came to be. Through understanding it really cleared up a lot about the period after 9/11.

The Bad: While it would be difficult to talk about all of these topics separately and I suppose the generally chronological method of the book makes sense but it left the reader jumping from Washington DC on one page to Saudi Arabia on the next then back to an Afghan hovel. It got a bit hard to follow at times. Also this is not a book for a beginner on the topic. To read this book you need a pretty decent understanding of Afghan history in general and the Soviet Afghan War to make much sense out of this book.

The Ugly: This book is long and dry, really long and really dry. The book (not notes) was just under 500 pages. It is a fairly large book with small font so it probably reads like closer to 600.

While it is informative the book is pretty darn dry. Even being interested in the topic I had a hard time digging through the book. There were parts where it picked up but it probably averaged slightly more interesting than a college Algebra text.

Overall Assessment: If you can manage to slog through it this book does offer value. It would probably be the 4th or 5th book I would recommend a person read about Afghanistan if they were sufficiently interested. However you definitely have to work to get it. Most people would probably be better off putting their time and money into a book that is easier to read.

Monday, January 21, 2013

From Around The Web

West faces decade of conflict in North Africa.

60 School Shootings linked to Psychiatric drugs. I think this article confuses causation and correlation. This often happens. A great example is when we see the articles about how something (yoga, green tea, whatever) makes you fitter/ skinnier or healthier. The point is that person who does yoga or drinks green tea also does a variety of other things to be healthy like eating reasonably and exercising. Fat slobs who eat whole pizza's for lunch on a regular basis do not do these things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

End of Combat Operations in Iraq?

The last "combat" brigade left Iraq today. I wouldn't say this means our efforts in Iraq are over but it is sure a significant milestone. As for what will happen now, time will tell. I do think it is very important that we practice expectation management. If we expect Iraq to be a nice calm place with totally functional, completely democratic and honest institutions and great infrastructure like say Israel (the only example I could think of in the middle east) we will be disappointed. However if we expect sporadic bombings and localized violence, semi corrupt elections along party lines and haphazard infrastructure we might be on the mark.  I say that for a couple reasons.

It is important to remember that early American history didn't go so smoothly. There were small localized uprisings, the government went broke and stayed there more or less and our first government failed entirely. We had some real problems with pirates robbing our ships. Around 20 years after our nation was established the British stomped us pretty badly and burned down our capitol. (Would it be ridiculous and war hawkish to suggest we burn down Buckingham Palace to get even? Better late than never right?) A couple generations later we fought a massive civil war. For some reason we Americans have a short memory and an even shorter attention span. We would like to make Iraq into a wonderful place over the course of a few short years. If we manage our expectations and take a longer view the situation can be seen more realistically.

What does this mean? Well hopefully we as a nation can finally borrow a little bit less money to keep things going. Also we will have fewer brave young Americans at risk which is always a good thing. Getting out of Iraq will allow us to increase dwell time for soldiers. This will almost certainly help with some of the problems (prescription drugs and suicide are notable) we are currently facing. More focused training time at home station will allow for the retrofitting and replacement of equipment as well as training which are good things. Also this will let our nation focus almost exclusively on Afghanistan which is something that has needed to happen for a long time. I don't know what will happen there but it would be a darn shame if we let a lack of adequate amounts of men, weapons and equipment be the deciding factor.

These are sure interesting times we live in.

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