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Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; 1st edition (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295980508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295980508
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While the current tragedy of Afghanistan is well known, its history remains relatively unknown. This comprehensive academic text written and prepared before Sept. 11 and the subsequent U.S. air strikes on the Taliban examines the past few decades, delving into the interwoven historical, political, economic and geographic factors that precipitated the country's woes. There's information here that will surprise some, such as Goodson's emphasis on the role of Pakistan in bringing the Taliban to power; and the weakness of support for the Taliban outside of the Pashtun tribe. The overall argument about Afghanistan's disintegration has been well covered in the media, but Goodson, a professor of international studies, highlights the impact of interethnic conflicts, exacerbated by the destructive intervention of the U.S.S.R., the United States and Pakistan. There's also more depth, complexity and detail here than the media can provide for example, Goodson estimates that 15% of the population has died since fighting first broke out in 1978. The only solution he offers is the one the West wants a multiethnic, power-sharing government. But writing before the current conflict, Goodson holds little optimism: "the situation there is terrible, and prospects for the future are dismal." And ominously, Goodson believes the collapse of state power in Afghanistan could occur elsewhere in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. General readers might find the book dense and dry, but it provides a helpful background to Afghanistan's current morass. A paperback edition is due in March.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"...A solid, and seriously disturbing, book....[Readers will] encounter a keen mind and a point of view that doesn't parrot common rhetoric." -- Dan Hays, Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

"Readers...can glean much from [this] lucid account of the forces at play in and around Afghanistan..." -- Nancy deWolf Smith, The Wall Street Journal

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tom L. Forest on November 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
"For weak states... [t]he end of the Cold War has revealed an international system that is flawed and troubled." "It was always assumed in the West that with the end of the Cold War would come the fundamental alteration -- even the end -- of the East European states. It was less well understood that the end of the Cold War could also sound the death knell for many weak Third World states." Larry Goodson writes about Afghanistan in a solid if unspectacular style. A survey of pre-Soviet Afghan history is followed by a detailed recounting of 20 years of war. He provides some basic facts about the country: there are no railroads and only one major highway, which now is more like a jeep track than a highway. Literacy is well under 10%, and life expectancy under 50. Irrigation has been destroyed. Potable water is available to 12% of the population, and almost 50% has been displaced. Two decades of war, supported by military aid, consumption-oriented economic aid, and refugee relief, have left an economy with no functional industry and only drugs, smuggling, and small-scale agriculture to sustain it.
The Cold War played out in the Third World (much the way that colonialism did during the Concert of Europe and its aftermath from 1815 to 1914) as Great Powers vying with each other through proxies in preference to direct conflict. Commercial interests played a secondary role. With the demise of the USSR, commercial interests have not moved to the fore. Rather, second and third-tier Powers have been freed to reenact proxy warfare in the weakest of states, like Afghanistan (and Zaire, Indonesia, etc.).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth L. Gunderson on November 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book should be read by every U. S. Citizen if you want to understand the who, what, when, where and how of the world politic in Afghanistan. Reading this book will give you a complete understanding of the meaning of the word "Blowback".
It is easy to read and understand. He sets forth all the historical facts including the facts that we do not want to hear. No matter what you may think before reading Mr. Goodson's book, after you read his book you certainly will have more to think about.
Many people who thought they had the answer as to what to do about Afghanistan, have found themselves asking. . . "What should we do about Afghanistan and the Middle East"? If you read closely he gives us a few hints!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. McKenna on November 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rather than give all the answers, Goodson documents a bewildering chain of events and players in this chaotic region of the world. His reasoning appears sound and his research impeccable.
After reading the book (one interesting passage, by the way, was his comment (I paraphrase) "it would be difficult to imagine a scenario that would remove the Taliban from power in the near future" I was left pondering the amazing twist and turns reality takes -- and saw this whole region in an entirely different light. Particularly the role of Pakistan.
(Some might see) the book as rather sterile. I did not. I found it much more engaging than "Tournament of Shadows", for example -- but then again, I am fascinated by the kind of analysis this author engages in. Showing how behavior (of individuals, societies, cultures) is multi-determined, and avoiding the pitfalls of simplistic answers to complex questions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charles G. Nickson on November 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I just read Goodson's book and am very pleased. He gives a thorough analysis of the background to the current situation in Afghanistan and explains the existing dangers confronting the country and the region. Finished just before 9/11 the book does not lose any of its relevance.
The most cogent ideas I came away with where the horrifc devastation caused by the Soviet Union in its attempt to take over the country in the 1980s. The problem it has created for Pakistan being a host to the Afghan refugees and backing the Afghans in their war efforts against first the Russians and then the Northern Alliance. Lastly the number of bordering countries and their involvement in Paksitan.
This is an excellent analysis and makes one feel very sorry for the plight of this poor country caught in the middle of the cross hairs of major powers
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very impressive book, perhaps one of the best all-around books on Afghanistan, yet when I finished it I had the strongest feeling that it had been a rather antisceptic review. Eurudite, one of the best outlines I have ever seen for examining a truly chaotic situation, everything falling into place from chapter to chapter--yet at the end of it I simply did not have the guts of the matter in my hands.
I found the answer in other materials, including a special project to map all of the existing tribes, sub-tribes, and individual leaders where they could be identified. The project required monitoring of local radio stations in various languages, some of which did not have print media. At the end of it all what came across was massive--massive--chaos in a medieval environment where everyone, without exception, regards every foreign power--and especially the superpowers--as an intruder, and every other Afghan as someone to be killed, exploited, or followed, depending on the situation.
This is a very fine book, but when one examines the list of organizations (14) and key individuals (16), what comes across is antisceptic simplicity. This is not a criticism of the author, the research (virtually every English-language reference of note), or the conclusions--all fit well within a very thoughtful approach to describing this failed state called Afghanistan. What jumps out at me is the fact that we do not have the access to the same story as told in Russian, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, and we have done nothing to actually get below the state level--what I call "two levels down"--to the sub-tribe level.
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