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Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban Paperback – October, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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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 the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A comprehensive history of Afghan politics in the 20th century, highlighting the events leading up to the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan (which effectively instigated American involvement in the region). It's useful reading for anyone who wants a guide to the overall economic, social, cultural and political situation at the present moment."―New York Times Book Review

"After a good introductory chapter and a well-done short account of historical factors shaping Afghanistan, Goodson documents in eight stages the continual war from 1978 to early 2001. The detail of his periodization is daunting, but it brings out well the feudal reality of Afghanistan's many warring factions. . . a useful guide."―Foreign Affairs

"The overall argument about Afghanistan's disintegration has been well covered in the media, but Goodson 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."―Publishers Weekly

"Afghanistan’s Endless War is a serious study of, as its subtitle says, 'state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban,' and it brings us right up to early 2001. . . Read this book and you'll come to realize that the Saudi Osama bin Laden and other terrorists were foisted on an unwilling population from the outside. Political Islam and the fundamentalist theocracy that now governs the country were also an alien and unwelcome imposition on a people happily accustomed to keeping their mullahs confined to mosques."―Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading for anyone―and nowadays this should mean all of us―who wants to understand what Afghanistan is like and how it got to be that way."―Journal of Democracy

"A mix of interviews with Taliban leaders and field research combine to illuminate what has been happening in Afghanistan over the last 20 years and concludes, presciently, that 'what happens in Afghanistan will continue to affect stability and security in an increasingly important region of the post-Cold War world"―Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Goodson knows what he is talking about. He has been to the places he writes about. He knows the people. He has studied his subject carefully and closely. And he has thought about it all and turned what he knows and saw into a solid, and seriously disturbing, book. . . Readers will close this book with key knowledge they could find elsewhere only by going to multiple sources. They will also encounter a keen mind that doesn't parrot common rhetoric."―Salem Statesman Journal

"Goodson delivers a brief but powerful analysis of the ethnic, religious, social and geographic divisions which have produced seven million refugees, two million deaths and a whole lot of heartache and pain."―Alibi

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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: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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I thought this book a somewhat dry but meticulous survey of Afghanistan. My conclusion is that every nation that tried to directly influence events there has suffered extreme consequences. A lot of Pakistan's problems have roots in its attempts to create a security buffer in that country. The Soviet Union, the U.S. and all others have found this one region to defy all attempts to create their respective ideals of a stable Afghan government.

Goodson understands why outside powers fail in Afghanistan in the long run, expending resources with nothing tangible to show in the end. It is a unique, diverse and ungoverned country, with a long history of conflict and shifting loyalties. This is a place where things don't work the same way as anywhere else. Even now, it would be beneficial if more Americans read this book and force more thoughtful coverage in the media.
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