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Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan Paperback – November 27, 2001
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“Robert Kaplan [is] a scholarly and adventurous journalist. . . . He draws attention to long-term trends that other writers have little noted.” —The New York Times
“Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid.” —Dan Rather
“Affecting and informative. . . . [Kaplan] answer[s] a number of important political questions.” —The New Yorker
“[A] first-rate account. . . . [Kaplan’s] combination of firsthand war experience inside Afghanistan and extensive reporting . . . makes him sensitive to distinctions that often escaped even devoted promoters of the muj[ahidin].” —The Wall Street Journal
From the Publisher
The bestselling author of Balkan Ghosts blistering portrait of war-ravaged Afghanistan and its devoted Islamic guerilla fightersfrom the mujahidin who defeated the Soviet invaders in the 1980s to todays Taliban militants. First time in paperback. VINTAGE DEPARTURES.
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Here, although we are forced to admit that some aspects of geopolitics are inevitable and almost always unforgiving and irreversible, this story is still about as unflattering as a strategic incursion can get: Severely burnt by the dumb anti-Communist domino geopolitics of Vietnam, the U.S., nevertheless could not wait to repeat the act in the most unforgiving and godforsaken land since Alexander the Great was defeated there in the 4th Century BC.
Thus there is a kind of poetic symmetry that after Vietnam, our next foreign policy folly would be Afghanistan. That it is an unforgiving trap that all the history we know of (and have actually experienced ourselves) tells us it is, with perfect 20-20 hindsight, we nevertheless willingly walked into the same trap. [The Russians must be laughing under their collectivist breaths.]
Because of our colossal ignorance of the lands and peoples we pretend to be assisting while actually in pursuit of our own geopolitical goals, we had no choice but to enlist and rely on the Pakistan intelligence service (CIS) as a proxy in our global plan to eject the Soviets from Afghanistan. This barely transparent plan apparently worked to perfection, except that none of the "after conflict loose ends" were tied up. It seems that it is a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy that loose ends are never tied up. The conflicts are just allowed to peter out, with the hope that the details will somehow work them selves out in the end. [Remember the last scene in "Charlie Wilson's War?]
As usual, the Pakistani CIS exacted a price for serving as our geopolitical proxy. The price was that they be allowed to hijack our strategic success for their own internal purposes. As a result, in the aftermath of the victory over Russia, the CIS had us back the wrong Afghan tribal horse. When the dust settled, the internecine virus called Afghanistan warlords, had metastasized into Osama bin Laden, who immediately turned on his erstwhile superpower arms supplier and backer.
Nine-eleven sealed the deal and enshrined this folly for perpetuity. Now, we cannot get out, no matter how much its costs in U.S. blood and treasure. There is nothing left to do but to allow it to run its costly and indeterminate course. The loose ends can never be tied up. Obama is not in the driver's seat; the tribal warlords are: as they have always been. We are just a hapless superpower again being dragged around by our tail by a ragtag bunch of "Soldiers of God." God help us. Five Stars
Mr. Kaplan writes in an easily-readable format very appropriate for a journalist and correspondent. Many of the lines and information provided are delivered in a punchy manner that appropriately shocks and incenses when desired. I was able to casually read the book but not necessarily put it down, enjoying digesting the text. Not a criticism but more a personal frustration, I found myself infinitely eager to discover more texts such as this one, possibly viewing the same persons that Kaplan interviewed and traveled with at greater depth and in different perspectives.
I purchased this book based on the Marine Commandants reading list in addition to a slew of others off Amazon, and thus far every book has been thought-provoking and captivating.
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