If nothing else, Afghanistan has produced some brilliant and affecting reportage, Cases in point include Gennady Bocharov's Russian Roulette (p. 975), Radek Sikorski's Dust of the Saints (p. 1313), and now Borovik's haunting appreciation of the USSR's bootless effort to support a puppet regime in a hostile land by force of arms. Foreign editor of Ogonyok (a Communist Party newsweekly), Borovik notes that most of the conscripts Moscow sent to their ""international duty"" were roughly his contemporaries when he began covering the savage conflict at age 21 in 1980. Nine years later, Borovik realized to his horror that the withdrawing army's soldiers were ten years younger than he, meaning one generation had marched into the Afghanistan quagmire and another was leaving it. Between these two mileposts, the author shared the hard lot of infantry units as they did battle with the elusive dukhi (Soviet slang for Afghan rebels), manned remote outposts, or swapped war stories during the lulls endured by any nation's legions. When not heading toward the sound of the guns, Borovik was interviewing deserters who had gained sanctuary in the US. Allowing the young, typically callow, and often homesick defectors to speak largely for themselves, he offers virtually no comment on their plight. Nor, beyond remarking that it's easier to identify a mistake than to get at the truth, does the author attempt to assess the USSR's lengthy and costly involvement in a Vietnam-like war. Instead, he allows readers to draw their own conclusions from his dead-honest apolitical dispatches on front-line troops. War correspondence of a very high order.