Insightful, knowledgeable account of the "good war," intimately informed from the trenches.




Using as a model Jeffrey Race’s influential first-person Vietnam War–era analysis, War Comes to Long An, Malkasian (A History of Modern Wars of Attrition, 2002, etc.) evenhandedly examines the Garmser district in southern Afghanistan, where he was stationed as a political officer for the State Department between 2009 and 2011.

A desert strip intersected by the Helmand River, populated by the Pashtun and embroiled in the conflicts that have gained Afghanistan the epithet “graveyard of empires,” Garmser has proven to be the “hot place” designated by its very name, changing hands constantly among tribes and imperial powers. Since 1946, it has also been the key site of massive canal-modernization schemes subsidized by the West, requiring an injection of landless immigrant workers who would prove faithful supporters of the Taliban. Malkasian does a thorough job of sifting through the messy political turmoil since 1979, which slowly began to tear the place apart, and sticking to the effect on the people who live and toil there. In the 1980s, the tribal-led mujahedeen gained steam against the Soviet-backed communists, creating new leaders; the jihad sustained a kind of historical “mystique” as a time when all Muslims fought together before devolving into civil war. The Taliban’s arrival in 1994 established stability by controlling crime and violence, managing to govern what many considered an ungovernable country. The decade since the American invasion of 2001 caused much hardship for the people of Garmser, Malkasian writes. The Taliban retook the district in 2006 as a result of lost opportunities by the U.S., requiring subsequent massive intervention, reconstruction and political realignment. Will the Taliban return? Have U.S. counterinsurgency efforts paid off, and, most poignantly, has the investment of 100,000 troops made any difference? Malkasian offers slim optimism in this deeply engaging work.

Insightful, knowledgeable account of the "good war," intimately informed from the trenches. 

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0199973750

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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