Thursday, July 2, 2009

What we're reading

In what I hope will be institutionalized as a regular feature, we're going to tell you what reading material will be joining us on the plane, in the car, or at the picnic this Fourth of July weekend.

  • Ahmed Rashid's acclaimed 2000 book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
  • "The People in Arms: A Practitioner's Guide to Understanding Insurgency and Dealing With it Effectively," by retired Army colonel G. L. Lamborn (courtesy of SWJ).
  • "The Kill Company," Raffi Khatchadourian's 19-page New Yorker feature on COL Michael Steele and the 2006 killing (murder?) of eight Iraqis by a squad from Steele's 3/101. [I've actually already finished this one, and it's very, very thought-provoking. Find a copy!]

"The Kill Company" is on my list too, as well as Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" (I know, it's about time).

Anyone has something more joyful for a Fourth of July?


Other than a ton of articles for work, I'll be reading the "The Soloist" by Steve Lopez (it is a long weekend after all - I can't read COIN all the time) and "The Rough Riders" by Teddy Roosevelt.


I'll be finishing off Woodward's The War Within before turning to meatier stuff, like:And if I can find it, I'd like to pick up a copy of Abdulkader Sinno's book Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond.


Gerard Prunier's Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe and I need to find a silly novel to read in the sun...any suggestions?


  1. As far as those Afghanistan selections go, Rashid's book is a narrative that does not do much to inform about the "how and why" in a pursuasive manner (it would die a quick death in even a grad-student level seminar). Sinno's book is the antidote to this. However, the post 2001 in Sinno's book is not helpful. That's when you should pick up Rashid's new book.

  2. Christian -- Thanks for the comment.

    Rashid's book, for me, is useful in that it gives a look in on how the Taliban were treated in contemporary media during the pre-9/11 period. It's not so much a work of history as a journalistic accounting, and considering it from that perspective (as basically a collection of news articles, woven together as a narrative) I think it's worthwhile.

    I'm about halfway through Descent Into Chaos, as well.

  3. Christian - how do you feel about Sinno's chapter in Tarzi and Crews?

    I thought his explanation of the Taliban's rise to power (out-Pashtun-ing their competitors) a bit over-determined, and he seemed to leave Pashtun identity un-problematized. But I'm relatively new to this problem-set.

  4. Sinno's chapter in crews/tarzi is not much new. But I really appreciate Sinno's contribution. And as far as it being over-determined, that's what American polisci people do these days (I may be generalizing a bit).

    And IMO, Pashtun identity as a variable is grossly over-rated.

  5. The Rough Riders is excellent as a "you are there" book.

    Whether it has any contemporary significance is another question.