Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire

Overview

"Fitzgerald and Gould do yeoman's labor in clearing the fog and laying bare American failures in Afghanistan."—Publishers Weekly, starred review of Invisible History

The war in Afghanistan has become the most complex foreign policy problem the United States has ever faced, spreading into Pakistan and involving the conflicting interests of Russia, India, China and Iran. Written as a companion to Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald's widely acclaimed book Invisible History: ...

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Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire

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Overview

"Fitzgerald and Gould do yeoman's labor in clearing the fog and laying bare American failures in Afghanistan."—Publishers Weekly, starred review of Invisible History

The war in Afghanistan has become the most complex foreign policy problem the United States has ever faced, spreading into Pakistan and involving the conflicting interests of Russia, India, China and Iran. Written as a companion to Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald's widely acclaimed book Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, Crossing Zero focuses on the nuances of the Obama administration's evolving military and political strategy, the people implementing it, and the long-term consequences for the United States and the region.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Broadcast journalists and documentary filmmakers Fitzgerald and Gould (Invisible History) distill three decades of covering Afghanistan into a searing indictment of U.S. foreign policy in this predictable and unconvincing polemic. Dismissing the U.S. war in Afghanistan as "a thinly disguised effort to dominate South Central Asia," the authors conclude that the Durand (or Zero) line—the porous international border that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan—also marks "the vanishing point for the American empire, the point beyond which its power and influence disappears or simply ceases to exist." Pointing to the chaos in Afghanistan and an Iraq descending into violence, the authors evoke "a punch-drunk American leadership on the verge of collapse." While their contention that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is seriously, if not fatally, flawed is legitimate, it has been made less dogmatically and more convincingly by other recent critics, including war correspondent and former defense official Bing West in The Wrong War. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Gould and Fitzgerald have covered Afghanistan and the surrounding region for 30 years, as both documentary filmmakers (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) and authors (Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story). This long involvement with the issues has made them sharply critical of America for its lack of understanding of the ethnic diversity and social relations of the people, its application of Cold War thinking and strategy to a new and different kind of conflict, its military's current counterinsurgency strategy, and its failure to define Pakistan as the real challenge. The authors portray policies of previous years (e.g., U.S. support of insurgents fighting the Soviet invasion) as now coming back to hurt us, part of a repetition of errors previously made by European powers in the region over the past 400 years. They have marshaled an impressive array of sources, both journalistic and academic, to demonstrate that their ideas have long been available, if only policymakers had chosen to heed them. VERDICT Bob Woodward's recent Obama's War focuses on the administration's AfPak deliberations, but this book provides a wider perspective. Readers with a serious interest in U.S. foreign policy or military strategy will find it helpful in thinking about a long-lived issue.—Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., NY
Huffington Post
Crossing Zero thoroughly documents how the best-laid plans of Western powers have led to three decades of incessant war and the annihilation of Afghanistan's secular tribal structure, transforming it into one of the most violent and poverty-stricken places on earth. . . .

Afghanistan has become more than just a stark illustration of the ineptitude of Obama's misguided AfPak strategy – it reflects the futility of de-emphasizing diplomacy and how U.S. militarism has worked against our own interests. War and the endless preparations for it do more harm than good, destroying what they claim to protect." --(Michael Hughes)

The Doug Noll Show
"Crossing Zero is an in-depth analysis of the American intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What this book will teach you is that the entire adventure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been and will continue to be a fiscal, military, diplomatic, and international disaster for the United States."
From the Publisher

"I loved it. An extraordinary contribution to understanding war and geo-politics in Afghanistan that will shock most Americans by its revelations of official American government complicity in using, shielding, sponsoring and supporting terrorism. A devastating indictment on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans by some of America's most respected statesmen" --Daniel Estulin, author of The True Story of the Bilderberg Club

"Americans are now beginning to grasp the scope of the mess their leaders made while pursuing misguided military adventures into regions of Central Asia we once called 'remote.' How this happened--and what the US can do to extricate itself from its entanglements in Pakistan and Afghanistan--is the story of Crossing Zero. Based on decades of study and research, this book draws lines and connects dots in ways few others do. It is clear, sober and methodical--an ideal handbook for anyone seeking to understand how the US became the latest imperial power to blunder into this turbulent and fascinating region." --Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men and Reset: Iran, Turkey and America's Future

"Fitzgerald and Gould have consistently raised the difficult questions and inconvenient truths about western engagement in Afghanistan. While many analysts and observers have attempted to wish a reality on a grim and tragic situation in Afghanistan, Fitzgerald and Gould have systematically dug through the archives and historical record with integrity and foresight to reveal a series of misguided strategies and approaches that have contributed to what has become a tragic quagmire in Afghanistan. I suspect that many of their assessments while presently viewed as controversial and contentious, will eventually be considered conventional wisdom." --Professor Thomas Johnson, Department of National Security Affairs and Director, Program for Culture and Conflict Studies, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey California

"Gould and Fitzgerald have identified the triumphalist strain that has marked American foreign policy over the past 100 years and documented President Obama's failure to introduce change to American national security policy. The war in Afghanistan is consistent with previous failures in U.S. policymaking over the past 50 years as well as with the misuse of military force. This book should be required reading at the National Security Council and the Pentagon."END --Melvin A. Goodman, CIA Senior Soviet Analyst 1966-1990, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy, Washington, DC.

"'Crossing Zero' is much more than a devastating indictment of the folly of U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould demonstrate that the U.S. debacle in Afghanistan is the predictable climax of U.S. imperial overreach on a global scale. Like their earlier work documenting the origins of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Cold War, 'Crossing Zero' deserves the attention of all serious students of U.S. foreign policy." --Selig S. Harrison, co-author of "Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal"

"Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould have seen the importance of the 'Great Game' in Afghanistan since the early 1980s. They have been most courageous in their commitment to telling the truth--and have paid a steep price for it. Their views have never been acceptable to mainstream media in our country, but they deserve accolades. If only our establishment had listened to them." --Oliver Stone

"Crossing Zero is much more than a devastating indictment of the folly of U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould demonstrate that the U.S. debacle in Afghanistan is the predictable climax of U.S. imperial overreach on a global scale. Like their earlier work documenting the origins of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Cold War, Crossing Zero deserves the attention of all serious students of U.S. foreign policy." --Selig S. Harrison, Co-author with Diego Cordovez of Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal

"A ferocious, iron-clad argument about the institutional failure of American foreign policy." --Daniel Ellsberg

"Crossing Zero is an in-depth analysis of the American intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What this book will teach you is that the entire adventure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been and will continue to be a fiscal, military, diplomatic, and international disaster for the United States." --The Doug Noll Show --The Doug Noll Show

"Crossing Zero thoroughly documents how the best-laid plans of Western powers have led to three decades of incessant war and the annihilation of Afghanistan's secular tribal structure, transforming it into one of the most violent and poverty-stricken places on earth. . . . Afghanistan has become more than just a stark illustration of the ineptitude of Obama's misguided AfPak strategy - it reflects the futility of de-emphasizing diplomacy and how U.S. militarism has worked against our own interests. War and the endless preparations for it do more harm than good, destroying what they claim to protect." --Michael Hughes, The Huffington Post

"In their latest book Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire, Gould and Fitzgerald not only present the NATO nation-building project as failed, but they join a growing chorus of voices reporting that the effort to subdue insurgency in the region is rapidly losing ground. Their explanation of why this might be so focuses primarily two factors: the role of Pakistan, and the Pasthun tribe straddling the Durand Line. They also hint at a third factor rising: the U.S. may simply run out of money to continue." -- Lisa Savage, Went to the Bridge

"The authors seek to expose what they see as American failures in the Afghan War that have led to the proliferation of militant groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. They look at the potential consequences for American interests and make suggestions for improving American policy." - Survival

"The 200-page book, just released, is a brilliant indictment of the insane US military occupation of Afghanistan. It also casts grave doubts on the rationale for continuing American interventionism and makes a strong case for retrenchment." -- Epinions

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872865136
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Series: City Lights Open Media
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began working together in 1979 co-producing a documentary for Paul's television show, Watchworks. Called, The Arms Race and the Economy, A Delicate Balance, they found themselves in the midst of a swirling controversy that was to boil over a few months later with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their acquisition of the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew in the spring of 1981, brought them into the middle of the most heated Cold War controversy since Vietnam. But the pictures and the people inside Soviet occupied Afghanistan told a very different story from the one being broadcast on the evening news.

Following their exclusive news story for the CBS Evening News, they produced a documentary (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) for PBS and in 1983 they returned to Kabul for ABC Nightline with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher. They were told that the Russians wanted to go home and negotiate their way out. Peace in Afghanistan was more than a possibility. It was a desired option. But the story that President Carter called, "the greatest threat to peace since the second World War" had already been written by America's policy makers and America's pundits were not about to change the script.

As the first American journalists to get deeply inside the story they not only got a view of an unseen Afghan life, but a revelatory look at how the US defined itself against the rest of the world under the veil of superpower confrontation. Once the Soviets had crossed the border into Afghanistan, the fate of both nations was sealed. But as Paul and Liz pursued the reasons behind the wall of propaganda that shielded the truth, they found themselves drawn into a story that was growing into mythic dimensions. Big things were brewing in Afghanistan. Old empires were being undone and new ones, hatched. America had launched a Medieval Crusade against the modern world and the ten year war against the Soviet Union was only the first chapter.

It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when Paul and Liz were working on the film version of their experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that they began to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay many of the documents preceding the Afghan crisis were declassified. Over the next decade they trailed a labyrinth of clues only to find a profound likeness in Washington's official policy towards Afghanistan - in the ancient Zoroastrian war of the light against the dark - whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan. It was a likeness that grows more visible as America's involvement deepens.

Afghanistan's civil war followed America's Cold War while Washington walked away. A new strain of religious holy warrior called the Taliban arose but no one in America was listening. As the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines in 1998 Paul and Liz began collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali. Along with Wali, they contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project. In 2002 they filmed Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The film they produced about Wali's journey home, The Woman in Exile Returns, gave audiences the chance to discover the message of one of Afghanistan's most articulate voices and her hopes for her people.

In the years since 9/11 much has happened to bring Paul and Liz's story into sharp focus. Their efforts at combining personal diplomacy with activist journalism is a model for restoring a healthy and vibrant dialogue to American democracy. Ultimately their book, Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story lays bare why it was inevitable that the Soviet Union and the U.S. should end up in Afghanistan and what that means to the future of the American empire.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Prologue: Fort Del Oro 15

The Great Game for Central Asia-Then and Now

1 Crossing Zero 21

2 Creating the Taliban 41

3 AfPak: What Is It? 45

4 Obama's Vietnam? 65

5 Metrics 73

6 NATO 79

7 U.S.-Pakistan: A History 85

8 Warlords, the Taliban and Al Qaeda 89

9 Death from Above 105

10 Decrypting the Afghan-American Agenda 159

11 Closing Zero 175

12 Issues, Answers and Recommendations 181

Epilogue 205

Notes 215

Index 243

About the Authors 254

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