Mike, an American diplomat, struggles to understand the societies and cultures of Peshawar, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan where he lives and works. He encounters customs and practices and ways of thinking and acting that are different from those of his native land. Troublingly, some of these differences create dark and tragic situations, leaving him wondering about the nature of humanity. Centuries of warfare in the region have led to a kind of tolerance of terrorism and the US-led war against it. Mike learns how easily people accept, deal with, and participate with both warring sides. Finally, he discovers that his fellow American diplomats can be as embarrassing and even as tragic as the Peshawri and Kabuli people—something he hadn’t expected.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book holds one's attention from beginning to end, in a series of vignettes from Af-Pak told through the eyes of a State Dept. official. If the stories are fictionalized, they yet sound captured from real life, by turns tragic, hilarious, startling enough to make one gasp, and confusing, as life is. The narrator says he is a fellow film buff, and one story clearly presents a set of contrasting retellings of the same event à la Rashomon. At the same time as they spin gripping yarns, the authors deftly weave in well-researched background on the Pashtun culture shared across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and insights into the bureaucratic mentality and the dilemma facing military and civilian policy makers in America's longest active military conflict. Should we stay, possibly forever, even at the risk of creating more terrorists? Or should we go, almost certainly creating a power vacuum that invites a full-blown civil war and intervention by neighboring powers, one of which is "not a a State with an army, but an army with a State" per the book (and with nuclear weapons, one might add)? In sum, this book is not only a worthwhile, enjoyable, and smooth read (I finished it on flights to and from Europe) but it deserves to be read as well. I once heard Henry Kissinger give a very learned talk on the Afghanistan problem from the standpoint of Great Power politics. I would hope that even he could learn something from the ground-truthing this book offers.
Exciting short stories. The anti-Kipling. Demystifies Peshawar & Kabul. Answers many questions about America's role in the region.