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Writing Worth Reading

What We Left Behind

Prescient portrait of Iraq’s prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, shortly before the election that returned him to power. The threat of Sunni insurgence could be said then to work in Maliki’s favour, at least in the sectarian calculus of Iraqi politics; his fellow-Shiites rallied round to vote for him. But with the election past, the insurgents have grown stronger still, taking Mosul. Maliki and his country are in danger (11,200 words)

Review: Redeployment

This “hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad” collection of stories about America’s war in Iraq, by Phil Klay, a former Marine, captures “the myriad human manifestations that result from the collision of young, heavily armed Americans with a fractured and deeply foreign country that very few of them even remotely understand”. Redeployment is “the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls” (Metered paywall) (1,360 words)

The Thin Red Line

Meticulous account of Obama’s dilemma, to intervene or not, in Syria. The moral arguments are on one side, the political ones on the other. “He is worried that arming the rebels will have unintended consequences: a genocide against the Alawites; weapons falling into the hands of Islamist extremists, as happened when the U.S. armed Afghan jihadis in the nineteen-eighties; or a rapid political collapse that demolishes the state’s institutions” (8,589 words)

General Principles

How good a general was David Petraeus? “The truth is Petraeus really was exceptional,” says Filkins, who spent a lot of time reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially when compared to his out-of-date, overpromoted predecessors

Have Obama And Romney Forgotten Afghanistan?

“You can make your own guesses about why the candidates have said so little about Afghanistan—their positions are virtually identical, the economy is more important. My own guess: Neither of them knows what to do about the place”

After America

Afghans fear that their civil war, suspended but never settled, will resume when US troops leave. “Everyone is preparing. It will be bloodier and longer than before, street to street. This time, everyone has more guns, more to lose”

The Journalist And The Spies

Investigation into killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad, who’d drawn attention to links between Pakistani military and Islamist militants. “There has always been a red line. But, after Shahzad, no one knows where the red line is anymore”


On getting out of Afghanistan. “Almost every aspect of the US campaign is either deeply troubled or too fragile to justify substantial reductions in military support.” Occupation was mismanaged, country still riddled with violence

After The Uprising

You knew there was something going on in Yemen, but what with Egypt and Libya, you lost track of it? No problem. Here’s the complete story. In brief: government of President Saleh so corrupt as to make Karzai look good by comparison

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