As good local histories do, Afghanistan: A Military History places its subject into historical perspective and we get a glimpse of the Persian, Hellenistic, Mongol, Muslim, and British empires from the perspective of Afghanistan. The Twentieth Century history is just as compelling and provides a concise history of the Soviet war. The author has, of course, been overtaken by events in covering US involvement.
This books is more of a best of of Filkins' reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts then a coherent narrative. Filkins shares his extensive experience on the front lines of the "Forever War" and gives some idea of what it is like to live and work in that environment. Most of all he shares his incredible writing ability. Filkin's description of the Marine assault on Fallujah with the contrast of the Mosques issuing a call for Jihad with the Marine's blasting "Highway to Hell" is one of the most memorable pieces of journalism I have ever read.
If this book was priced at one credit it would be an easy five stars. At two credits still a four.
Rick Atktinson really seems to capture the strength of the reporter, to give the gritty detail and a feel for the experience of the participants, but still capture the larger perspective of the historian for the events. The Day of Battle manages to illuminate this under reported and ill-understood theater of war without overblowing its importance. North Africa/Italy was a sideshow of a sideshow, with the main event taking place on the Eastern Front, but it was also the crucible that formed the Anglo-American army destined to liberate Western Europe. I really wish an unabridged version was available however.
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