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Publisher's Summary

The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a grueling debacle that has striking lessons for American foreign policy today. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines the war from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent some of its most elite troops to unfamiliar lands in Central Asia to fight a vaguely defined enemy, which eventually defeated their superior number with unconventional tactics. Although the Soviet leadership initially saw the invasion as a victory, many Russian soldiers came to view the war as a demoralizing and devastating defeat, the consequences of which had a substantial impact on the Soviet Union and its collapse.

Feifer's extensive research includes fascinating interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict.

In gripping detail, he vividly depicts the invasion of a volatile country that no power has ever successfully conquered. Parallels between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are impossible to ignore: Both conflicts were waged amid vague ideological rhetoric about freedom. Both were roundly condemned by the outside world for trying to impose their favored forms of government on countries with very different ways of life. And both seem destined to end on uncertain terms. The Great Gamble tells an unforgettable story full of drama, action, and political intrigue whose relevance in our own time is greater than ever.

©2008 Gregory Feifer; (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Feifer's thoughtful, deliberative use of eyewitness testimony gives an intensely close-up sense of what the war was like for those who fought it." (Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall

Correction

I have to say I can't figure out what the previous reviewer is talking about. The total amount of time spent discussing America in this book doesn't total more than 15 minutes. There is one sentence in the introduction and a brief section in the epilogue. If such broad comparisons such as "America and Russia underestimated the power of tribal loyalty in Afghanistan" strikes you as dangerously liberal you need to avoid reading books in general, not just this one. Any other comparisons between the US and USSR have to be made by the listener. I wonder if possibly they mixed this book up with another book (which I haven't read but I've seen it around) called The Gamble, which is about the US war in Afghanistan. This seems more than likely to me.

I found this book to be informative. The time-line however was very difficult to follow, the scenes in the book tend to skip around. Other than that I found the narrative style to be clear and entertaining.

My only other complaint is that the narrator (who I have encountered before) reads everything in a kind of droning rumble. It takes a good hour to learn to decipher one of his words from another. I often found myself skipping back to re-listen to sections to figure out what he'd said.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alan
  • Ebensburg, PA, United States
  • 01-14-11

Excellent book

I listened to this book while working out on my treadmill. It provided an interesting behind the scenes look at the before/during/after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The book also provides insight on the Kremlin and the CIA thinking during the occupation. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy this subject matter.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

The Great Gamble - Another Afghanistan War

Story: This is book has nice detail about the history and context of the Soviet Union’s interest and later war in Afghanistan. More importantly, it shows how Afghanistan helped degrade Soviet Power as well as an indicator of the decline of the Soviet system since WWII.
Reader: Very good. I would listen to him again.
Production: Very good.
(Opinion: Many use the Afghanistan’s nickname, the Grave Yard of Empires, frequently. I believe that is oversold. Afghanistan is usually a place people travel to in order to get somewhere or to protect something more valuable like India. It is a place tolerated. This is not detracted from the value of the people but it is a recognition that most outsiders do not go there to stay there. Thus, it is easy for this patient people to wait a more powerful people. As to empires, the empires did not collapse because of Afghanistan but Afghanistan was one of many ‘cuts’ in an empire’s fall. Alexander’s and the British Empire did not fall because of Afghanistan.)

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A view from the Left

If you believe that (a) soldiers are all victims of deranged and/or senile political leaders, and (b) there is no material difference between the Politburo's efforts to bring Communism to Afghanistan and the Bush Administration's efforts to bring democracy to Iraq, this book is for you.

4 of 34 people found this review helpful