There are probably more exhaustive books about surfing. There are certainly more in-depth books about Middle East politics. There are more profound journalistic memoirs. But I feel safe saying there are no books that better combine surfing, Mid East politics and journalism. SURFING THE MIDDLE EAST is fast-paced, fun and weird. Jesse Aizenstat couldn’t get a job in diplomacy straight out of college so he made his own career, following his passion and surfable waves from Israel to Lebanon. His book describes the hardships of DIY journalism, the thrill of exploring a new and dangerous place all on your own and, in basic terms, outlines the deep historical tensions in the Middle East. I recommend it.
Archived posts from category ‘WIB Reads’
This collection of previously-published essays by Economist reporters is a useful primer on modern warfare. It covers a wide range of topics, from technology to intelligence. If there’s a downside, it’s that Economist articles — and therefore the book’s chapters — tend to be fairly general, and reported by generalist writers. So small but annoying errors can creep into the text. For example, the Global Hawk drone is not “the world’s fastest,” as stated on page 99. Far from it. The Global Hawk is subsonic. Other drone designs are capable of speeds exceeding Mach 5. That said, as an entry into the practice and theory of modern war, the book’s not bad at all.
Ted Rall at Firedoglake Book Salon
I will be hosting an online discussion with cartoonist and war correspondent Ted Rall at the Firedoglake Book Salon on Sunday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM EST. The topic: Ted’s new book The Anti-American Manifesto. Here’s my intro to the discussion.
Descent into Chaos, Reviewed
It is the year 2008 and there is trouble in southern Afghanistan. NATO forces have been engulfed in a violent and bloody struggle with the Taliban and other insurgent forces. In Pakistan, the Pakistani army is slowly turning its war machine away from its border from India and against the same terrorist groups it had once funded and cultivated. In Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, new insurgent groups plot campaigns to take advantage of instability and revolution.
The Troubles is one of the most painful periods in recent Anglo-Irish history. The climax of almost over 500 years of conflict between English, Irish, Scottish and even Dutch and French powers, it has touched many lives and families across the British Isles and Europe. My own father, for example, served in 3 Para during the height of The Troubles, while a firm friend of mine grew up in Free Derry. We have found common ground in our own experiences.
“There is very much to be said for a system which is quietly unobtrusive, secure in a relaxed way and ultimate in its bulldog-like determination to retaliate if the homeland is attacked. The submarine system [Polaris] seems in every way compatible with the British character.” So said a study in June 1960. This sums up the British attitude to the post-war world.
The Handbook of 5GW Drops for Kindle
Nimble Books has just released the Kindle version of Daniel Abbott’s Handbook of 5GW. That’s “fifth-generation warfare” for you noobs. I wrote the chapter on “Piracy, Human Security and 5GW in Somalia.”
The current horror zeitgeist, the zombie apocalypse, is arguably a product of 9/11 and the threat of terrorism. Zombie books and movies take place in the mundane places of everyday life and reflect a horror that has come home, attacked ordinary people and altered the landscape in some permanent, unwelcome fashion. The enemy is a familiar but a completely new creature, unfathomable in motivations and in many ways indestructible; kill one, and another takes its place.
Sebastian Junger’s War, Discussed
I have just one complaint about War, the new book from Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and a documentary filmmaker. In the book, Junger draws a clear distinction between “war” and “combat.” War is politics and strategy. Combat, by contrast, is a personal experience entirely divorced from the politics driving it. The book should have been called Combat.
Saturday at 5:00 PM Eastern time, I will be moderating an online book discussion with author Sebastian Junger over at Firedoglake. Junger’s new book War follows a platoon of U.S. Army paratroopers in eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley during some of the most brutal fighting of the war. Junger will answer questions about the book, his work and his upcoming documentary on the Korengal. Please join us.
Facing increasingly sophisticated U.S.-made weaponry in mujahedeen hands and growing international alarm, the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1988. “We celebrated without a worry in the world,” Zaeef recalls.