DESCENT INTO CHAOS: THE UNITED STATES AND THE FAILURE OF NATION BUILDING IN PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN, AND CENTRAL ASIA, by Ahmed Rashid, Viking (2008) 544 pages, $27.95
News coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent months has unsettled many assumptions about the U.S. war on terror.
To most casual observers of the war on terror, Afghanistan served until recently as a reassuring contrast to the grim and bewildering conflict in Iraq -- the “good war” as opposed to the “bad war”.
Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan offered a war which was unambiguously undertaken in response to the 9/11 attacks. The framing of the war on terror in Afghanistan presented obvious good guys (the secular democratic government of Hamid Karzai) and bad guys (al Qaeda and the Taliban). Above all, Afghanistan seemed to be a success story for peace and democracy.