Academic journal article Military Review

Killing the Cranes

Academic journal article Military Review

Killing the Cranes

Article excerpt

KILLING THE CRANES, Edward Girardet, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, 2011, 417 pages, $27.95.

Although dissimilar in format and time frame, this book contains haunting echoes of "Berlin Diary," William L. Shirer's journal that warned of an epoch-making tragedy in the works. Edward Girardet recounts three decades of "I-was-there" Afghan history that extends from the Soviet invasion to the now-expected U.S. and NATO pullout.

Unless you consider his visits with tribal leaders and fighters at mountain teahouses, the author eschewed the official semblance of embedding with any faction. It is a shame that America's politicians, envoys, and generals could not have straddled the same mules or walked the same paths that took Girardet early on into the dangerous valleys and along the mountain trails that give realism and insight to this book.

"Experience has convinced me," writes Girardet, "that whether out of political expediency, arrogance, or plain ignorance, too many Western policymakers continually fail to examine the history of this defiant country. Satellite links, remote-controlled drones or heavily armed sorties provide little insight into the soul of this hard and insolent land."

Much of Girardet's reporting appeared in the Christian Science Monitor. This once-powerful news voice has suffered from the decline of print journalism, but at its height was well regarded for using independent journalists like Girardet and not pool reporters on a quick, well-protected, in-and-out search for a dateline. The author's other credits are many, and include the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, The International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, and U.S. News and World Report.

One historical figure that crossed Girardet's path was "a strikingly tall man with a thin black beard" who confronted a party of reporters while Soviet mortar shells fell nearby. …

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