Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts And Minds In Afghanistan

Hardcover | March 22, 2017

EditorAaron B. O'connell

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The first rule of warfare is to know one’s enemy. The second is to know thyself. More than fifteen years and three quarters of a trillion dollars after the US invasion of Afghanistan, it’s clear that the United States followed neither rule well.

America’s goals in Afghanistan were lofty to begin with: dismantle al-Qaeda, remove the Taliban from power, remake the country into a democracy. But not only did the mission come completely unmoored from reality, the United States wasted billions of dollars, and thousands of lives were lost. Our Latest Longest War is a chronicle of how, why, and in what ways the war in Afghanistan failed. Edited by historian and Marine lieutenant colonel Aaron B. O’Connell, the essays collected here represent nine different perspectives on the war—all from veterans of the conflict, both American and Afghan. Together, they paint a picture of a war in which problems of culture and ideology derailed nearly every field of endeavor. The authors also draw troubling parallels to the Vietnam War, arguing that deep-running ideological currents in American life explain why the US Government has repeatedly used armed nation-building to try to transform failing states into modern, liberal democracies. In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, this created a dramatic mismatch of means and ends that neither money, technology, nor the force of arms could overcome.

The war in Afghanistan has been the longest in US history. We lost the war, and somehow we continue to lose it every day. These are difficult topics for any American or Afghan to consider, especially for those who fought in the war or lost friends or family in it. This sobering history—written by the very people who have been fighting the war—is impossible to ignore.

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The first rule of warfare is to know one’s enemy. The second is to know thyself. More than fifteen years and three quarters of a trillion dollars after the US invasion of Afghanistan, it’s clear that the United States followed neither rule well. America’s goals in Afghanistan were lofty to begin with: dismantle al-Qaeda, remove the Tal...

Aaron B. O’Connell is lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and the author of Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps. Most recently, he was associate professor of history at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

other books by Aaron B. O'connell

Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps
Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 22, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022626565X

ISBN - 13:9780226265650

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Table of Contents

Introduction    Moving Mountains: Cultural Friction in the Afghanistan War
Lieutenant Colonel Aaron B. O’Connell, USMC

Chapter One    Washington Goes to War
Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann

Chapter Two   US Strategy in Afghanistan: A Tragedy in Five Acts           
Lieutenant Colonel Colin Jackson, USA

Chapter Three In Our Own Image: Training the Afghan National Security Forces
Dr. Martin Loicano and Captain Craig C. Felker, USN

Chapter Four   The Impact of Culture on Policing in Afghanistan
Captain Pashtoon Atif, ANP

Chapter Five   Building and Undermining Legitimacy: Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan
Lieutenant Commander Jamie Lynn De Coster, USN

Chapter Six     Rule of Law and Governance in Afghanistan, 2001–2014   
Colonel Abigail T. Linnington, USA, and Lieutenant Colonel Rebecca D. Patterson, USA

Chapter Seven Liberalism Does Its Thing      
Captain Aaron MacLean, USMC

Chapter Eight  Organizing like the Enemy: Special Operations Forces, Afghan Culture, and Village Stability Operations
Lieutenant Commander Daniel R. Green, USN

Chapter Nine   Leaving Afghanistan 
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin F. Jones, USAF

Conclusion      Our Latest Longest War        
Lieutenant Colonel Aaron B. O’Connell, USMC

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Notes
About the Contributors

Editorial Reviews

“A measured and clear-eyed look at the deep rooted challenges embedded in the ongoing effort to achieve a stable and successful outcome in Afghanistan—many of which are of our own making through inattention to the history and culture of this complex nation. As NATO Commander with overall strategic command of the operation, I watched four successive ISAF Commanders—loyal subordinates and brilliant Generals all—try and fail to overcome the inherent contradictions in our approach. This collection of well sourced essays illuminates our collective failures, despite the best of intentions.”