From Publishers Weekly
Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent Smucker offers an excellent, compact study of the campaign in Afghanistan and expounds a familiar thesis clearly and convincingly: the U.S. military, under not only executive but public pressure for a quick victory in revenge for September 11, adopted a strategy that achieved that victory, but only over the Taliban. Resources were not allocated to the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, many of whom either fled or went underground, to continue to cause trouble in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The bulk of the book details how that was allowed to happen. Smucker is much harsher on U.S. strategists and his fellow journalists than he is on the American fighting men and women in the field, who include not only the glamorous covert operations troops but the humble logisticians "in the air, on land, and sea." Stronger on the military than on the civilian side, Smucker does not adequately deal with the question of whether the pursuit of the Taliban received its priority because of the need for Northern Alliance support, and the Washington-based coverage could have been usefully expanded. Much more literate than most journalistic accounts, this book is not for ideologues at either end of the spectrum, as the struggle for balance and perspective is visible on every page. By the end, the wealth of operational detail will leave readers with a palpable sense of missed opportunity.
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This account of the American campaign in Afghanistan, specifically the battles of Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda, is that of an experienced war correspondent. It covers what happened in the Afghan hills, the strategic policies in Washington, media coverage on the spot, and how bin Laden and scores of his followers were able to escape from Afghanistan, despite the U.S. Army. Besides providing an excellent picture--and pictures--of the war, Smucker explains how information was obtained, used, abused, and just plain ignored, which is important because, although the last thing the media should do during a campaign is provide the enemy with free intelligence, an informed citizenry needs to know this to consider what kind of job the commander in chief has done. War reporting has always been subject to propaganda biases, but Smucker's narrative style makes you feel as if you were there, especially when his "get the story at all costs" impulses take over. So in addition to everything else it is, this is quite a picture of contemporary combat reporting. Frieda MurrayCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved