Little America by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

96%

23 Critic Reviews

The book is effectively a critique of US policy and performance, and he makes a nuanced and convincing case.
-Guardian

Synopsis

From the award-winning author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a riveting, intimate account of America’s troubled war in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama ordered the surge of troops and aid to Afghanistan, Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran followed. He found the effort sabotaged not only by Afghan and Pakistani malfeasance but by infighting and incompetence within the American government: a war cabinet arrested by vicious bickering among top national security aides; diplomats and aid workers who failed to deliver on their grand promises; generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places; and headstrong military leaders who sought a far more expansive campaign than the White House wanted. Through their bungling and quarreling, they wound up squandering the first year of the surge.

Chandrasekaran explains how the United States has never understood Afghanistan—and probably never will. During the Cold War, American engineers undertook a massive development project across southern Afghanistan in an attempt to woo the country from Soviet influence. They built dams and irrigation canals, and they established a comfortable residential community known as Little America, with a Western-style school, a coed community pool, and a plush clubhouse—all of which embodied American and Afghan hopes for a bright future and a close relationship. But in the late 1970s—after growing Afghan resistance and a Communist coup—the Americans abandoned the region to warlords and poppy farmers.

In one revelatory scene after another, Chandrasekaran follows American efforts to reclaim the very same territory from the Taliban. Along the way, we meet an Army general whose experience as the top military officer in charge of Iraq’s Green Zone couldn’t prepare him for the bureaucratic knots of Afghanistan, a Marine commander whose desire to charge into remote hamlets conflicted with civilian priorities, and a war-seasoned diplomat frustrated in his push for a scaled-down but long-term American commitment. Their struggles show how Obama’s hope of a good war, and the Pentagon’s desire for a resounding victory, shriveled on the arid plains of southern Afghanistan.

Meticulously reported, hugely revealing, Little America is an unprecedented examination of a failing war—and an eye-opening look at the complex relationship between America and Afghanistan.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Rajiv Chandrasekaran

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Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1994. He has reported from more than three dozen countries and has served as the newspaper's bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, a finalist for the National Book Award and one of The New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2007. He lives in Washington, D.C.
 
Published June 26, 2012 by Vintage. 384 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Little America
All: 23 | Positive: 22 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Jul 15 2012

A timely, convincing portrait of an occupation in crisis, with much to teach anyone involved in diplomacy or international aid.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Linda Robinson on Sep 07 2012

“Little America” is a brilliant and courageous work of reportage.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Julian Borger on Jul 20 2012

The book is effectively a critique of US policy and performance, and he makes a nuanced and convincing case.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Jason Burke on Jul 06 2012

Little America is powerful and important and should be read by anyone interested in this ongoing and deeply depressing war...

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Max Boot on Jun 22 2012

Counterinsurgency is a bugbear for Mr. Chandrasekaran.

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Nessen on Jul 13 2012

This book is a critical and detailed – sometimes too detailed – account of America’s involvement in Afghanistan,

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Tony Perry on Aug 25 2012

But what makes "Little America" so compelling and disturbing is the breadth and carefulness of Chandrasekaran's reporting.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Al Kamen on Jul 23 2012

This book should be required reading for any diplomat or AID official going to work in any developing country.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Neil Sheehan on Jul 06 2012

Chandrasekaran’s book is valuable because it gathers the various strands of the war and provides new insight.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Alex Spillius on Jul 15 2012

...as an examination of the follies and failings of American decision-making it is second to none.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Rupert Edis on Jul 09 2012

The book’s strongest condemnation is reserved for the US Army, led by General Petraeus, which pushed Obama into an expanded counter-insurgency...

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Weinberg on Jul 10 2012

...is rough on the Bush administration (again), but even rougher on President Barack Obama, his civilian government appointees, and his military commanders.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Robert D. Crews on Sep 03 2012

An intrepid reporter for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran delivers a devastating indictment of a dysfunctional war machine.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Dan Simpson on Jul 01 2012

For those who still have a taste for understanding the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, still costing an arm and a leg and American lives...this book is enormously informative and very readable.

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Oregon Live

Excellent
Reviewed by Mike Francis on Jul 07 2012

...is a pained contemplation of America's and NATO's squandered opportunities to rescue Afghanistan from harsh extremists and install a functioning, self-governing state in its place.

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Newsday

Excellent
Reviewed by JUNE THOMAS on Jun 28 2012

...brilliant account of the period between President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009 and the drawdown in the summer of 2011.

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St. Louis Today

Excellent
Reviewed by REPPS HUDSON on Jul 27 2012

After reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s second book on American efforts in Southwest Asia...one comes away dismayed at what well could be judged a wasted effort in Afghanistan.

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Richmond Times-Dispatch

Excellent
Reviewed by Doug Childers on Jul 15 2012

In addition to breaking down exhaustively how a "god" war can turn bad, "Little America" is a warning about how hard it can be to fulfill a campaign promise.

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Mother Jones

Excellent
Reviewed by Hamed Aleaziz on Jun 24 2012

Little America offers a window into the thinking of our key decision makers, along with the requisite political and cultural context...

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Marine Corps Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Andrew Lubin on Oct 04 2012

...Chandrasekaran’s well-written and thoughtful book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, sets the early standard for studying the American mission into Afghanistan.

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The National Interest

Excellent
Reviewed by Amitai Etzioni on Aug 30 2012

As I read Chandrasekaran, he finds that our feedback loops are extremely weak.

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ForeignPolicy

Excellent
Reviewed by Thomas E. Ricks on Oct 10 2012

Little America presents a frustrating look at the failure of U.S. and NATO efforts to achieve a lasting, peaceful solution in Afghanistan.

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Nnickledger

Good
Reviewed by Stephen Pampinella on Oct 18 2012

...to understand what really happened when American troops and diplomats sought to build a state and simultaneously fight a war in Central Asia.

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