March 1 2011 Political Science
Gould, Elizabeth & Paul Fitzgerald. Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire. City Lights Open Media Apr. 2011. c.272p. index. ISBN 9780872865136. pap. $17.95. INT AFFAIRS
Gould and Fitzgerald have covered Afghanistan and the surrounding region for 30 years, as both documentary filmmakers (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) and authors (Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story). This long involvement with the issues has made them sharply critical of America for its lack of understanding of the ethnic diversity and social relations of the people, its application of Cold War thinking and strategy to a new and different kind of conflict, its military’s current counterinsurgency strategy, and its failure to define Pakistan as the real challenge. The authors portray policies of previous years (e.g., U.S. support of insurgents fighting the Soviet invasion) as now coming back to hurt us, part of a repetition of errors previously made by European powers in the region over the past 400 years. They have marshaled an impressive array of sources, both journalistic and academic, to demonstrate that their ideas have long been available, if only policymakers had chosen to heed them.
VERDICT Bob Woodward’s recent Obama’s War focuses on the administration’s AfPak deliberations, but this book provides a wider perspective. Readers with a serious interest in U.S. foreign policy or military strategy will find it helpful in thinking about a long-lived issue.
—Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., NY