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The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad Hardcover – 13 Sep 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (13 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280437
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,499,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By ali mahmood on 21 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is undoubtedly the best book on the Pakistan of today. His possible scenarios for the Pakistan of tomorrow are frightening - particularly for me ( a Pakistani who wants to live out his life in Pakistan). A book that must be read and reread.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A solid, engaging primer for Pakistani politics 4 Dec 2011
By Kimi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After years of piecing together Pakistani political history from news snippets, this book was a relief. It gives a thorough run-down on Pakistani political history since just before the creation of the state. It brings in the right level of detail about India, Afghanistan, and the US, as the major drivers of Pakistan's foreign policy. it also focuses on the motivation and mindset of the different parties, which can be very foreign to those familiar with Western political systems, but which is absolutely critical to understanding Pakistani actions. And it's exceedingly well written--I was thoroughly engaged the whole time. John Schmidt certainly knows whereof he speaks, having worked at a high level with the State department in Pakistan. My only quibble was that I would have liked a glossary of political and religious groups, and their acronyms. I made my own and found myself referring to it frequently.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Political Science Book 24 Mar 2012
By mozaki - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am an American of Pakistani origin and picked up the book on a Sunday at Barnes & Noble naturally intrigued off its title. The book seems written from a single-dimensional political-science view. That may well have been its intention. But for a layman reader it lacked in dimension. It read like a who-is-who chronology of political parties and jihadist groups in Pakistani contemporary history. I did find it educating and a fair discourse on history. Although Mr. Schmidt makes mention of it, I felt that the Saudi and US involvement in fanning religious ideology for resistance in the Afghan-Russia war, such as was illustrated in the movies Charlie Wilson's War, was downplayed. Mr. Schmidt's compilation of facts and historical events was impressive. Overall, I found myself agreeing with him. The leaders, and ultimately the people there, are fully responsible for what's happened and its ominous posture.
This should be a memoir and not considered fact... 15 Mar 2014
By Khalid Muhammad - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am not impressed with The Unraveling. It is a biased review of one person's own personal impressions, backed with diplomatic language from the US State Department. I picked up the book during a trip thinking that it would make a good addition to the research that I was doing on Pakistan's battle with extremist organizations, only to find that the writer put the entire blame for the problem at the feet of Pakistan's intelligence service that since 9/11 has been dogged by the US government.

He seemed to go to great extents to not mention the mainstream political parties that support, shelter and encourage these same jihadi groups in their provinces so that he could make the entire base of his argument blaming the ISI. This is more of a memoir of a mid-level diplomat than a true account of the problems that Pakistan as a nation struggles with.
A good "tutorial" on the multilayered cultures of Pakistan 13 Sep 2013
By James D. Rapp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
John Schmidt has the connections necessary to lend his narrative authenticity, many years spent in the Foreign Service, three of them in Pakistan, and marriage to a former Ambassador to Pakistan. But he does not lean heavily on those credentials but instead displays his command of the facts (where there are facts) that govern the political, cultural, and religious life of modern Pakistan. To a western mind, not aquainted with the history and geography, to say nothing of the tribal, governmental, military, and religious cultures within Pakistan, Schmidt's command of the varied and shifting history of Pakistan is truly amazing. Few will finish the book with any sense that they have mastered the material presented.

Nonetheless Schmidt manages to justify his book's title by showing how the various structures that have provided some measure of stablility are "Unraveling" as a result of political misjudgment, military paranoia over India's designs, infiltration of jihadist organizations, radicalization of local religious entities, and of course, interference from outside sources like the United States, India, and Afghanistan.

I have only two complaints to register, one minor the other more serious I believe. Schmidt's narrative, while never dull or uninteresting to this reader, is too often repetitive. That may simply be a product of the complex history he is dealing with. It may be necessary to connect things already spoken of in one era with events in later eras, however I found myself thinking too frequently, I've been over this before. The more serious criticism is Schmidt's frequent (that isn't a strong enough word) reliance upon unnamed sources, the Pakistani General close to the decision makers, the U.S. State Department colleague who was privy to secret negotiations, etc. In the case of Pakistani's I can understand the need to preserve their anonymity; to not do so might jeopardize their lives. But it should not be necessary to conceal, on such a wholesale basis the U.S. sources of information. It has been my practice, when encountering a book that leans so heavily on "hidden sources" to simply lay it aside as not credible. Schmidt runs the risk, I beleive, that some may do so with his work. However, I think his credentials, his obvious scholarship, and the story he has to tell overcomes my objections at least to the extent that I believe his work should constitute one of the reliable sources those seeking to understand Pakistan can turn to.
Very thorough! 29 Aug 2013
By craig richey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book - a thorough review of the history and personalities that created Pakistan and got it where it is today. Great to hear the first hand conversations with senior military and diplomats - their private perspective is enlightening!
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