- Hardcover: 424 pages
- Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (18 April 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1849043361
- ISBN-13: 978-1849043366
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.7 x 22.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 169,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict Hardcover – 18 Apr 2014
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'...an extraordinary book ... An Intimate War is the work of a wise and patient scholar.' --James Meek, London Review of Books
'The first serious effort to make sense of the war in Helmand ... 'An Intimate War' is an uncompromising, deeply thought and important contribution.' --Tom Coghlan, The Times
'This is the best book ever written on Afghanistan. Martin writes what I have been feeling since the 1980s, but have not expressed in such a clear way. It is a remarkable work of political anthropology.' --Olivier Roy, Professor and Chair in Mediterranean Studies, European University Institute
‘The first serious effort to make sense of the war in Helmand ... 'An Intimate War' is an uncompromising, deeply thought and important contribution.’ (Tom Coghlan, The Times)
‘An extraordinary book … ‘An Intimate War’ is the work of a wise and patient scholar.’ (James Meek, London Review of Books)
'Martin’s meticulous study, based on 150 interviews conducted over four years, and his own experience as a serving officer in Helmand, presents a view of the war that is radically different from the one the British public has been hearing ever since Tony Blair ordered British troops to deploy in Helmand in 2006. The picture that he paints is often jaw-dropping.' (Matt Carr, The Huffington Post)
‘Among the best books on the Afghan crisis I have come across… immensely detailed.’ (Robert Fox, Defence Editor of the Evening Standard, The World Today)
‘This is the best book ever written on Afghanistan. Martin writes what I have been feeling since the 1980s, but have not expressed in such a clear way. It is a remarkable work of political anthropology.’ (Olivier Roy, Professor and Chair in Mediterranean Studies, European University Institute)
‘A must-read for anyone interested in a detailed history of the British war in Helmand province or the counter-insurgency debate...provides useful insights in the social dynamics of the province before the start of the civil war.’ (International Affairs)
'Essential reading for any serious student of Britain's Fourth Afghan War. A deeply researched, clearly argued, reminder of how the West's road to Helmand was paved with good intentions, and that there, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, the West failed to understand the war it was fighting, causing them to coerce rather than to co-opt.’ (Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG LVO, UK Ambassador to Afghanistan 2007-9, and UK Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 2009-10)
‘’An Intimate War’ is, quite simply, the book on Helmand. I sincerely wish it had been available to me when I was ISAF Commander in Afghanistan. Military, diplomatic and development professionals involved in Afghanistan - and elsewhere, for that matter - read this and take note.’ (General Sir David Richards GCB, CBE, DSO, ADC Gen; Commander of International Forces in Afghanistan, 2006-7 and UK Chief of the Defence Staff, 2010-13)
'The proverbial complexity of civil wars is typically discounted as irrelevant or misinterpreted through orientalising. Mike Martin begs to differ: in this rich and fascinating account of thirty-four years of war in the Afghan province of Helmand, he explains how and why the private and local logics of the conflict interact with, and often subvert, the public, national, and international narratives. He exposes the failure of Western bureaucratic institutions to grasp this reality and dissects both the causes and consequences of their failure. This outstanding book is a must-read for those interested in understanding contemporary conflict.' (Stathis Kalyvas, Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science, Yale University, and author of ‘The Logic of Violence in Civil War’)
‘This work lays the foundation for much future research, including similarly in-depth looks at the histories of, and counterinsurgencies in, other provinces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also highlights the need for study into why institutions and militaries adopt mistaken initial premises, and more importantly why groups and individuals retain these flawed conceptions even as it becomes clear that they are failing to achieve their goals. Above all, Martin demonstrates the futility of trying to understand intrastate conflict, much less intervene in such conflicts, without grasping the implications of the local history, culture, politics and social dynamics.’ (Jessica Jensen, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies)
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To get us into the mindset of the locals Martin voyages through the history of the area including the invasion by the British that included the defeat at Maiwand. With all the fervour of a small rugby nation remembering the time they achieved a surprise victory over a more famous nation the Helmandis treasure Maiwand and the defeat of the perfidious Angrez. The fact that no-one in HMG remembered this when Britain selected Helmand for its ISAF role reveals one key feature of Martin's book: Britain literally did not know what it was doing. This ignorance was amplified by the narrative we chose for the campaign (itself the by-blow of the Bushian them and us narrative). In this case there was a government (good) and (bad) insurgents. The latter oppressed the people and the Government shall set them free.
At certain points this was true but it missed the key point that the people were both in the government and in the "insurgency": they were not neutrals upon whom the two parties acted, but were agents. Many clans would have members with both sides (The Master of Ballantrae approach). If Clan A runs an area (the 'government') then it probably controls the 'police' who are an active part of the local influence economy rather than just crime stoppers; so Clan B will represent the local 'insurgents'. If ISAF helps Clan A it is not necessarily making life better for all, it may simply be assisting in oppressing Clan B. The same issue arises for the Taliban (that is the Quetta and Peshawar shuras): wherever they put 'troops' on the ground they will find local rivalries having a powerful impact. One side or the other may inflict control via its local proxies but in so doing they automatically infuriate the enemies of the local proxy. In short Helmand was a highly developed version of my native Scotland before (and indeed after) the Act of Union (the Government clans would find no difficulty in grasping the situation) or England during the Wars of the Roses where some seemingly odd alliance are explained by looking at the errant nobles' maternal uncles. All politics is local politics and there are no more heartfelt rivalries than local rivalries.
Martin covers all this in detail but one does wonder why the Coalition powers that be (the Clever Men At Oxford as Mr Toad might have said) could not have spotted that where drug eradication is involved local interest would be in having your rivals' poppies eradicated leaving your own. And where there are development funds you send them to your area not to that of their rivals. The last point is clear to anyone in UK in regard to our politics, but abroad we seem to suffer from memory issues.
A very well-written and important book: all the more so for its calm exposition.
I was influenced to buy this book after listening to an extremely interesting interview by the author on BBC Radio4 some months back. Listening to the author was far more engaging than wading through his exceedingly intricate book. An exceptionally detailed manuscript which contains 255 pages of normal reading text, followed by 134 pages of varied reference material. Recommended for the specialist, the academic and the researcher; but certainly not for the reader that requires an overview of Helmand & Afghanistan. The reader requires a clear head, patience and mental agility to assimilate the myriad of information documented, including essential and frequent referral to the maps and all annotated reference notes. The reader may also benefit from taking notes, or even plotting a series of schematics on large white board, in order to follow the history of this very complex region. It joins my library as a reference book.
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