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アフガン戦争末期にペシャワールをウロウロして拾った話が綴られている。冷徹クールなR.カプランがロマン派になっている珍しい本。アフガン戦争がジャーナリストたちとっていかにロマン的だったか伝わってくる。一大決心でムジャヒディンの群れに加わりカイバル峠を越える高揚感など、カプランらしくないところが興味深い。｢穢れなきオリエント｣を捜し求めたジャーナリストたちはあの戦争を通してついに凛々しく雄々しいアフガン人たちを発見したのだそうだ。｢彼らは我々が同情ではなく尊敬した民族だった｣のだそう。八十年代に国際政治をフォローしていた人間ならノスタルジアを感じるセンチメントなのかもしれない。 しかしそこらへんはカプランなので自分をも含めて欧米人のオリエンタリズムを多方面から突いている。｢客観性が役に立たない地｣という異空間と化したペシャワールに集まる変人たちと無法地帯を巡る奇妙なファンタジー（武士の死に方をする為に来たという日本人も登場する）、軍閥同士の力関係、パキスタンの不穏な思惑、崩壊する国境、実は潔く撤退などしていなかったソ連軍etc、現場でしか見られない風景が生々しく伝わってくる。アナーキー化する中央アジア、というのは『Eastward to Tartary』に繋がるテーマ。世界は広い、と日本人は素直に唖然として読むしかない。
In terms of lives lost and people seeking refuge, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and resulting conflict with the mujahadeen is one of the biggest wars of recent times, but also one of the least understood. Robert Kaplan was a journalist covering the conflict, based mainly in Peshawar, but often sneaking across the border into Afghanistan under the guidance of mujahadeen fighters. Kaplan knew personally many of the mujahadeen commanders and he is candid in his portrayal of his interviews in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
More importantly, 'Soldiers of God' is a great insight into the tribal culture and mentality of the rugged mountain people. When you learn of their endurance and persistence in the face of massive obstacles, it seems little wonder that the behemoth US war machine is having so much trouble subduing the Taliban. The resourcefulness and mental fortitude of the Afghan people is amazing.
If only all journalists could report with such competence and objectivity.
The text was a pleasure to read, introducing a perspective to an account that I am very unfamiliar with, and have since been inspired to pursue further.
Mr. Kaplan writes in an easily-readable format very appropriate for a journalist and correspondent. Many of the lines and information provided are delivered in a punchy manner that appropriately shocks and incenses when desired. I was able to casually read the book but not necessarily put it down, enjoying digesting the text. Not a criticism but more a personal frustration, I found myself infinitely eager to discover more texts such as this one, possibly viewing the same persons that Kaplan interviewed and traveled with at greater depth and in different perspectives.
I purchased this book based on the Marine Commandants reading list in addition to a slew of others off Amazon, and thus far every book has been thought-provoking and captivating.
Excellent. Kaplan has hit another one out of the park. It behooves every thinking person to know who the "Soldiers of God" are and what drives them. Kaplan does this up close and personal with his travels in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I have been in Quetta and met a lot of the same folks, but didn't really have it in context at the time. Kaplan has elucidated the context and the people. You may not like all you read here, but you will be much better informed. The "war" in Afghanistan-Pakistan is not over, it's just entering a new stage and these guys are key players.
my fourth kaplan book & it was excellent, written in the 1980-90's; if only gw bush, cheney rumfeld & the rest of the neo conservative band had read this with an open mind (if that was possilbe) maybe we could have avoided a war that after 13 yrs has lost the USA lives, limbs & treasure for little results; this book will shed much light on why afganistan has withstood far stronger countries who have tried to change her with no real success over the course of 2000+ yrs; a great read, well written as his other books have been & i look forward to reading more of kaplan's books
Robert Kaplan is a unique travel writer and journalist, voyaging to rough and godforsaken places most people know vaguely or not at all to get the stories many journalists miss. His writing is not "mere" journalism but contains history, politics and ethnography, in a neat synthesis. Mr.Kaplan's deep reading, sharp eye, and willingness to travel to remote (and sometimes hellish) locales makes for engaging and enjoying travelogues, such as this one, "Soldiers of God," his firsthand account of the Afghani resistance during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
During the 1980s Mr.Kaplan spent much time in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan with the mujahedeen, the Afghani Islamic guerrilla rebels who gave the Soviets such a hell of a fight. This book includes the background for the war, modern Afghani history, Afghani history during British imperial times, and even some legends. Also included is extended analysis of the main ethnic group in the resistance, the "Pathans" or "Pashtoons." They are a fierce and fearsome bunch, relentless, tribalist, entirely male-centric, whose members went on to form the Taliban. Mr.Kaplan spends much time with them and gets to know them fairly well.
The history and ethnography was new to me and interesting but my favorite parts of the book were the author's visits inside occupied Afghanistan with the mujahedeen. The sense of danger is palpable, from the ever present fear of land mines, Soviet gunships and tanks, to extreme hunger, heat and cold, and sickness. Mr.Kaplan is both brave and reckless, but determined to get this story out to the world (in his opinion this conflict was mostly ignored by the global media). Besides the accounts of these excursions what most grabbed my attention were his interviews with and descriptions of the guerrilla leaders and fighters. Kaplan is a skilled interviewer and human observer, and as a reader I really got a sense of who these fighting men were (the author encounters almost no woman in the resistance). The young and fiercely independent Abdul Haq, 29, so full of fury and determination, is a figure who will stay with me for a while to come.
This a great book, multifaceted: travel narrative, journalism piece, political analysis, history, ethnography. Read this book to learn about a harrowing and brutal conflict, to know about a people and a place that is of no small importance to the world. Without this war it is unlikely that a group like the Taliban would have come to exist. A powerful and engaging read, highly recommended.
As an American living in several parts of the world in which Islam has a strong influence, I have always had a bit of a problem with the mainstream categorization of Islam as a fanatical approach to solving normal human problems. Kaplan, once again, gets beneath the surface of things to discover that all is not what it seems. As he himself freely admits in the new introduction to this edition, he was somewhat biased by his visceral experiences on the front lines in 1980s Afghanistan, in which he shared life and death with the mujahidin. His square placement of blame on the US for its blind reliance on Pakistan to provide intelligence and diplomacy on the war in Afghanistan is probably a bit short-sighted. Nevertheless, if anyone has any curiosity about how Bin Laden and his ilk came to find Afghanistan a safe-have, they should read this book. The updated intro and new last chapter are good additions in light of the prescience which lies beneath the surface of the original prose.
Really another outstanding book by Kaplan. In depth and personal view of the mujahidin in Afghanistan in the 80's. Kaplan may be a little biased, or wonder struck by the personalities he interviewed and lived with, and at times is self-congratulatory about his prescience, however, he acknowledges both facts in his re-written foreword. Neither of these points dilute the quality of this book, though. For me, it was a great read that illuminated class and clan struggle in Afghanistan, and a wonderful distinction between religious fundamentalism and politically institutionalized religious extremism.