Hopeless But Optimistic: Journeying Through America's Endless War in Afghanistan
Award-winning journalist Douglas A. Wissing's poignant and eye-opening journey across insurgency-wracked Afghanistan casts an unyielding spotlight on greed, dysfunction, and predictable disaster while celebrating the everyday courage and wisdom of frontline soldiers, idealistic humanitarians, and resilient Afghans. As Wissing hauls a hundred pounds of body armor and pack across the Afghan warzone in search of the ground truth, US officials frantically spin a spurious victory narrative, American soldiers try to keep their body parts together, and Afghans try to stay positive and strain to figure out their next move after the US eventually leaves. As one technocrat confided to Wissing, "I am hopeless--but optimistic."
Wissing is everywhere in Afghanistan, sharing an impressionistic view from little white taxis coursing across one of the world's most mine-ridden places; a perilous view from outside the great walls surrounding America's largest base, sequestered Bagram Air Field; and compelling inside views from within embattled frontline combat outposts, lumbering armored gun trucks and flitting helicopters, brain trauma clinics, and Kabul's Oz-like American embassy. It's Afghan life on the streets; the culture and institutions that anneal them; the poetry that enriches them. It includes the perspectives of cynical military lifers and frightened short-timers; true believers and amoral grabbers; Americans and Afghans trying to make sense of two countries surreally contorted by war-birthed extractive commerce.
Along with a deep inquiry into the 21st-century American way of war and an unforgettable glimpse of the enduring culture and legacy of Afghanistan, Hopeless but Optimistic includes the real stuff of life: the austere grandeur of Afghanistan and its remarkable people; warzone dining, defecation, and sex; as well as the remarkable shopping opportunities for men whose job is to kill.
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About the Author
Douglas A. Wissing is an award-winning journalist and author of eight books, including Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban and Pioneer in Tibet: The Life and Perils of Dr. Albert Shelton. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN.com, Fox.com, Salon.com, and Time.com, among other publications.
"One of the state's most intrepid combat reporters, Wissing went to Afghanistan for a third time in 2013, expecting to watch the war wind down. Instead, he found a place still rife with conflict.... [Wissing] gives readers a view of both the perils and the many examples of money being wasted in a country where even something as seemingly benign as digging wells has devastating consequences."--Indianapolis Monthly
"This is not a book that directly engages the theories and conceptions of twenty-first-century US military intervention, in its full-spectrum approach from counterinsurgency to development, in numerous working papers, articles, and monographs. It does not invoke 'hard power, ' 'soft power, ' or 'smart power.' But in this case, that is an asset. Sometimes the most effective response to all the proposals of what could or should be is the observation of what is."--H-Diplo
"It's that kind of book. It reminds us of Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well book on Iraq."--Diplopundit
"A scathing dispatch from an embedded journalist in Afghanistan.... Pungent, embittered, eye-opening observations of a conflict involving lessons still unlearned."--Kirkus Reviews
"On page after page, as Wissing travels around the country, we are told how U.S. operatives continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over, leaving a trail of unfinished/sabotaged projects that have no value to the people of Afghanistan."--OpEd News
"Wissing's moving and exceptionally well-written account makes sad reading... The book becomes a heart-breaking travelogue, accompanied by Wissing's own photos.... [but] however corrupt and misguided the war, however much damage it has done, Wissing says, 'I met American after American determined to make the world a better place.'"--Bloom Magazine