This post also includes 2016 Part II. That period was mostly consumed by my failed attempt to complete Harvard's Introduction to Computer Science course hosted by edX. I enjoyed the challenge and completed about half of the coursework but then had to turn my attention to a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. Spending most of 2017 in the conflict that defined the era of my military service definitely taught me some lessons (future posts).
For now here are my book recommendations....
Originally published in 1999 and updated in 2002 War at the Top of the World makes the case as to why SW Asia was tremendously important and would play a major role in 21st century security conflicts. Margolis nails it. The book was roughly divided into thirds; Afghanistan/Taliban/Osama to Kashmir/Tibet to India/China/Pakistan. It was refreshing to know that somebody had their pulse on this region even though it was completely ignored leading up to 2001. It has a bit too much first-person monologue and personal bias to be considered part of the pantheon for this region and era but it was an incredibly valuable perspective and warning.
Dr. Jones, formerly of RAND and now at CSIS, takes us through the US' involvement in Afghanistan from 9/11 to 2009, just prior to Obama's surge. As I tried to figure out what had already been done or tried in Afghanistan I found In the Graveyard of Empires to be an excellent narrative. Very readable primer on the first eight years of this conflict.
Along with Karl Marlantes and few others, Sebastian Junger speaks for our generation of military veterans with authority despite not being a veteran himself. He's shared hardships with soldiers and understands them better than they understand themselves. Tribe seeks to explain how and why soldiers have such difficulty when they leave the service and attempt to reintegrate into society. Part of the problem is that there is no substitute for the strong bonds they formed in combat with fellow soldiers and nothing that gives them the same sense of purpose as accomplishing their mission and watching each other's back. Junger blames American society for putting these young people in harm's way and then forgetting about them and refusing to acknowledge their contributions beyond the perfunctory "Thank you for your service".