Review: “Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present” – Jonathan L. Lee

Jonathan L. Lee’s “Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present” is one of the best histories of Afghanistan I’ve ever read, and easily the most comprehensive. I think only Y. V. Gankovsky’s “A History of Afghanistan” (1982) is better, but that might be because Gankovsky was a Soviet scholar on Afghanistan ;).

Lee is remarkably objective in his writing. Admittedly, when I first ordered this book, I was expecting a more Peter Tomsen, Barnett R. Rubin, or Peter Bergen kind of book: U.S. imperialism cheer-leading disguised as an objective history of Afghanistan. But to my delightful surprise nowhere in this 800-page book does Lee seem to noticeably push a particular perspective on events in Afghanistan. Lee seems intent on dispelling the numerous myths about Afghanistan. Nobody and nothing is beyond being criticized and scrutinized by him: Pushtun nationalists, British colonialists, Afghan communists, Islamist warlords, and U.S. imperialists, all are subjected to a heavy dose of both!

In fact, although he doesn’t noticeably push any particular ideology or perspective, at times I seriously wondered if Lee was a Marxist! With his matter-of-fact writing style, his seemingly intense disdain for political hypocrisy and duplicity, and the heavy dose of criticism he dishes out, especially when writing about the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and occupation, all that was missing were words like “imperialism”, “exploitation”, and “working-class”, and I might have mistaken this book for something written by Michael Parenti. (Probably the closest book in style and content to this book is Stephen Gowans’ “Washington’s Long War on Syria”.)

An overall excellent book on Afghanistan. My only criticism is that the book NEEDS more reference information, like an index of important people — I can’t keep track of so many similar names! LOL.

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