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The Withdrawal

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Member Reviews

For what it is, a casual and self-contained conversation (a lot of "you said this" and "you wrote that"), I liked this and I learned a lot. A valuable book for me.
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In The withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power, Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad converse about the USA’s foreign politics from a very broad and insightful point of view.
In their chats, the authors talk about international and national conflicts where imperialist forces such as the USA have intervened, and the consequences that these actions have caused. 
While this book focuses on the Middle East and the consequences of the USA’s intervention, the authors make a very broad and universal analysis, showing a vast knowledge of international relations and current and post situations all throughout the world. 
I think The Withdrawal is a very perspicacious book, and I would absolutely recommend it to people that want to learn more about International relations from a non traditional point of view. I personally enjoyed reading it, learnt a lot and it made me want to research in a more detailed way some of these conflicts. The metaphors were interesting and the language wasn't overly academic, which is really important to make information about these issues available for people outside these fields. I do think this book is a little dry though, so I don't think someone that's not already interested in these issues would enjoy it.
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When I pick up any works by Noam Chomsky I know I'm in for a treat and I can wholeheartedly say that this was just as brilliant as I expected. Easy to read, well informed, captivated and essential. I could not recommend this book more highly and I think everyone on earth should read it.
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I received an eARC of "The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power" by Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad from the publisher The New Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The book is expected to be published on the 30th of August, 2022.

For my reading tastes in this genre, I didn’t mind the podcast-trascript-like style, but I am not a fan.

This book feels like a reiteration of Noam’s forever take on the U.S.’s power and a commentary-like additions—which adds context, refines, and polishes—from Prashad, an intellectual who is “highly-influenced” by Chomsky.

Moreover, I would have liked more stories, more in-depth plunges into the muds and murk of these geographical theatres. Just more details in general would have sated my appetite, especially regarding the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

There have also been some facts which are outdated today; they mentioned that “Iraq has the second largest reserves of oil in the world…”—It is now considered to have the fifth largest oil reserves.

All in all, it is a very good book. I recommend it to anyone interested in world politics, and the U.S.’s imperialistic foreign policies over the last few decades.

A full 6-minute read review can be found at:
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The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power, from Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad, is an insightful and nuanced analysis of the many failures of US foreign policy over the past half century or so.

In case you missed the subtitle, this is not simply a rehash of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, this is broader and far more about overall policy failure than about one instance in isolation. If you read the introduction, you will understand what the objectives are, from the withdrawals mentioned to coup reversals and losing control of events in places the US thought they were in control. In other words, withdrawal in the bigger picture, not a sensationalized account of the most recent episode.

This is taken from many discussions between the authors as well as interviews. While there is a lot that will be familiar to readers of either writer, it isn't about always finding something brand new to say. It is about connecting the dots between previous analyses and more recent events; it is about applying ideas rather than trying to create shiny new ideas for those too lazy to do the work of making connections. Passive readers may well feel like they heard it all before. Active readers will find that what they heard before is just as important to say today as it was yesterday.

I would recommend this to readers who are concerned about what is happening globally as well as within a very polarized US. You don't have to agree with everything, no one is inside your head while you read, so just read to understand what they are saying, then if you disagree with some parts, you will be actually disagreeing, not just repeating the mantra your handlers have driven into your mind.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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This is my first foray into reading Chomsky, who I have watched in interviews and lectures before, and (in my mind) is one of the great thinkers/scholars of our time. Admittedly, this ended up being not quite what I expected. This book is more of a summation of a conversation between Chomsky and Vijay Prashad, and while that back-and-forth is certainly interesting, I would advise readers not to expect a  detailed, in-depth look at the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Overall, this was more of a discussion regarding U.S. foreign policy generally, going as far back as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, through to the present (indeed, Afghanistan did not feature prominently). I did enjoy their ability to tie these threads of various U.S. wars and proxy wars together--namely, the United States' interest in maintaining its position as the sole global superpower on behalf of capital. On the flip side, because this is really just a printed conversation, it makes for a pretty quick read. 3.5 stars.
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Noam Chomsky does it again. While I prefer a lighter read, sometimes what you need is to dive into the international power dynamics at play, and Chomsky is always a great resource for learning more. The Withdrawal brilliantly maps out the destabilizing effect the withdrawal (and original placement) of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continued impact that has on the global stage to this day.
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Excellent as always. The best Chomsky books are actually often edited transcripts of his conversations with people.
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What a depressing but insightful read. I was too young, not born or unaware of a lot of the events described in the book. Though I vividly remember my parents not being happy about the U.S. wars when I was a child. There was a new years eve where I asked my parents why we were not lighting any fireworks, as a lot of other people do here in Germany, and they told me "there is nothing to celebrate with all that misery and war in the world". 
I feel like The Withdrawal has explained well how the West, the U.S., the NATO and even we, Europe, are entangled in this and maybe also why this misery seems to not end.

What I have to say about the writing:
The book is mostly is a recall of events and the whys and evidence behind it. At times they didn't explain enough of what had happened and I'm not sure I fully understand because of that. But I assume that some of the things left out would be the things someone a bit more into the topic might know. Then again they went into depth on some other topics. So for a reader like me who has not done a deep dive on some of the topics it was enough to keep up but maybe not enough to fully understand.
The book is written as a conversation between Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad. This is interesting as we get explanations and insights from two sides. Allthough they mostly seem to agree and just complement eachother.
I would though have appreciated another view of the topic that is as funded as their view. Also some kind of outlook on how these dilemmas could be solved, maybe by example, would also have been nice. I refuse to believe that the world is black and white and the outlook is as bleak as this book makes it look! 

All in all I'd say this is an eye-opening read I would recommend to anyone interested in world-politics and -dynamics. It is definitely hard to swallow and I would not recommend reading this on the beach to relax. But I feel like it is a worthwhile read, especially in a world where conspiracy theories are threatening to take over and misinformation is more available than ever.
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The Withdrawal, despite its title, does not spend much time at all discussing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. It does discuss Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the fragility of US power though, so I'll give it that.

Discuss is the keyword here—the origin of this book is a conversation between Vijay Prashad and Noam Chomsky. To be quite honest it feels a bit lazy; it reads a bit like a tightly-edited podcast transcript—you even get little "Vijay:" and "Noam:" indicators so you can keep track of each speaker. The conversation throughout the book follows a frustrating pattern of:

1. Prashad introducing a subject
2. Prashad presenting an excerpt from something Chomsky wrote 30 years ago
3. Chomsky more or less says "yes I did indeed say that" and then adds a bit more to it

The excerpts from old Chomsky works are frustrating, as they too are prefaced with "Noam:." This makes following the conversation very confusing at times—it's like Noam Chomsky is unstuck in time and having a conversation with himself.

I'm also not really sure who the target audience is for The Withdrawal. If you're into Chomsky, then you already know how he feels about all of these things—and considering the abundance of excerpts, you've probably read half of this book already! If you're hoping to read about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, then this book is going to disappoint you: it is about American imperialism and illegal warfare in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and so on.

Also, it's not exactly an entry-level discussion of American foreign policy, but at the same time, I was bored for the first 3 chapters because the conversation contains little depth beyond what someone interested in this subject already knows! The Withdrawal, then, functions poorly both as an introduction to the subject and as a deep dive into it.

The two chapters do touch on some of the depth I was hoping for out of the whole book, which was simultaneously relieving and frustrating—the prior chapters should have and could have been like this!

Overall, this book just feels a bit low-effort. Its structure lends itself to less depth, which harms its educational value. At the end of the day, though, I'm probably just being harsh because I wanted more out of it—it's better than most of the books you'll find about America's military affairs. It's a pretty good read if you need an external source to reassure you that America is in-fact the most evil country in the world.
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