The Withdrawal

Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power

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Pub Date 30 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 30 Aug 2022

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Two of our most celebrated intellectuals grapple with the uncertain aftermath of the American collapse in Afghanistan

“Through the structure of a deeply engaging conversation between two of our most important contemporary public intellectuals, we are urged to defy the inattention of the media to the disastrous damage inflicted in Afghanistan on life, land, and resources in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal and the connections to the equally avoidable and unnecessary wars on Iraq and Libya.”—from the foreword by Angela Y. Davis

Not since the last American troops left Vietnam have we faced such a sudden vacuum in our foreign policy—not only of authority, but also of explanations of what happened, and what the future holds.

Few analysts are better poised to address this moment than Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad, intellectuals and critics whose work spans generations and continents. Called “the most widely read voice on foreign policy on the planet” by the New York Times Book Review, Noam Chomsky is the guiding light of dissidents around the world. In The Withdrawal, Chomsky joins with noted scholar Vijay Prashad—who “helps to uncover the shining worlds hidden under official history and dominant media” (Eduardo Galeano)—to get at the roots of this unprecedented time of peril and change.

Chomsky and Prashad interrogate key inflection points in America’s downward spiral: from the disastrous Iraq War to the failed Libyan intervention to the descent into chaos in Afghanistan.

As the final moments of American power in Afghanistan fade from view, this crucial book argues that we must not take our eyes off the wreckage—and that we need, above all, an unsentimental view of the new world we must build together.

Two of our most celebrated intellectuals grapple with the uncertain aftermath of the American collapse in Afghanistan

“Through the structure of a deeply engaging conversation between two of our most...

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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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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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